Marketing They Can’t Ignore: Messages On Hold


Article by Easy On Hold President Julie Cook

Julie Cook, President of Easy On HoldWhy On Hold Messaging Is Working Better Than Ever

Let me share with you some thoughts about why Easy On Hold is growing in popularity, and why on hold messaging deserves a piece of your marketing budget. A recent article in Harvard Business Review provides excellent insight into modern sales and marketing:

In a media saturated world, persuading through interruption and repetition is increasingly ineffective. To engage consumers, advertisers must focus on where and when they will be receptive.

With traditional marketing means becoming less effective, smart marketers are shifting focus from targeted campaigns to ongoing presence. What role do you play in your customers’ lives? When they need you, are you there? When they call you and have to wait on hold, will you be a helpful, rewarding presence, even though you can’t come to the phone right away?

The telephone call you receive from a customer or potential buyer is an open door. Messaging on hold provides customer engagement when it provides relevant information.

Offer Value, Or Risk Being Ignored

Jeffrey F. Rayport is a Senior Adviser at Castanea Partners, a private equity firm, and former Harvard Business School professor. He authored the article I quoted earlier, titled Advertising’s New Medium: Human Experience. Rayport is one of many marketing experts warning business owners and marketing managers that today’s breed of consumer demands that every advertising message must offer value, or risk being ignored.

…marketers must fundamentally rethink their advertising strategy and execution and expand their definition of what, exactly, advertising is.


Think Engagement

Easy On Hold serves many credit unions across America. Credit Unions are community organizations; member-based, and generally do a better job of consumer engagement than most businesses. Engagement has been a big buzzword in credit union marketing circles, because it best describes the strategy of integrating the brand into the consumer’s life. Integration takes place through events, apps, social media, educational efforts, surveys, subtle sponsorships of community events, and more. Engagement is the art of weaving your brand into your customers’ lives.

It’s what Inc. Magazine called “The New Rules Of Customer Engagement”, identifying meaningful, ongoing contact as the key. This means exploiting social and mobile marketing, on-premise techniques and plugging holes in the customer experience (like the telephone on hold audio). When you hear about “creating winning content” to grab customers’ attention, or that “content is king”, you must remember the time they spend on hold. On average, 70% of your callers will spend time on hold.

Messages On Hold Are A Key Part Of Your Inbound Marketing Strategy

When you help callers while they wait, you build credibility and an image of integrity. The caller thinks, “Wow, if they went through the trouble to make these messages on hold so informative, this business will likely go the extra mile when I need them to…” The right time and place to make a connection with your customer is when they’re reaching out to you. It’s happening every day on your phones.


7 Things To Never Say In Your Message On Hold


On hold messaging has gotten a bad rap, and it’s for good reason. On hold scripts and announcers can sound fake and insincere. Here’s an example: “We’ll we with you momentarily.” Now, who talks like that?

Recently, Easy On Hold published its annual list of 7 Things To Never Say In Your Message On Hold. In this video, Easy On Hold president Julie Cook highlights just a few of the “never-say-again” message on hold phrases.


Do not use the word “momentarily”.

If you’re at a party and you need to leave the room do you say, “Excuse me, I’ll be back momentarily”? Of course not. Yet, “We’ll be with you momentarily” rears its formal head in thousands of on hold messages, making callers want to hang up.

Do not say you’re busy helping other callers.

Here’s another one: “We’re busy helping other customers at this time, and we’ll be with you in a moment.” Now you know what that’s really saying, “We’re too busy to help YOU at this time. Just wait your turn.” That really scores high on the customer relationship scale!

Do not say “Your call is important”

And the big one, the one we hear about all the time: “Your call is important,” or, “We know your time is valuable.” This prompts callers to think, “Well, if my time is so valuable, why am I on hold?”

The average person spends 1.2 years of life waiting on hold! Nearly every business has hold time, whether they care to admit it or not. From 30 seconds to 10 minutes or more.

But when you put people on hold at your business, get rid of the fake, formal corporate speak the no one really uses. Talk to you caller like you would a friend, or someone who’s just walked through your door for the first time. Don’t use those stiff phrases that have become the “go-to” formula for on hold scripts when you don’t know what else to say.

How about, “We’re really glad you called us today,” or, “Our brand new web site is full of great information that will really help you on your search for x y z, etc.”

Be helpful. Be informational. But more than anything, be real.

Watch video on YouTube

You can read more of these banished phrases at:

How To Impact Customer Relationships With Social Media And Messages On Hold


So you’re asking everyone to ‘Like’ You on Facebook, right? You’re tweeting, you’re connecting on LinkedIn, blogging on WordPress, snapping photos with Instagram, and loading videos on your own YouTube and Vimeo channels. After all, a high profile on the Internet will help deliver more web traffic, more phone calls, more referrals–and that means more business.

Facebook page at

But along with the wins can come some real punches in the gut–your Facebook wall gets peppered with sniper fire by an angry customer or two or 200, or your company name becomes an unfortunate hash tag on Twitter (with some brutal tweets). Do you duck and cover, or simply embrace it with open arms, doing what you can to turn the conversation back around your way?

Embrace it say experts at Kalamazoo Valley Community College, a long-time Easy On Hold client and one of the most marketing-savvy community colleges we see in action. Steven Cook, KVCC Social Media Strategist, says the college had been a topic of frequent conversation on the Internet. Only, the college wasn’t doing much of the talking.

“We knew we needed to insert ourselves where we could by answering student tweets about registration times or financial aid, for example. And of course trying to calm the angry rants that are bound to happen with any institution of our size,” Steven says. “We can post a response on a Twitter conversation that clarifies a misunderstanding, or points a student in the right direction with college administration. Who better to jump into the conversation than KVCC itself?”

Steven admits it’s easier to do with Twitter than Facebook.

“With Twitter we can talk to one, to many, or to all of our followers, something you just can’t do while managing Facebook pages,” he says. “We have been able to use Twitter as a tool in customer service, student recruitment and retention, news and events promotion and more. It gives a real sense of what conversations are happening around our school’s brand. Students don’t even have to talk to us; we can find them if they just talk about us through Twitter searches.”

Steven uses HootSuite to easily manage the internet chatter at a glance. [Editor’s note: Hootsuite recently acquired Seesmic, another popular social media content management service, and is going to a paid platform. A free alternative is Tweetdeck (screenshot to the right).]

Jim Belosic of Social Media Examiner (one of the best sites, in my opinion, for learning how to conquer social media), agrees that standing tall is the best strategy when an angry post finds its way to your Facebook page.

Your next steps are key to retaining not only the business of the angry customer, but the business of other fans who like your page as well,” Jim says. In his 7 Tips for Dealing with Upset Facebook Fans, Belosic says the #1 response is to give a response, no matter what. Inactivity on your part will appear as though you’re trying to ignore the issue and sweep it under the rug,” he writes. “Being unresponsive does nothing more than incite more anger and increase the chance the user will come back with even more angry wall posts.” You can read all his tips here.

No article on handling angry customers would be complete without mentioning on hold messaging–talk about managing the conversation! A carefully crafted and voiced script with music can help diffuse angry or frustrated callers while you put them on hold to attend to their problem–but make sure your script is honest and helpful (as opposed to fluffy and grandiose).

Let’s say you offer dedicated customer service or technical support lines: our callers already have questions or are having some kind of trouble. Chances are they’re anxious or frustrated. In these situations, we know the following approaches work:

1. Know how long callers are holding. If your hold times are longer than 4 minutes–or can be at peak times–your productions must be long enough so the caller doesn’t get tired of hearing the same thing over and over. It’s okay to repeat a call to action or time-sensitive message, but rephrase it a few different ways. Mix up the voices between male and female, and keep the music lively.

2. Don’t talk their heads off. The caller needs time to listen and think about what you’re saying, so offer a pleasing balance of 20-25 seconds of talking, with an equal amount of music. This is not an exact formula and will vary from business to business, but it’s a good one to shoot for.

3. Help them solve their problem on their own
so they can hang up in a good mood. Suggest they visit a specific page on your website for returns, or some easy fixes to try on their PC.

4. Skip the “your call is valuable” platitudes.
Callers don’t buy it. If the call was important, you wouldn’t have placed them on hold. We know you’re simply trying to convey that you care, but it’s pre-recorded and they know it. Callers feel important when they’re getting help (see #3 above).

5. Change the music after 4 minutes.
Your goal is to create the perception that the hold time is shorter than it is. A variety of music tracks can do the trick beautifully. If you have repeat callers, this can really help. Every few weeks, freshen up the content.

How do YOU manage angry customers online and on the phone? If you’re willing to share your tips, I’d like to share them in my next post. Email me your experiences please.

Family Minivan Doesn’t Deliver Like It Used To: Like Your Old On Hold Message

Guest article by Julie Cook

Her time has come: Our minivan is getting the boot this month. For several years, she’s been there for nearly everything in our family’s lives: school carpools, sports events, road trips, endless Home Depot hauls, and trips to the vet.

But she’s tired. And when we look into the future to the kind of vehicle we know we’ll need over the next several years as our busy boys complete high school and head for college, she just won’t have what it takes. It’s time to say goodbye for something better.

The same thing is true in our marketing efforts for our businesses. Traditional practices simply don’t deliver the goods anymore. Newspaper readership is way down. Television and radio have exploded into more choices than we ever through possible. Social media opportunities are keeping all of us on our toes, with more pressure every day to blog, tweet, post, like, boost your site rankings, etc. Never has it been so difficult to put a bull’s-eye on your target buyer—because you can’t. They’re unpredictable and rarely in one place for long. As a marketing professional for more than 20 years, I never dreamed the marketing landscape would be so dissected and so complicated.

Yet there’s one marketing tool that has remained easy, consistent and an absolute fundamental: Your telephone.

Think about it: Calling your business remains the only way your prospects and customers can really have a conversation with you. And when you inevitably place them on hold–yes, we all have to do it out of necessity–they’re no longer a moving target. They’re yours.

Are you using that time to your advantage? It’s more powerful than you realize.

Here’s some recent examples of how our clients are maximizing their hold time to inspire their callers to do something.

 Multipet is building community and loyalty by promoting a Facebook contest for dog owners to upload photos of their pets using Multipet toys.

 STA Travel is building foot traffic and web visits by promoting a contest for a trip for two to Britain.

 Norwegian Cruise Lines is building excitement by promoting new artwork by legendary artist Peter Max on one of its ship’s hulls, and building business by giving away $250 in on-board spending for all cruises booked by September 21st.

Local Driving School is building trust by educating its clients (moms and dads) about Teensmart that will help educate their young drivers about driver safety. When they do, they can save 20% through their insurance company. Local Driving School doesn’t make a dime…but they endear themselves to their buyers. is building business by offering a 15% discount for all callers on hold if they use the discount code mentioned in the message when they order.

Clinton Bank is building loyalty and overall feel goods by promoting the community’s annual fall festival dates and activities.

 Affordable Contracting is building business by using the fall season to push a kitchen or bath remodel in time for the holidays.

Ames Raquet And Fitness is proving its relevance with its own “The Biggest Loser” popularity with its “Fat to Fit” contest for 6 lucky members this fall.

Moodz Spa is demonstrating its expertise by announcing the results of the readers choice awards they’ve recently won.

Here is an exercise I would encourage you to do this week: Put yourself on hold and listen to what you’re communicating: Are you happy with it? Or is it the same old, same old? Could you be building more business, more visits at your Facebook page, more foot traffic into your store? Could you be building more trust or good will just by giving away good information that doesn’t necessarily deliver you any profit?

You may be surprised that you’re missing marketing opportunities that you didn’t realize were there. We can help.


What Do You Do When Customers Ask For “Garage Sale” Prices?


Article by Julie Cook

Last weekend I volunteered at a massive garage sale for my son’s high school marching band. The gymnasium was filled with table after table of the junk that would become someone else’s treasure. One parent was so anxious to clean house that she showed up with a U-Haul full of cast-offs (the organization made $1,000 from her donations alone).

A curious thing about the garage sale economy: It’s truly an underground one, often with high-ticket, high-value items walking out the door for pennies. We all know that’s the way it is, and if you try to buck the system or won’t haggle, you run the risk of sitting in a fold-up chair in your driveway at 5 pm on a Saturday afternoon staring at the same junk you’d set out so carefully that morning. At the high school sale, I saw a gold-plated silverware set that sold online at $300 going for $35, and really expensive sports gear (I know sports gear; I have 3 boys) walking out for $20. Garage sales = cast offs = pennies on the dollar.

I think business owners and sales professionals can bring a garage-sale mentality to their products and services. In a panic to make a sale (or make payroll), they move too fast to offer discounts on the spot. You’re asked to discount or match a price, as if you’re selling soybeans or some other commodity. Afterward, you’re left feeling “had.” Do you know the feeling?

Jeffrey Gitomer, author of the best-selling Little Red Book of Selling: 12.5 Principles of Sales Greatness, writes in his blog that objections to price are actually a buying signal obscured by some kind of perceived risk. Gitomer says we need to re-engage the buyer and find out why they wanted to buy in the first place. For me, that means re-visiting the original problem that sparked the motivation to consider buying in the first place.  “If I uncover the buyer’s motive,” says Gitomer, “I will make a sale regardless of price. If I engage the prospective customer in a value-based and value-driven discussion, I might be able to get them to see my perspective.”

What value do you bring to the table? What problem do you solve right here, right now for your prospects? Focus on that, and you can let the hagglers be your competitor’s problem. Remember to include phrases in your on hold script that reinforce how and why your product and services solve your target market’s problems. We can help you with this; just ask.

Here’s to your growing business!


Loyalty, Like Trust, Must Be Earned


Special Article by Julie Cook on creating a better customer experience.

Our building is situated on an acre of woods, and it’s the norm to feel like we’re in the middle of a Disney movie as we watch the deer, rabbits, squirrels and birds congregate on our property.

Here he is, our loyal friend.

One day last summer a cute collarless Jack Russell terrier emerged from the woods, scampering through our yard, clearly out of place and clearly an escapee from

a nearby neighborhood. We scooped him up, named him Scrappy Doo for the day (although he was much cuter and far less annoying than Scooby’s annoying cousin), put a notice on Craigslist, and by the next day, the pup and happy owner were reunited.

Well, today he’s back. Scrappy Doo (we never got his real name) freed himself once again and ended up at our doorstep, obviously remembering all the love, the playing, the cuddling, the lap-sitting we gave him those short few hours.

Okay, so it was the food.

But my point is, he chose us when he could’ve sniffed at the door of any other business or home in the area. When he had the freedom to choose, he knew we would have the goods he wanted. It was burned in his memory, if not his belly.


And so it goes with customers.

They can go to any of your competitors, but they will keep choosing you if you make every experience unforgettable. Make it forgettable and they’ll go somewhere else. Loyalty can be built overnight and lost just as fast.

What can you do right now to build loyalty? Take a look at my list below. How many do you have in place? How many can you start working on tomorrow?


1. Make me feel important.
Every employee must be genuinely interested in making me feel like royalty when I walk in the door. It starts with a smile and eye contact.

2. Make your facility smell nice.*
It’s called scent technology and you won’t believe what’s possible with scents specially formulated for a business or retail environment.

3. Make it look nice.
If your decorating scheme is more than 10 years old, it’s probably time for something fresh, even if it’s just new carpet.

4. Make it sound nice.*
No local radio station blaring overhead (awful! And illegal!). Use custom overhead music that fits your brand.

5. Make the wait great.*
Don’t leave me sitting on hold in silence or suffering through radio commercials (again, awful! and illegal!). I think either of these two alone leaves a caller feeling more forgotten than anything.

6. Be an expert.
Know your product and your industry better than anyone you know. If you’re smart, you make me feel smart for choosing you.

7. Understand my problem before you try to help me.
Ask lots of questions before you launch in with advice. Getting it half-right makes it all wrong. Train your employees to ask questions first, talk later.

*Easy On Hold specializes in these services. Ask us for advice and solutions.

Be unforgettable to your customers and they’ll keep coming back…just like our little canine friend.

Julie Cook