One of the most common questions we get at Talkroute is, how long should we let our phones ring? And the real question behind this is, of course: How long will it take for our customers to hang up? The obvious answer is that the caller should have to wait for as few rings as possible before someone answers, but there are just a few factors to consider.
What should the caller hear while they are holding?
Whatever your customer hears before you answer should keep them happy while they wait. You know when you call your phone company, you listen to the menu options, press “0” to speak to a person, and then you hear some elevator music and an occasional voice insisting that, “Your call is very important to us”–that whole thing?
Then, all of a sudden, the elevator music stops and it starts to ring. That’s when you know that you’ve been connected and someone is about to pick up your call. We are conditioned to expect that someone is about to pick up when we hear that ringing tone, so you should probably only play a ringing tone for callers if you consistently answer the phone quickly.
On-hold music is crucial.
On the other hand, if you know that you’re not always going to be able to pick up the phone right away, then on-hold music can be your best friend. Elevator music is a great tool because it can help to manage the caller’s anxiety, while sort of blending the time together so that the perceived hold time seems a little shorter.
To learn more about the psychology behind on-hold music programs, check out this bonus post:
On Hold Music and the Psychology of Waiting
Forwarding calls to multiple phones in a sequence.
If you have a team with multiple people who are answering calls, then you may consider the option of ringing each phone in a sequential order. The key here is to allow as few rings as possible for each phone because each one has to complete its ringing, before moving to the next phone in the sequence.
This can add up to long hold times for your callers, and longer than you may think, in fact. For example, even 2 rings per phone in a sequence of 6 phones adds up to 12 rings, if someone has to wait for the whole sequence.
Elapsed time vs. number of rings.
It’s important to make the distinction between the number of seconds that pass while your phones are ringing, and the actual number of rings that the caller hears during this time. Keep in mind that every 15 seconds equals about 4 rings. So, when you set the ring timeout on your Talkroute account, or whatever system you’re using, the number of rings is actually more than it probably seems.
Allow time for the call to connect.
Here is a potentially tricky part. So, this varies slightly from one telephone network to another, but when you’re setting the ring time, you have to take into account the amount of time a call takes to pass from the caller’s network, to your phone’s network, and finally starts ringing on your end.
The connection might be instantaneous, or it may take a couple of seconds. Either way, you’ll want to set the ring timeout to a minimum of 15 seconds to make sure that the call has time to reach your phones.
It’s always a good practice to imagine yourself as the caller, waiting for someone to pick up and give you the answer that you need. Remember that your caller is just sitting there, listening to whatever on-hold program you have on your phone system, and eagerly hoping to hear a human voice on the other end.
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Stephanie is the Marketing Director at Talkroute and has been featured in Forbes, Inc, and Entrepreneur as a leading authority on business and telecommunications.
Stephanie is also the chief editor and contributing author for the Talkroute blog helping more than 100k entrepreneurs to start, run, and grow their businesses.