Do People Care What They Hear While On Hold?


So, what do you think… do people who call your company care about–or even notice–the music on hold?

While folks are waiting, they’re listening. Sometimes really bad music on hold becomes a source of ridicule for a company. For example, the music on hold at the web hosting firm One and One’s tech help line is so weird, a caller posted it on YouTube.

A comment to the posting says they were once on hold and heard John Mayer’s song “Say What You Need To Say”. Funny.

Blogger Ian Trigillis presents this account:

Because I’m in the process of moving, I’ve been spending a fair amount of time on the telephone, listening to the isn’t-it-a-wonderful-thing-to-be-on-hold music at various furniture stores, credit card companies, and public utilities. Today I had to listen to Jingle Bell Rock for seven agonizing minutes.

Yes, people are listening to what you’ve got on hold. In fact, studies show that what people hear while on hold makes a difference when it comes to perceptions about your business.

A 2006 Washington Post story (music on hold study) reveals details of a study conducted by two Georgia State University professors. It turns out that good music makes hold times seem shorter.  Long wait times typically lead callers to a more negative attitude toward the company they’ve called.  The most convincing piece of evidence in the study shows that there’s a big difference between hearing silence on hold versus music on hold:

Some of the respondents said they liked to hear the music because they knew they were still connected to the company; no music made them wonder if they were still on hold.

The professors also concluded that companies should not let their music choice get stale.

And firms should try to change the songs because customers get tired of listening to same, old music every time they call in.

The phrase “hold music” conjures up images of the “100 Strings Orchestra” playing some droning version of a pop song, however, and many companies are afraid to dip their toe into that cesspool. There’s even an ode written by humorist Phil Nelson (to the tune “Hold On My Heart” by Phil Collins)…

On hold music
Now I’m doing many other things
Finally, when they come back
Break my concentration

On hold music
Used by companies
And some smart people who
Have too many calling

Yeah, on hold music
Difficult to be patient
‘Cause they’re just wasting my time

The bottom line is that callers do notice and care about what they hear while waiting. Work with professionals who know the difference between Muzak and effective music and messages on hold. Callers will believe that their hold times are shorter than they actually are, while developing a more positive impression of your company.

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Founder of Easy On Hold and Brandi Music. Thinker, writer, speaker, tinkerer, husband, father, musician.