If your company’s on hold message includes the phrase, “Your call is important,” now is the time to make some changes. How do most callers respond? “If my call is so important, then why did you place me on hold?” Actions speak louder than words. The 2015 National Customer Rage Survey listed the phrase, “Your call is important, please hold,” as the number one thing people don’t want to hear when they call customer service.
We’ll look into the 2023 edition of the Rage Survey a little later. But for now, let’s face the facts: most callers will experience hold time. A survey by American Texting firm “Talk To” concluded that 86% of consumers say they’re placed on hold every time they call a business. More staggering is the survey’s conclusion that each of us spends 13 hours on hold every single year. That’s not counting the time we spend listening to the many call options (press one, press two) or struggling with voice recognition bots.
Please hold your tongue
According to the 2023 National Customer Rage Survey, consumers use social media to view tweets, posts, reviews, and ratings an average of 69 times per year. That number has doubled in the last three years. The amount of online content about customer experiences with businesses is also on a big upswing. 43% of customers admit to yelling or speaking in a raised voice to tell customer service what they really thought! An additional 12% say they used profanity.
While half (or more) of all complaints use your company voice channel, those of us working in the contact center space have more work to do based on the latest data and trends.
Given the many irritants that companies and organizations have engineered into using the telephone to complain, it’s hardly surprising that customers who complain digitally are more satisfied than those who reach out by telephone.Key Insights From The National Customer Rage SurveyConducted By Customer Care Measurement & Consulting (CCMC).
In Collaboration With The Center for Services Leadership (CSL) in the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University. January 2023
Please hold someone accountable
On a recent call with the IT leaders of a large healthcare provider, we asked what role “Marketing” or “Branding” teams played in managing the caller experience. The answer: “Marketing has nothing to do with it.” I want to say that answer was rare, but, unfortunately, it is too common. The parts of the organization charged with building a brand image, devising and updating messaging, and customer communications have often not taken responsibility for the call flow.
For those in the customer experience, try this exercise. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes and call your own support number.
- Did the automated answering voice sound real and professional?
- During the wait time for a support agent, how did you feel?
- Did you get a sense of the brand image?
- Were there multiple voices or other indicators that your call may have been switched to a third party?
- Did you experience repetition of announcements or music?
- Was the music interrupted by an annoying announcement such as, “Your call is important,” (not) “Our agents are helping other callers” (duh), or “Please continue to hold”?
So, who at your business should be held accountable for what happens when a caller in the voice queue (or agent hold) has to wait? Even for a minute, and sometimes an hour or more, the on hold experience makes a big difference.
Please hold a meeting to discuss what your customers want to hear while “on hold”
Once again, imagine you are your customer. What do you want? We found some ideas from leading researchers and industry experts.
- “Authentic interactions imbued with gratitude, compassion, and kindness.” (Key Insights From The National Customer Rage Survey)
- “Consumers increasingly want their relationships and interactions with brands to be memorable and experiential. This means that brands that want to stay relevant must create customer journeys that are thoughtful, memorable experiences.” (Business advisor Bernard Marr, Forbes Top 4 Customer Experience Trends in 2023.)
- “We want real conversations with real people… only the phone will do.” (Moneypenny 2022 Customer Communications Global Trend Report)
- Customers need information from the moment they start interacting with your brand to days and months after making a purchase. (HubSpot, 16 Types of Customer Needs (and How To Solve for Them))
In an era where every interaction counts, it’s time for business managers to tune into the hold experience and ensure that what callers hear reflects the excellence and dedication that define your business. For more Customer Experience tips, read our detailed CX report.
Please hold out for better music
“Why is hold music so frustrating?” and “Why is hold music so annoying?” asks Mental Floss in a 2024 article. Is it the music that triggers negative emotions? The article quotes Dr. Leigh VanHandel, a music theory professor, who says the music we hear while on hold is a “marker of time passing without progress toward whatever their goal is.” To a point, this is true. The caller did not call for the purpose of listening to your hold music. However, the caller’s goal may include the desire to interact with your brand, company, or solution. Unfortunately, the music you play to these valuable consumers of your products and services is poor in musicality and audio quality and repeats far too often during every call.
In many cases, the music starts to play at the beginning of the audio file every time a caller is placed on hold. Every call, every time. Sometimes, twice in one call. Pounding the first minute of that hold music file into the caller’s psyche over and over again will have a negative effect. Is that not obvious? The Mental Floss author, Alexia Kontolemos, calls hold music a “necessary evil.” But it isn’t. It’s an opportunity.
Consider T-Mobile and the thousands of call agents handling millions of customers. Consider all that waiting time, too. But wait, what’s this? Hold music is getting complimented on social media? Alongside the rants about the phone bills and customer support is a dancing emoji and a shout-out for the music on social media. It’s worth asking, “What’s the best hold music you ever heard?“
Please hold your callers’ attention
You can go far beyond music on hold by using a little creativity. Imagine callers hearing a brief story about your company’s journey, values, or even an exciting product highlight. Now, that’s not the same old music; it’s storytelling in action. Studies show that 70% of consumers feel more connected to a brand after hearing their story. So why not use spoken messages along with hold music as a powerful tool to weave a narrative that keeps your callers engaged and informed?
If you have forgotten to update what callers hear while waiting on hold, you’re sending your customers (shoppers, patients, members) a message: “There’s nothing new or exciting going on here.” One of the challenges business owners and managers face is the hassle of updating hold messages. Enter Easy On Hold’s streaming hold music service, a game-changer in simplifying this process. The user-friendly platform lets you effortlessly manage your on-hold content, ensuring that your messages are always current and relevant. No more outdated promotions or irrelevant information – just a seamless and efficient way to keep your callers in the loop.
Let’s do this
It might take some coordination between marketing and IT, and a little brainstorming. It might mean convincing someone that it’s not good and not right to play a scratchy little music file over and over. But that’s what it takes to get to the next level. Every interaction is a valuable customer moment. Make every moment count.