Dead Air in Call Center: Reduction Tips 

Are you acquainted with the term call center dead air? We bet that either not or know a little about it. Why did such strange terminology appear in the high-tech industry?  But let's start from afar - the study states that phone calls are still the most common communication channel for clients who are seeking assistance or additional information. People always prefer live communication to chats, especially if we talk about older target audiences. On the other hand, younger audiences are keener on social networks and self-servicing tools, or text contact channels.  Nonetheless, we have to state that younger people are only a smaller part of the whole audience, and there is no way to ignore people who are calling you to get the service. So, a person starts dialing, passes the IVR system, or goes straight to the live agent, the dialogue begins, and … silence falls. What would be the consequences of such an occasion? Surely, negative.  So what is the connection between the situation we have described and the thing that is called call center dead air time? Let’s find it out. 

What is dead air in a call center?

The call center dead air is the period of silence during a customer conversation with the agent. Thus, it is the time during which the agent is silent, no matter the reason - software lags, lack of knowledge, connection issues, and so on. 

The dead air definition has migrated from other industries, especially the TV industry, where dead air is the name of the period while nothing is shown on the TV channel. 

As you could guess, dead air is an extremely negative factor that can frustrate customers, make them feel uncomfortable, or even abandon the call. Additionally, dead air time directly influences the Average Handle Time, as it prolongs customer service calls. Its influence on customer satisfaction and customer experience is also negative, as no one wants to listen to the silence, especially when fast and skillful customer support is expected. 

What are the reasons for dead air calls? 

First of all, let’s say that there are numerous causes for dead air - each case has to be reviewed, analyzed, and evaluated individually. An agent may face too complicated a customer query and be overwhelmed, or he can be browsing for information in the knowledge base and stop talking because of an inability to find it. System lags, or just too slow software or the Internet may cause the same thing, as well as operators, can just confuse customer questions and keep quiet because of misunderstanding. 

How can you identify the reasons for a dead call? Use call recording or live call monitoring features to identify moments of silence and find out the exact cause of the dead air. Intelligent speech analytics can be extremely useful for detecting periods of dead air, and it will save you time. 

When each moment is found and ready for further analysis, focus on the identification of the real reasons for dead air. Is it the agent’s lack of skills, or knowledge, or he has just been caught off guard? Maybe, an outdated knowledge management system or poor call scripting causes the issue? Or there were some troubles with the linkage? Look for all situations when dead air happens and try to make logical conclusions: what are the main causes for dead air, which of them happen more often, how long are the periods of dead air, and so on. 

Such a meticulous approach will help you adapt training programs and quality assurance scorecards to the right conditions, and avoid dead air in the future. Anyhow, moments when the agent has nothing to say will always happen, the goal is to reduce their number as strongly as possible. 

How to reduce call center dead air time 

Even though we have already explained that each case of dead air has its unique cause, there are general rules and pieces of advice that can help you improve those aspects of customer service that might positively influence on root causes of dead air in contact centers. Dead air is almost always caused by poor agent performance, so this is the point where we have to focus our attention. 

Let’s find out how to deal with frustrating dead air times. 

Keep customers informed with specific sayings

People want to stay informed of the progress of their requests, so when the agent starts to hold his tongue, clients become nervous and feel uncomfortable - at least because they don’t know why the specialist says nothing. Let people know why you keep silent, with gentle phrases, such as “I’m seeking information to resolve your issue, give me a few secs”. In this way, a person is at least informed that there is a need to wait a bit. If you feel that the waiting time is too long, and this phrase can be not enough, repeat it or say something like “I’m gathering the info and waiting for the request to be processed, it is almost finished” to make people stay confident that you’re helping them, not just sitting and doing nothing.

But here is the risk - if you say “it will take a few seconds”, you have to keep the promise. If the request is too complicated, don’t say it will be resolved in one minute, because it is a lie, and you will frustrate the person who believes your words. 

Another great trick is to say in detail what you are doing to solve the problem - not only searching for the information, it sounds too commonplace. Describe the process, or just name it - sending the help ticket to technical specialists, waiting for the system to process the data, validating the customer’s identity, and so on. People have to understand that the process is going on, and you do different things because in this way you build trust. 

Thank people for their time with phrases like “I thank you for your tolerance, excuse me for making you wait”. Yes, it is an obvious trick, but it is still necessary to use. 

Invest in modern knowledge management infrastructure

Knowledge bases are the places where agents find needed information to solve customers’ requests, and complaints, and improve agents’ knowledge of products, services, and their characteristics and features. 

For instance, if the knowledge base is poorly designed and has no search engine, the agent will spend hours finding needed articles or posts. How can it affect the quality of customer service? The answer is clear - only negatively.

Use internal links to make navigation through the knowledge management system easier and access to related information faster and effortless. When agents have to switch between a few articles about one topic, it would be great assistance to put related links into each of these posts. 

We ought to repeat it once more - search engines should be integrated and work as fast as possible to make the delay before accessing the info shorter. When the conversation comes to the point when a knowledge base is required, every second matters. 

Permanent updating and a proactive approach to filling the knowledge base with content are also required. You have to monitor the changes in customer requests, potential issues, customer expectations, and wishes and manage knowledge in accordance with these factors. 

Use small talk

This trick can be both effective and harmful because the agent has to be skilled enough to understand the customer’s mood and readiness for informal communication. Some people aren’t keen on small talk, and this can cause a problem when a cheerful agent starts talking about some non-request-related things, and the customer becomes annoyed or angry. Yes, some individuals take such talks seriously and think that they show that the agent does nothing about their issue, but wastes their time. 

On the contrary, if the person is emphatic and ready for such dialogue, and there is a time for it - information is sent to another unit and process, for a sample - a skilled agent can notice it and start talking about various things, like news, weather, or something else that can relax the customer and build a warmer relationship. 

What sweetens the deal is that such small talk can give additional customer data - his origin, and important dates (the person can mention coming birthday or anniversary), and this data can be imported into customer relationship management software for further customer interactions and service personalization. 

Another positive aspect of this tip is that people who get such informal and pleasant service will be more willing to come back to your company, as it would definitely differentiate you from competitors. 

Use Hold mode

Yes, we know that the longer the hold time is, the worse it is for customer satisfaction and customer experience. Thus, you have to use all opportunities to reduce hold times, but there are always occasions when using Hold mode is necessary. For instance, agents always use hold to make a call transfer or resolve a customer’s issue because they have to contact another unit and there is no way to talk with two people at the same time. 

Why is the Hold mode preferable to use in some cases? Well, making the customer listen to music is at least better than complete silence, if there is no way to choose something else. 

When using the Hold button, always notify how long would the waiting time last and what is the matter for waiting. For a sample, say “To resolve the issue, I have to switch to another line to make (task). It’ll take around (time), and when I’ll be back we can finish with the problem.”

Warning of waiting duration is necessary as it prevents customers from unnecessary frustration. On the other hand, if this time is too long for them, you can offer a callback when everything will be done. 

Use wise call scripts

Call scripts have to cover potential dead air moments and include recommendations and tricks for handling such situations. For instance, your call scripts can include small talk scenarios, and it would be even better if you anticipate a few scenarios at the same time - about the weather, weekend plans, news, and so on. 

Your training programs have to include lessons about small talk techniques because this trick is irreplaceable in some cases. The most skillful agents know how to use every opportunity for informal communication - actually, when such communication is needed. Teach operators to talk with customers as if they are their old friends or at least neighbors - informal and positive talk is always more difficult to fall into a conflict or misunderstanding. 

Use promotions 

This method is quite controversial but still effective when the situation is suitable and the caller is in a good mood. What do we mean by using promotions to use dead air moments, such as system lags or information downloading? Actually, describing the company’s new offering, discounts, or even proposing personalized offers.

By the way, when a contact center agent is handling an issue, he can take a quick look at the CRM system to understand the customer’s persona, preferences, and previous purchases and say something like: “You know, we have some unplanned discounts on portable smokehouses, and I mean it is around 30%” - if you know that this person has already purchased a grill. 

What is the chance that this exact individual would make this purchase? Extremely high, as he is now calling the company for assistance and discovers that there are some great offerings that perfectly suit his previous buy.

Thus, non-conflict calls can be easily used as an ideal occasion to use cross-selling and up-selling opportunities. Customers are calling on their own, there is no need for outbound campaigns - just use the fitting moment to close another deal. 

Train agents

The main thing that determines your success in beating dead air times is the training, coaching, and mentoring process. Customer service agents as individuals are the root cause of 90% of dead air times, so if you want to beat the consequence, you have to eliminate the reason. 

Use call recording to identify call anomalies such as too-long calls, numerous requests from one customer, and so on to find the main improvement areas or just negligence of employees. Start working with agents who need improvement in one-to-one mode to motivate them to learn and train faster. Use their own recordings to show where they have failed and describe how to handle such cases effectively. 

Use group training sessions to help agents gain important soft and hard skills, such as emphatic communication, conflict handling, adapting to customer communication style, and so on. 


As we have found out, dead air in call centers is the period of silence during customer conversations. It harms customer satisfaction and experience, as well as customer service, and can’t be marked as qualitative if the clients have to listen to silence regularly. There are numerous reasons for dead air, but in most cases, it’s poor agent performance or technical trouble, such as Internet connection loss or software lags. The main way to reduce dead air times in contact centers is to train agents properly, by using their own call recordings and operating modern training tactics, such as gamification or virtual training.

Another factor that can cause dead air is an outdated and ineffective knowledge management system, so if you have detected dead air cases, think of upgrading the knowledge base. 

Such tricks as small talk, promotions describing, and regular announcements of agents’ actions can reduce customer frustration and build more trustful relations, as well as rapport. Say to customers what you are doing each moment so they can understand that the issue is in progress and you are putting massive effort into beating it. 

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