Archive for the ‘Hold Message’ Category

Do You Really Need an On-Hold Message?

One question I get asked in the On-Hold message consultations my company offers is whether or not a company can benefit from a custom On-Hold message.

So how will you, the busy business owner, know when an investment to reach your callers while On-Hold will return good results?

How many calls do you receive?

Over the course of a day, a week, or even a month…how many calls does your business receive? Have you ever thought about counting them? Have you ever tried?

You could get your receptionist or employees just to make a quick tally whenever they answer the calls. It might not be the most technologically advanced method, but it will give you a better understanding of how many calls you do receive!

How long are callers On-Hold?

I talk with some companies who tell me, “We don’t put people On-Hold,” but willing it not to happen doesn’t mean it never does.

Being On-Hold is a fact of life for most businesses. But On-Hold time really falls into two categories:

1. Long hold times…like call centers, tech support, and customer service. These are hold times counted in tens of minutes. (I know…I was On-Hold with American Express for forty-two minutes!)

2. Short hold times…these are hold times that we often don’t think about. Being transferred to another person, sent to voicemail, or waiting while someone looks up our order. These hold times are usually measured in seconds. You may be On-Hold for ten seconds while going to voicemail, thirty seconds while being transferred to the person with whom you would like to speak, or for a minute or two while someone looks up your order or checks the stock of an item.

These two very different categories require different approaches. But for category #2, which most small businesses fall into, optimizing that On-Hold time can bring great value to the caller.

So how do you measure it?

Spend two days asking your staff to track how many calls go On-Hold or are transferred. Again, a simple tally will work. Monitoring a few of those calls will give you a great idea of how long the average hold time is at your company.

With that information, you can begin to measure the value that a custom On-Hold message can bring to your company.

And if your business really is one of those that doesn’t put people On-Hold, you’ll find that out as well.

Quantifying the Caller Experience will give you a clearer picture of the areas where your Caller Experience can improve to maximize customer service.

Remember, you can’t improve what you don’t measure!

Hold the Cheese!

Most On-Hold messages are cheesy. Cheesy because they talk about things that callers don’t care about, in a way that doesn’t make callers want to listen. For example, reminding you that “Your call is important to us” and to “Please continue to hold” simply frustrates your caller even more! Cheesy because someone simply didn’t take the time to ask, “Will our callers think this sound cheesy?”

Most On-Hold experiences are not fun and engaging. Most callers would ask not to be put On-Hold…and some will demand not to be!

But with a little effort and thought, you can create an On-Hold experience that has callers asking to be put back On-Hold!

Do You Really Need to Change Your Message?


One of the keys to having a great caller experience is to keep the On-Hold message current and up-to-date. So how do you do that? How do you know when to change it, how often to change it, and what to change? That depends on a number of factors. What is the profile of your caller? In other words, does he call in regularly, once a week, month, or year? Or does he interact with you heavily for a week, then not at all for a couple of months? How long is he On-Hold? What are the top three or four things callers ask about when they call in? Is there information that would really be helpful for them to hear?

These are some of the questions that you need to consider as you walk through the process of creating a complete On-Hold program.


It’s not just as simple as slapping a message on your phones, and checking that off the To-Do list. If you really want a powerful Caller Experience, it takes understanding your business, understanding your caller, and understanding how people think.



Don’t Put Me On-Hold!

How often have you heard, “Don’t put me On-Hold!” I’ll bet you’ve thought that a few times yourself!

Being On-Hold is often a frustrating  experience. But let’s break it down to examine why it’s frustrating.
Taking your time

Number one, it’s taking up your time. Time that could be spent doing other things. And companies that have long hold times (we’re talking more than five minutes or so), really need to reevaluate their staffing or procedures for handling calls.



Ah…the dreaded silence. Have I been disconnected? Am I being transferred? Did I just get put into the phone system’s Black Hole? (Most phone systems have one of those—you knew that, right? Somewhere that callers go, never to be heard from again!) As a business, putting your callers On-Hold to silence is one of the worst things you can do to hurt your Caller Experience. It’s like asking people to stand in line with a blindfold on. They’re just not going to stick around! But give them something relevant and interesting to listen to while they’re On-Hold, and the wait time will seem very much diminished!


It’s all about me

If you do have an On-Hold message…congratulations on “getting it.” Now, what does it say? You see, callers want to hear about themselves. They want to hear how your service or products are going to make their lives better…how they are going to help them and change their lives for the better. They don’t want to hear a message that is all about you—all about how long you’ve been in business or how great you or your products are. This kind of message comes across the phone lines as “blah, blah, blah.” But tell a story, make the caller the star, and you’ll experience a much happier customer when you pick up the phone!

Freakonomics Customer Service phone sketch

Stephen Dubner from Feakonomics talks to Kai Ryssdal on the Marketplace Radio show about Customer Service.
Telephone hilarity ensues.

(Are your callers mocking your Caller Experience?)

Freakonomics Radio

The ringing phone or the waiting customer?

How do you decide whom to help?

How many times has this happened to you? Your front door opens, and in walks a new customer. At the same moment, the phone begins to ring. In a lot of small businesses, answering the phone and helping the walk-in customer both fall to the same person. Do you let the phone ring? Or do you hold up your hand to the customer, in the unspoken language of “wait,” and answer the phone? Which customer is more important?


Making both feel important

That’s right…both, and it’s your job to make both feel important. So how do you do that? First of all, have a backup plan for you phones. It doesn’t matter if it’s a customer walking in the door, or one more line ringing that you can’t answer, you need to have a backup plan for your phones. Tip: A busy signal isn’t a backup plan! If you’ve chosen to live answer every call…if that’s your effort, and you’ve determined that is the best approach, it still will be a good idea to have a well-designed Auto-Attendant as a backup plan. At some point you will need it.

The easiest thing is to let the phone ring to your backup plan while you help the walk-in customer. The live person can see your actions; the caller can’t. The caller doesn’t know whether or not you are deferring her. The walk-in customer does. So help the walk-in customer. Let the call go to your backup plan.

That doesn’t just mean letting the call go to your normal voicemail that says, “Sorry. We’re closed.” If your Auto-Attendant is a backup for a primary live answer, you can design it to help the customer. Here are some tips to include in the greeting:

  • Let the caller know your staff is busy.
  • Give the caller options to reach people or departments for which he may be calling. You may not need to handle his call at all!
  • Provide a voicemail option if the caller really would rather leave a message. But give him some kind of promised follow-up time for his message. (“We promise to call you back within the next two hours.”)
  • Ask the caller to hold (and if your system supports it, give him the option to wait in queue). If your phone system doesn’t support a caller waiting in queue, you could answer the phone and ask him to hold. But make sure you wait for the answer! The caller may just need to transfer to another person, so you can quickly handle that for him without neglecting the walk-in customer. It really is a juggling act!


Be confident of your backup plan

Test your backup plan. Make sure that if you’re on the phone, calls will be handled properly. Nothing is worse than “thinking” it works, when it really doesn’t. Or it sounds poor. Or it doesn’t provide the options you thought it did. Test your backup plan. It’s not a “plan” unless it’s been tested!

Your Brain is a Mountain Lion Eating Bags of Money

Or: “The 5 Weirdest Ways Music can mess with your Mind”

But the title got you here, didn’t it? And music works kinda the same way. Distracting you from what you are doing…causing your brain to focus on something else.

It’s especially useful when you’re not doing anything important…like waiting On-Hold or waiting in line. And it’s at that exact moment that retailers, banks, and doctors offices want to distract you from realizing that you’re waiting. has a recent article in which they explore the 5 weirdest ways music messes with your mind. (…the newest scientific journal, right?)

But seriously, check this out:

#5 It Changes Your Ability to Perceive Time

Hold music — the stuff you hear on the line when you call everyone from the bank to your local bail bond agency — didn’t fall into America’s phone lines by accident. It’s designed specifically to reduce the amount of time you think you’re waiting, so that you’re less likely to hang up in anger. Other places that involve waiting, such as doctors’ offices, use a similar trick. Time shrinkage is also the aim of most retail stores, which is why you’ll rarely enter a mall, supermarket or clothing store without hearing some sort of music in the background.

To understand why exactly music makes it seem like less time has passed, think of the human brain as a mountain lion that is eating a bag of money. It doesn’t matter what the zookeepers distract it with — food, shiny objects or just shouting and yelling. All that matters is that they give another zookeeper the chance to sneak up and retrieve the money while the lion is busy deciding which one of them to eat.

Similarly, when your brain is steadily distracted, you’ll be less likely to notice things around you in detail, and this includes the passage of time. Our brains have limited input capacity, and when something else is using up that capacity, we’re less likely to think things like, “I’ve been standing in line to get Richard Moll’s autograph for three goddamn hours” or “Do I really need this Garfield alarm clock?”

But be careful what you choose for your On-Hold music…

…it can quickly backfire!

In some situations, listening to music can actually expand perceived time. For example, listening to music while performing tasks that require concentration will usually cause us to overestimate the amount of time that has passed. The theory is that as your mind switches back and forth between perception of the music and concentration on the challenging tasks, it forms separate “events,” or distinct memories. When your brain thinks about what you’ve been doing for the past hour, you’ll remember more of these events and recall that the hour was quite long.

Experiments have found that time also expands when we’re listening to familiar music that we dislike.

When we hear the opening chords of a song, our brain remembers the whole thing and immediately skips ahead and plays it mentally. This fake mind-music is extremely vivid, working on exactly the same parts of the brain as actual music does. So the effect is that you take a few moments to vividly imagine that you’re sitting through five minutes of that damn New Radicals song before you come back to reality only to realize that you still actually have to sit through it.

Very cool stuff…that music. But if you want to know the rest, like how it taps into our primal fears, makes us stronger, changes your drinking habits, and makes you a better communicator, your going to have to read more at

We, after all, aren’t interested in making your customers stronger…unless of course you are a gym. Then we need to talk. We’ve got this great soundtrack to play On-Hold…

Welcome a new On-Hold messaging client!

We are very excited to be transforming the caller experience for Truslow Yost Insurance in Orange, Virginia with a new Custom On-Hold message, and Auto Attendant design! Truslow Yost Insurance is an independent business and personal insurance agency in Central Virginia.

Greg Truslowhas expertise in the resolution of problems. His goal is to use his experience to define your insurance needs, develop innovative solutions to provide you with the superior protection you require and to do so at the lowest possible cost. Greg values the relationships he has with his clients and works hard to maintain a reputation of fairness, trust and honesty within the community.

Truslow Yost Insurance recognized a need to be able to talk to customers about the many types of insurance they offer. They write insurance for all types of business risk, from general liability to worker’s compensation, key employee insurance and most every risk a business might face, including crop, farm and health insurance. They’re not your typical small-town agency…and they wouldn’t have it any other way.

This On-Hold message works to introduce new areas of the business to callers, to educate potential customers about the agency, and to strengthen the relationship with existing clients.

Prosound has used the customer’s time On-Hold to extend the warm, caring experience of Truslow Yost Insurance to each caller.

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Welcome a new On-Hold messaging client!

We are very excited to be transforming the caller experience for Virginia Veterinary Specialists in Charlottesville, Virginia with a new Custom On-Hold message! Virginia Veterinary Specialists is the first referral veterinary specialist in Central Virginia.

Virginia Veterinary Specialists provides a very specialized  level of care for pets, while still maintaining a patient’s relationship with their primary care veterinarian. Virgina Veterinary Specialists provides complex veterinary orthopedic, neurologic and soft tissue procedures, as well as ultrasound, chemotherapy, endoscopy, and more.

Dr. Jason Wheeler and Dr. Carrie Miller are delighted to be able to bring their passion for specialty care to the Charlottesville area. Dr. Jason Wheeler has appeared on several episodes of the popular Animal Planet’s TV show, Emergency Vets, and became Board Certified in 2005. Dr. Carrie Miller completed her internship and residency at Wheat Ridge Veterinary Specialists in Wheat Ridge CO, and was board certified in 2003.

The new On-Hold messages works to introduce the practice, as well as Dr Miller and Dr Wheeler, to the area, and seeks to strengthen the referral relationship with primary veterinary care providers. Prior to working with Prosound, callers to Virginia Veterinary Specialist heard “beep-beep” whenever they were placed On-Hold.

Prosound has used the customer’s time On-Hold to extend the warm, caring experience of Virginia Veterinary Specialists to each caller.

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Ready to transform your company’s Caller Experience?

Why Jack the mascot dog has his own On-Hold message

I was recently placed On-Hold at a financial institution, and heard this On-Hold message:

On-Hold Message

Now, I was struck by a couple of things, and since Prosound did not produce this On-Hold message, I’m going to break it down for you here.

First of all, it’s not just a “thank you for holding” message. There’s more information in there that does let me know I’ve called a financial institution.

It has holiday closings listed, which is fantastic! (It’s always good to communicate closings and hours changes with your customers as much as possible!)

There are tips for online shopping security, as well as shopping in the “real” world.

And there’s even a reminder to change your clock back to Standard Time on Sunday, November 7th.

So, what’s missing?

Nowhere…not once…ever…is the name of the financial institution listed. Go back and listen again, if you didn’t catch it. It’s alright, I’ll wait.

“So what’s the big deal?” you might ask?

Here’s the thing:

That strategy is quite brilliant, actually. For the On-Hold message production company. They have created a set of messages that is recorded once, and sold over and over again to financial institutions nationwide.

The strategy is not so brilliant for the bank that’s using it, and here’s why.

It doesn’t reinforce the name of the bank to each and every customer.

It doesn’t help strengthen their other marketing and branding efforts outside the bank, like it could if it was part of those efforts.

It lacks a distinct relevance that only a unique On-Hold message can provide. Relevance is created by connecting with the perspective of a listener. The more specific you can be in your messaging, the more believable your message will be.

Every business has a story to tell

Telling the story that is uniquely yours will create stronger relationships with your clients and prospects, making it a much harder choice for them to leave you, or to choose your competition.

I admit, the uncovery process to that unique story is more difficult then simply selecting a few pseudo-customized-for-your-industry messages. But your customers and callers will thank you.

Keep these things in mind as you approve your ad copy…whatever medium it’s in:

(thank you Roy Williams)

Meet Jack

First National Bank of the South – On-Hold sample

That’s an example of on On-Hold message that is unique, customized for the specific company, and unusable at any other bank.

It connects deeply with listeners, because it’s a continuation of the branding that this bank is doing on their website.

And it’s relevant to the caller because it invites them into the story (“meet Jack”).

Is it time to customize YOUR On-Hold message?

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