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Navigating Customer Frustration: A Guide to Responding to Long Wait Times

annoyed customer on phone

In customer service, especially around busy seasons, businesses often find themselves grappling with the challenge of managing customer dissatisfaction, particularly when it comes to long wait times. Whether it’s on the phone, in a chat queue, or for an online service, wait times can test the patience of even the most understanding customers. In this blog, we’ll explore effective strategies for responding to an upset customer who has experienced an extended wait, turning a negative experience into an opportunity for positive engagement.

Understanding the Customer’s Perspective

To effectively address customer frustration, it’s crucial to empathize with their perspective. Long wait times can make customers feel undervalued, ignored, or even disrespected. Imagine being in their shoes—impatient, possibly in a hurry, and likely expecting a swift resolution to their issue. Afterall, we’ve all been there. Acknowledging and understanding their frustration is the first step towards providing a satisfactory response.

1. Apologize Sincerely

The importance of a sincere apology cannot be overstated. Begin your response by acknowledging the inconvenience the customer has experienced and express a genuine apology. Avoid generic statements and strive to convey empathy. For instance, instead of saying, “We apologize for any inconvenience,” you could say, “I’m sincerely sorry for the extended wait you’ve had to endure. We understand your time is valuable, and we appreciate your patience.” By taking ownership, the customer feels acknowledged by you – not some faceless group called “we”.

2. Provide an Explanation

Customers appreciate transparency. Once you’ve apologized, offer a brief explanation for the extended wait. Whether it’s due to high call volumes, unexpected technical issues, or other operational challenges, being honest about the situation demonstrates accountability. A transparent explanation can help the customer understand the circumstances and may diffuse some of their frustration. Afterall, customers can show empathy too.

3. Empower Your Customer Service Representatives

Equip your customer service team with the authority to address issues promptly. If possible, empower them to make decisions or provide solutions without having to escalate the matter. This approach not only streamlines the resolution process but also reassures the customer that their concerns are being taken seriously. Whether by providing the next best action the agent should take, or just giving them some sense of the customer’s sentiment, each little step can make the conversations more positive and even more efficient.

4. Implement Technology Solutions

There are no shortage of available solutions that can alleviate customer frustration as well as help your agent teams. For customers waiting on the phone, consider implementing a callback system. Offer them the option to receive a call back when the next representative is available, eliminating the need for them to stay on hold. For agents, look for tools that can help them scale, whether that means address issues quickly, handle more chats/messages, or understand where they can improve. Taking a proactive approach will demonstrate to customers that, while they not not always get an immediate answer, that you are working to improve the overall experience.

5. Offer Fast Resolution Whenever Possible

If applicable, provide immediate solutions to the customer’s query or problem while acknowledging the inconvenience they’ve faced. This proactive step can help shift their focus from the wait time to the resolution. Additionally, offering a small token of goodwill, such as a discount or a complimentary service, can go a long way in rebuilding trust. Again, helping agents understand how much and when can go a long way.

6. Implement Continuous Improvement

Use the customer’s feedback as an opportunity for introspection and improvement – both for the business as well as in terms of agent performance. Analyze the root causes of extended wait times and work towards implementing measures to prevent similar occurrences in the future. Communicate these improvements to your customers, showcasing your commitment to their satisfaction. Even better, communicate product or policy issues to your product teams to reduce the need for these issues to even arise.

7. Monitor and Communicate Wait Times

Implement real-time monitoring of wait times and keep customers informed. If there’s a delay, communicate the expected wait time and provide alternatives, such as self-service options or online resources. Transparency in communication helps manage customer expectations and reduces frustration.

8. Prioritize Customer Education

Proactively educate your customers about potential peak times or busy periods when wait times are likely to be longer. Encourage them to utilize non-urgent channels during these times or provide guidance on the best times to contact customer support for quicker assistance.


Responding to a frustrated customer due to long wait times requires a delicate balance of empathy, accountability, and proactive solutions. By acknowledging the customer’s frustration, providing transparent explanations, and implementing immediate and long-term solutions, businesses can transform a negative experience into an opportunity for building trust and loyalty. The way you handle customer dissatisfaction can have a lasting impact on their perception of your brand, making it a critical aspect of your overall customer service strategy. But the best way to avoid customer frustration is to understand the gaps in your current experience and address them proactively. To learn how, check out Loris Insights

Photo by sarah b on Unsplash