What you play on hold affects your bottom line, Part One: The Message

April 10, 2019

close up focus on call center headset device  headset VOIP system with telephone answer machine technology at operation office desk for hotline telemarketing and network operator concept
This is the first of a two-part series on how to keep your on-hold callers on the line longer.

Chances are you haven’t given much thought to your hold music lately. In fact, most employees have no idea what kind of hold music—if any—is playing on their phone system. However, your company’s hold music is usually the first contact prospective clients could have with your company. Studies have shown that what callers listen to while on hold, determines how long they are willing to wait.


The number one reason callers hang up when placed on hold is when they feel they have been waiting for an unreasonable amount of time. So, is there a way to keep callers on the line longer?


Silence, music, or information?


A study by USA Business Telephone Today provided some useful information on what retains callers the most. They placed 30,000 callers on hold for one minute, splitting the callers into 3 groups. One group listened to silence, one group listened to music, and the last group listened to music and messages. The callers who hadn’t hung up at the end of that minute were then asked to estimate the length of time they had been hold. Here are their findings:


Silence Music Music + Message
52% hung up within 1 minute 13% hung up within 1 minute 2% hung up within 1 minute
100% estimated on hold time exceeded 1 minute 44% estimated on-hold time exceeded 1 minute 19% estimated the on-hold time exceeded 1 minute
27% estimated on hold time exceeded 5 minutes 0% estimated on-hold time exceeded 5 minutes 0% estimated on-hold time exceeded 5 minutes


The next question is, what kind of music, and what kind of message?


This week, we tackle the message.


The typical message one hears on hold is some form of an apology. This is not good for retaining customers. First of all, it’s impersonal, which makes the listener feel like the company they are calling doesn’t care. Second, no one believes that a representative is going to help them “shortly.” Finally, it’s repetitive. Listening to the same thing over and over again makes wait times feel longer, which is the opposite of what you want.


Here are some tips on how to provide meaningful messages


1. Keep the information interesting. This means having several different messages, so the listener won’t hear repeats. Knowing how many messages will depend on how long your hold times are. This is information you will need to find out.
2. Promote your own products or services. Studies have shown that as much as 19% of callers will actually inquire about the products they heard about while on hold.
3. Get to the point. Hit them with a question or a fact that you want them to know about your company.
4. Have a call to action. Whatever you are selling in this message, ensure the message ends with something like, “We’ll be right with you to tell you how.”
5. Don’t be afraid to be fun. Make your message have some personality. It will make your listener feel like your company cares.
6. Use different voice actors. You don’t have to hire professionals, but have several people deliver the various messages, male and female. Variety keeps things interesting.
7. Change it up from time to time. Keep the messages fresh and you’ll keep your callers on the line that much longer.
8. Put your most important messages first. Ideally your callers won’t be on the phone long enough to hear more than a couple of messages, so hit them with the most vital stuff first.
Be sure to fill the space in between messages with music. A new message every 30 seconds is a good rule of thumb.


Tune in next week for info on which kind of music you should play.


For more help on improving customer service, contact Vanguard Resources.