How Long Is Too Long?

According to an Ifbyphone benchmarking analysis of how to best handle calls from prospects and customers, about 60% of the calls in the queue were answered, and were answered in just over a minute, across all four sizes of businesses ranging from small to extra large.

The study analyzed data from Q1 of 2013, dividing the companies into four buckets, to determine how many of them are answered right away, how long can the others be kept on hold, who should get which call.

  • “Small” companies handled less than 500 calls during Q1
  • “Medium” companies handled less than 1,500 calls during Q1
  • “Large” handled less than 10,000 calls during Q1
  • “Extra-Large” handled more than 10,000

The study found that across all four buckets in the call disposition data, 15% of callers tended to hang up, and they tended to hang up right around 40 seconds into the call. Significant, says the report, if 15% of callers hanging up before ever speaking with an agent has serious implications for your business. If the call was a sales call, a potential sale may have been missed. If it was a support call, it created a bad experience for your customer. If 60% of calls were answered in just over a minute, across all sizes of businesses, consider what answering in 40 seconds could do, opines the report.

Marketing Charts reported that the average wait time differed significantly according to call volume. Companies with a small amount of calls handled during the first quarter (less than 500) averaged the longest wait time, of 1 minutes and 47 seconds, which the report noted that that this could be due to resource constraints on behalf of the business and more patience from a cognizant caller. Average hold time dropped to a low of 39 seconds among “Medium” companies (that handled 500-1,500 calls during Q1), increasing to 45 seconds among “Large” companies (1,500-10,000 calls) and 52 seconds among “Extra-Large” companies (more than 10,000 calls).

Phone Wait Time Benchmarks (Q1 2013)

Wait Condition


Customers and prospects staying online for about 40 seconds


Callers sent to voicemail, mostly due to inactive agents


Average time call waited on hold

56 seconds

Average wait time among companies that handled 500-1500 calls

39 seconds

Average talk time between agent and customer or prospect

4min, 29 seconds

Source: Ifbyphone,  August 2013

Additionally, the data found that about 5% of callers exceed the wait time that businesses chose as the maximum. That 5% was sent to voicemail to be contacted after agents caught up with the queue. Another 4% were sent to voicemail when the queue size was exceeded. The businesses set a maximum queue size before wait times were deemed unsatisfactory for callers, and additional customers who called were then routed to voicemail.

Another metric from the analysis reports that only 1% of callers jump out of the queue; pressing 1 to be sent to voicemail voluntarily. And 13% of callers were sent directly to voicemail when all agents were in an Inactive Mode (Closed, Lunch, Break, Busy).

The report suggests that an interesting consideration for each business is that 22% of callers being sent to voicemail may not be an acceptable experience. This “benchmark” could lead to changes in the way call distribution is handled: changing queue size, increasing the number of agents during peak times, or others, says the report.

For more from Ifbyphone, including a white paper on the subject, please visit here.


1 comment about "How Long Is Too Long?".
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  1. Doug Darling from JOHN SANDY PROUDCTIONS, August 21, 2013 at 1:26 p.m.

    Baloney! These folks never called
    Comcast, Excel Energy, The IRS or
    Century Link!!! Try it. If you can get in under 10 minuters, you're doing very well.

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