Holds vs Callbacks: A Customer Service Observation

13 August 2020 | 15 Comments

I recently had a contrasting customer service experience with two companies that made me think about Stonemaier Games and other creators/entrepreneurs. Both involved phone calls.

The first call was to a bank with which I’m trying to set up an account. I actually called several times, and each time I was put on hold. To their credit, they told me the estimated hold time (some info is better than none), but it was 20-30 minutes, and my cats get feisty if my phone is on speaker mode.

So after the third attempt, I gave up and got in touch with another bank.

The second call was to my cable/internet company, Charter Spectrum. Our internet was lagging a bit, so I gave Charter a call, and their representatives were busy. I had the option of waiting on hold, but they said that they could call me back in a few minutes when they were available.

I like the callback SO much more. It’s respectful of the customer’s time, and it removes the need for anyone to wait for anyone else.

A parallel to Stonemaier Games (and other publishers) is any time that you can sign up for a notification (e-newsletter, back-in-stock notification, comment thread subscription, etc) instead of needing to constantly check to see if there’s news, restocks, etc. There’s also individual customer service, but, like most publishers, if you email us, we’re going to e-mail you back quite quickly.

What do you think about holding vs callbacks? Can you think of other parallels to your business or creators you support?


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15 Comments on “Holds vs Callbacks: A Customer Service Observation

  1. I just recently got a callback from my internet provider (after trying to get someone on the phone, spending quite some time waiting and being left annoyed). They did call back at a rather unusal time, sometime after 6 pm, and I was not able to get to the phone then. But instead of giving me a second try, they sent me a message, saying the case is rested with them, so that I would have to call them again (through their waiting line) in order to get another callback. That kinda failed the callback idea for me then.

  2. I get a callback maybe 50% of the time. Due to that, I dread the callback. I’m less likely to deal with a company in the future if they use the callback method.

  3. I work at a large University and manage the office that handles questions about housing. There is maybe one office that takes more calls then us on the entire campus. Our rule is that if an issue can’t be resolved in a few minutes while they are on hold, we offer to call them when we have an answer. My team also has a pretty good idea of what is/isn’t a quick solution and will offer it immediately if necessary. The only thing you gain by keeping someone on hold longer than that is practice calming down a frustrated parent/student/customer.

  4. I remember having a quiry from the U2 fanclub. I called from abroad, they were charging for the time I was on hold, it cost me 30-40 dollars. I did not get the answer I was hoping for. It was a horrible experience! In the few interactions I have had with Stonemaier, I have been really impressed with the speed of response! Well done.

  5. As much as I hate holding, I never trust that they’ll call back or I suspect I’ll be put behind the holders. Also, they might call back at a time that’s not good for me anymore, so I might as well just stay on hold rather than moving to something else.

    1. Have to agree on the callback time – it might be respectful at the time you can vote for it (thus avoiding waiting time on hold) but it might not be respectful with the time they call back (see my experience above).

  6. Call back for sure. I did it a week ago with Comcast because it was time for my annual call to get “new” customer pricing. I got a call back right around the time I was told by the automated system.

  7. My preference for hold vs callback depends on various things such as how busy I am, how urgent the issue is, etc – so I really like how your internet company gave you agency to choose which of those options suited you best. They could probably have given other options (eg email or check out website FAQs etc) – but given you’d already called them, its good that the options they gave recognised how you had chosen to contact them in the first instance.

    What irritates me is when I ask for a callback and it then doesn’t materialise – that makes an organisation look unreliable. I chose a callback option a week ago (when calling a busy line on whether to be a randomly tested person for a Covid-19 statistical survey) – but never got a response. Phoned them again today and was answered immediately. Had this been a business transaction I’d probably have tried elsewhere and they may have lost my business.

  8. I prefer to hold. I’ve tried using the callback feature a number of times, and I get a call back on the same day maybe 30% of the time. Sometimes I get a call back a day or two later, or other times not at all.

  9. Personally I actually prefer to hold. When I call up and go on hold, then its down to me when I deal with the issue, once I sign up for a Callback then I’ll have to deal with it when its convenient to the other party. I hate getting a Callback to something important while I’m driving or otherwise engaged so I miss the call. That’s just a matter of taste though, in the end they’re both ways of dealing with the fundamental failing of not being able to answer the phone promptly.

    1. I work in telecom with a focus on managing call centers. I can tell you at (least for 90% of our call centers), a call back is handled the exact same way as a caller on hold. Once an agent wraps up their previous call, the next one is presented immediately. There is no “when convenient” as all calls hit agents one after another.

      1. Not all callbacks come from call centres. In many cases the callback option is offered from shops, warehouses, delivery centres and other businesses where that is very much not the system. I’ve had callbacks that happened two days after the initial contact.
        I’m simply saying that I would rather have the contact on my terms. If I call somewhere toward the end of my working day I want to know that when I hang up I can finish the day on my terms, rather than maybe getting the call back before the end of the day and maybe getting it on the drive home.

  10. Jamey,

    I’m happy to see that the government has also embraced the “callback” option, as wait times can last up to 45 min to an hour. I’m a big fan of the “callback” option as it allows you to get back to your workday and then you can resolve the issue later instead of trying to awkwardly work while waiting on the phone.


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