Easy On Hold | Blog - crazy phone on hold actor on a stage

Hillarious play puts callers on hold.

Aral Gribble in “Fully Committed”, Farmers Alley Theatre, Kalamazoo, Michigan
Aral Gribble in “Fully Committed”, Farmers Alley Theatre, Kalamazoo, Michigan

I’ve never been so exhausted from watching a play. The culprit was Fully Committed, a one-man comedy by Becky Mode, staged by Farmers Alley Theatre in Kalamazoo, Michigan, directed by Robert Weiner and starring Aral Gribble.

Poor Sam Peliczowski

Gribble played Sam, a wannabe actor working a day job answering the phones for the reservation desk at one of New York’s most popular A-list restaurants. The calls came fast and furious, and the 40-some callers were portrayed by Gribble himself. We heard male and female characters of varying ages, including Vladimir Putin and Naomi Campbell’s assistant, in dialects from Brooklyn to British. Gribble worked himself into a sweat During the 80-minute one-act show. Sam ran back and forth from the main phone to an intercom to the chef’s private phone (stopping only long enough to go clean up an accident in the ladies’ room). It’s easy to believe how a business can end up placing dozens of callers on hold.

It was painful to watch. Not because of the physicality of watching him sprint around the small stage, or from the whiplash speed at which he delivered line after line—often interrupting himself. And not only from characters who were all chiming in nearly at once from this one man’s mouth. It was painful to watch because I was sure that that fictitious restaurant was putting those 40-some celebrity callers on hold in silence.

Why would a business use default music or no sound at all?

To be honest, I think about customer service wherever I am. I consider my own on-hold experiences, and also wonder why some businesses say it’s not important. They use excuses like, “we’re getting a phone system in a few months so we’re just going to wait”. That’s code for, “The on hold experience has been bad so long, might as well just let it stay that way.” Even when we explain our system installs easily from their current phone system to the new one.

The other restaurant story

But back to the play. For over an hour, I cringed as I realized how long totally fictitious characters were left on hold by Sam. I dug my nails into my palms as I counted the hang-ups Sam experienced when he didn’t get back to some of his calls fast enough. And I couldn’t help but remember how Easy On Hold itself was started from our founder Tim Brown’s experience calling a restaurant. Have you heard our “restaurant story?” The one about the eatery that made the mistake of playing a local radio station through the on hold button? They unknowingly re-broadcast an ad for a competing restaurant. Tim ate there instead.

Not enough people answering phones

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve all called a business just to her, “we are experiencing high call volume.” A Los Angeles Times article says the real problem is too few people answering phones.

Consumers consistently say that if they have a matter to resolve, they don’t want to deal with a robot. They want a living, breathing person.

Part of the angst of being in the audience of Fully Committed is that you wished you could’ve jumped up on stage to at least help Sam answer the phones if nothing else. You couldn’t help but sympathize with what the callers must have been thinking and feeling. Fortunately in real life, there is a solution. You don’t need to torture your callers on hold with silence or awful default music.  If you have a reservation line, a call center, a tech helpline you will be putting callers on hold. Just don’t do it like the restaurant in Fully Committed. Do the right thing. Take care of your callers by contacting Easy On Hold for a plan, a strategy, anything… but no silence, please!

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