Handling Dead-Air Space On a Customer Service Call


Women with headsets working at a call center

If you’re on a call with a customer, and more than three, or four seconds go by, and you haven’t said a word, that’s called dead air space. You’re working… you know that. But for the customer, dead air space feels awkward. So we need to learn the best way to fill the silent seconds.

Today, I’ll show you five ways to avoid the uncomfortable dead air space.

1. Explain what you are doing

Let the customer know that there will be a few seconds of silence, by explaining what you are doing, “This will take just a few moments to pull up,” or “What I’m doing here, is processing the return, and placing your replacement order. This may take me a few minutes.”

2. Make small talk

Once, when I was talking to a customer service representative, he used the downtime fantastically. He knew I lived in Oklahoma, based on details in my account, and he said…, “Oklahoma! Are you a Sooner fan, by chance?” And we had the best college football conversation, while he was waiting for something to pull up.

The thing with making small talk, though, is to be able to quickly shut it down, when you’re ready to move forward. You can do this at the end of your last sentence of small talk, by saying, “Alright, you’re all set.” And then, go on to any next steps.

3. Inform the customer, or …upsell

Once, when I was on hold with Fitbit about a problem with my fitness tracker, the agent said to me, “While we’re waiting, Myra, I’d like to give you some tips on how to care for your Flex band.” That was a smart use of the waiting time because I was having a problem for the second time, with my band. The agent used what would have been dead air space to give me helpful hints that would help me not end up with the same problem, yet again. Just as you can use downtime to inform a customer, you could also use the time to up-sell the customer.

4. Try Making light of the situation

You can add some humor while you’re waiting on a slow computer. Like this: “Technology, is supposed to make our lives easier, but, sometimes it’s so frustratingly slow.”

5. Put the caller, on hold

You always have the option to place your customer on a brief hold while you’re working, or, reading notes. Say something like, “I’m going to review the notes on your claim so that I can see where we are. I’ll just put you on a brief hold while I do this, okay?”

Dead air space is usually not an issue for you, but it’s uncomfortable for your customer. Try out some of these tips the next time you’re busy working or reading something on your computer and you’ll bring life to what would have been dead air space.

This video is from my Telephone Skills Training class, which is part of my online soft skills training suite. 

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Myra is a favorite training partner to Fortune 500 companies with her customized, engaging, behavior-changing (and fun) customer service workshops, working with McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Frito-Lay, Michelin, Vera Bradley and other brands.

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