Posted by: soundlounge | January 21, 2009

Don't Leave Me Hanging On The Telephone


It’s a fact of life that businesses often receive more telephone calls than they can handle at the same time. But being put on hold remains a frustrating experience, writes Ruth Simmons, MD of music branding consultancy soundlounge.

A recent poll by The Consumer Association suggested that 48 per cent of the UK population object to hold music. People may have accepted call holding as a fact of life, but it seems that impersonal or inappropriate music can actually worsen their frustration.

Hold music tends to be sourced in one of five ways:

  • Well-known tracks that have proven their popularity in the charts
  • Library music written for general commercial use
  • Music that is especially commissioned
  • Music that is now out of copyright and in the public domain
  • Music from radio stations

But with these options come problems. The music industry doesn’t make it easy, with five possible clearances required depending on the music source. Instead, many companies are opting for a one-stop company to handle all of the issues. This involves a blanket licence and an annual fee, which in itself will be the cheapest way to purchase the service. What it can’t do, however, is allow the business a real choice of bespoke music.

Other companies are simply plugging into the radio. While it has the advantage of being the simplest form of licensing, there are obvious downsides. The music is random, and DJs’ time checks will remind callers how long they have been waiting.

If we were to reframe the whole concept of call holding, not as a way to keep the caller at bay, but as a real customer touch-point, then we could start to look at how we might use it as an opportunity to build a relationship and engage with that person on an individual basis.

To do this, you’ll need to identify clearly why your customers are calling you. Someone who is calling to complain will not want hear an uplifting anthem; but on the other hand, New Age music may not have the pacifying effect that you intend. Customers are a savvy bunch and know enough about music to realise when they are being manipulated.

Secondly, the ability of music to connect at a profound emotional level should be considered, and exploited. Using a jingle that just passes the time is as wasteful as buying outdoor advertising and leaving the site blank.

When brands choose music that matches the customer’s profile and likely mood, they may take a step towards soothing the frustration normally associated with being put on hold. But when they choose music that reflects and reinforces all the perceptions the brand has worked hard to achieve, they may just find that they will connect at a whole different level and be forgiven for that one short period of holding.

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