We all have those companies we love to hate. Maybe we’ve had bad e-commerce or in-store experiences. Maybe their employees were rude or uninformed. Maybe we received poor customer service or had to wait on hold forever. Whatever the case, a bad customer experience can tarnish a brand’s image.

One measurable customer experience metric is how long people are kept on hold when they call customer service. According to a survey by Velaro, a live-chat software company, 60% of customers will hang up after waiting on hold for one minute, and 30.2% of customers are willing to wait one to five minutes. But does any company actually keep you on hold for less than five minutes?

To test this, we compiled a list of 18 companies from various industries. We first drew from 24/7 Wall Street’s Customer Service Hall of Shame. Then, to diversify the types of companies we added airlines and the IRS, which, according to Time, takes 23 minutes to answer during tax season (though on average it only took us 4.27 to get through). We also added Amazon, which is known for its good customer service, to see how it would stack up.

Each company was called five times. Twice in the morning, twice in the afternoon, and once in the evening. Morning calls took place between 8:30 AM and 11 AM PST. Afternoon calls between 12:30 PM and 2 PM, and evening calls between 5 PM and 7 PM.

Surprisingly, the call wait times of most companies stayed below five minutes. Often, the most frustrating thing wasn’t waiting, it was figuring out how to navigate the automated menu.


We were most surprised by the hold time of the IRS. Though the menu was confusing and unhelpful, the wait time itself was around the five minute mark every time we called.

The single longest wait time was for Walmart at 25.07. However, we appreciated that they anticipated the long wait and were proactive about it, providing an approximate wait time and a call back option so you could opt out of waiting on hold.

Companies that anticipated longer wait times also seemed more likely to play upbeat “on hold” music. The top two companies with best “on hold” music were Walmart, who played music reminiscent of The Beatles “Here Comes the Sun,” and Wells Fargo, who also played an upbeat tune.

Though waiting on hold is never fun, we were pleasantly surprised that many of the types of companies we call most — banks, phone and tv providers, insurance companies — had hold times of five minutes or less.