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If you’ve put in a call to your bank’s customer service line during the latest banking crisis, you may have heard the words “higher-than-normal call volumes” and “extremely long wait times.”
A 2023 study by Bain & Company found that, on average, consumers scored bank representatives 24 points higher when they waited less than 10 minutes to get on the call.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to avoid long waits and get the assistance you need in a timely manner.
When to call customer service: Best days and times for the shortest wait times
Not every banking issue requires a call with a banking representative. If you have a non-urgent issue or question, like how to find your account balance, consider using your bank’s chat or email service instead. You may also be able to find your answer online or on the bank’s “frequently asked questions” page.
However, if it’s an issue that requires the assistance of a representative, something like disputing a fee, data suggests that there are lower call volumes and wait times in the morning or late evening. Data from Talkdesk found that customer service call times are the lowest, on average, at 7 a.m. Wait times are 70 percent shorter if you call before noon.
Additionally, the study found that Wednesdays and Thursdays have the lowest average wait times, while Mondays have the longest wait times.
How to best prepare for wait times
Depending on the time of day and the nature of your issue, wait times can vary widely. Some banks provide estimated wait times, which can help you decide whether it’s a good time to call or not.
Some ways you can prepare for wait times and make the most of your call are:
- Set aside enough time for the call, so you can avoid rushing through it or having to end it abruptly.
- Gather all the necessary information before you call. This might include your account number, recent statements, identification documents and any previous correspondence with the bank.
- Choose a quiet, private space, so you can focus on the conversation and clearly hear the representative.
- Use the hold time productively. Consider jotting down questions you want to ask or review your account information.
Quickest ways to reach a human
When calling customer service, you’ll likely begin the call by speaking to an automated support system. There are a couple of key operator functions to keep in mind that can help you reach a human more quickly.
Often, pressing “0” or saying “representative” during the automated menu can bypass the system and connect you to a representative.
Some banks may offer a voice recognition feature, allowing you to speak your issue aloud and be directed to a representative for the appropriate department.
What to do after the call
After your call with customer service, evaluate whether your issue was resolved. If you were given a timeline for a resolution, make a note of it and follow up if the issue is not resolved by then.
If the issue wasn’t properly addressed or resolved during the call, consider escalating it to a supervisor or manager of the bank. Ask to speak to someone who has the authority to provide additional support. If that still doesn’t work out and the issue persists, most banks have a complaint process that can be accessed through their website or by calling. Be prepared to provide detailed information about your issue, including any steps you’ve taken to resolve it.
You also might want to consider leaving a review of your experience with the bank, which can provide helpful feedback for the bank and potentially prompt it to make future improvements.
Alternative ways to contact the bank
Customer service chats
Using a bank’s text/chat service can be a much quicker and more convenient way to get the information you need. Many banks now offer these options, allowing you to communicate with a customer service representative or even a virtual assistant (like Bank of America’s Erica) through a chat window on the bank’s website or mobile app.
If the problem can’t be resolved via chat, then you may be transferred to a live representative or have one call you at a later time.
Request a callback
Banks including Bank of America and First Hawaiian Bank will allow you to schedule a time to talk to someone. These callback services allow you to leave your phone number and receive a call from a representative when it’s your turn in the queue, rather than having to wait on the phone.
Your bank’s social media page can be a powerful tool for getting someone to answer you. “If someone goes to their bank’s Facebook page and puts up a question about fees or posts about being unhappy, more often than not, banks have people monitoring those kinds of social media posts, and they’ll respond,” says Paul McAdam, senior director of banking and payments intelligence for J.D. Power.
Social media is also a useful way to get the latest updates, as banks tend to post their most up-to-date information on their social pages.
Mobile banking app
Banks are regularly adding new tools to their mobile apps, including functions that used to require a phone call. “More banks are giving customers the option to turn off their debit or credit cards if they have a concern about security or need to freeze their spending,” McAdam says.
Some banks will also allow you to cancel checks or dispute transactions on the app, as well as on their site.
Visit your nearby branch
If you’re comfortable going into a branch, it may make more sense to visit the bank than to sit on hold indefinitely. Many branches will even allow you to set up a secure virtual appointment with a financial representative or banker.
There are several ways to avoid long bank call wait times and get the assistance you need in a timely manner. Consider using a callback service, calling during off-peak hours and preparing ahead with your account information and the details of your issue. You can also usually reach the bank in a few other ways than just calling a representative, such as by chatting with a virtual assistant or visiting a branch.
— Autumn Cafiero Giusti wrote a previous version of this story.