Let’s be honest….we’re all busy. We’re often rushing, we sometimes don’t feel like waiting and we generally don’t like to be put on hold when we’re ready to get some business done.

And the same goes for the people who are calling your business. They want their questions answered, their inquiries responded to, their calls properly routed, their appointments made and their messages taken. You know that, and your professional answering service should also know that. But the reality is that hold time is a fact of life, even with the most streamlined and efficient of answering services.

What is hold time? Hold time refers to the time that a caller might spend on the phone line waiting to be attended to. This time may happen at the beginning of the call, when the phone is ringing and before it has been answered. It may also happen during the call, if the answering service operator needs to put a caller on hold to check information or process part of the call.

To a caller on the line, waiting in either of these instances may seem like it takes a long time, even if it is just for a few seconds. The best answering services do everything possible to reduce this hold time and to lower its impact by having operators communicate clearly to the caller that a wait time may occur and what to expect. By managing expectations, as well as using forms of technology such as on-hold music in some cases, answering service agents are able to manage their callers’ expectations and respect their time in a way that works well for both parties.

Is no hold time possible? The goal of the best answering services, of course, is to minimize and eradicate hold time of any kind. But even with the best resources – ample personnel, top technology – hold time is an inevitability of using the phone for business purposes.

Is there a ‘standard’ wait time for answering services? In the answering service industry, one standard when it comes to hold time is the “three ring rule:” The standard ring lasts for about six seconds. So with three rings and time in-between each ring, the 18-20 second range is a “sweet spot” of hold time that top answering services aim for. The industry benchmark is to hit this time range 80% or more of the time. Some answering services – like ours, for instance – aim for more aggressive goals than that, and expect be greater than 80% in that range.

Are some times busier than others? The answering service world, like the business world as a whole, is all about peaks and valleys. For instance, 5 pm on a weekday is considered a peak time when many businesses and their callers are trying to get in before the “checkout” time when business closes. Similarly, a company that specializes in holiday gifts will know that call volume will increase around certain holiday times.

Answering services that truly understand their clients and their clients’ callers will anticipate these busier times, and can attend to calls accordingly during those times.