We all know how paramount customer service is to consumers, which also makes it top priority for companies. With many consumers willing to drop a given service provider over something as simple as a bad phone call or impossible to reach staff, it is increasingly important for organizations to ensure their customers can confide in their chosen provider’s support. The most common method for customers to get in touch is to simply make a phone call.

Just like our last round of hold times testing, one of the most important aspects of a phone provider is the ability to contact customer service – especially when things can go wrong at a moment’s notice. VoIP providers hold their customer service to a very high level and love to boast about low wait times, but what about your everyday cell phone companies?

Most of these providers are the same large scale enterprises that have been around forever, but we wanted to see if they’ve yet caught onto this recent customer service awareness. We put together a list of the most popular cellular phone service providers in the United States with a mix of large players that branch into the international markets, as well as those that focus only on domestic and even some pay-as-you-go providers. We made calls to each provider for two weeks, between 9 to 11 a.m., 12 to 3p.m. and 4 to 7p.m. every day to ensure a fair average and gauge morning, afternoon and night support.

cellular-provider-hold-timesWhile each provider had an easy to understand voice menu to guide callers to the appropriate agent or department, some were a bit more intuitive than others. We noticed that systems like T-Mobile or AT&T that allow you to speak full sentences offered a new way to navigate the menus, yet were often less responsive and even had a hard time understanding our clearly spoken directions – although not always the case. Often times the entire process could be skipped by speaking the word “Agent” or “Representative” to the system, but some providers seemed to make it more difficult to reach a human than others. For example, it was common for the T-Mobile automated attendant to simply redirect us to the beginning of the call again, greeting us as a new caller when we asked to speak to a representative – forcing us to repeat the whole process over again.

On the flip side, other providers kept the familiar button presses for menu options and tried to keep things a bit simpler. Boost Mobile had us jumping through a number of different hoops until we reached a live person, yet Simple Mobile allowed us to reach an agent after only two menu options. Virgin Mobile even allowed users to repeatedly press 0 to reach an agent, but seemed to discourage this act and hoped to keep callers in the system to route them to the best available agent. Almost all of the providers would alert callers prior to waiting if the hold time was longer than average (generally over the 3 to 5 minute mark) but only a few would provide a call-back option.