Archive for the ‘Hold Message’ Category

Put the Most Popular Option First

Sometimes you just have to laugh at the Auto-Attendant and On-Hold messages at some companies. I mean, who are they kidding? Is your call really “very important to us”?


The Caller

By Frank Halliwell

“Good morning! Thanks for calling us!

We’re pleased to hear from you!

Your call’s important to us

So we’ve placed you in a queue.

Please find your account number and

Be sure it is correct.

It’s twenty digits long and if you

Mis-type, I’ll reject.

I’ll lead you through the whole routine

Please use your touch type phone.

Press eight and follow with the hash

After you hear the tone.

If you are a new client here.

Press two, if old, press three.

Press four in case we’ve done something

With which you disagree!

You have pressed four, please wait a moment

While I transfer you.

And please enjoy, while we play you

A symphony or two!

Our staff are all too busy now

To talk to such as you.

Your call is so important that

We’ve placed you in a queue.”

Time passes and the music lingers

On, and bye and bye.

My cheek and ear go fast asleep,

My wrist gets R.S.I.

But wait! It may be there is hope!

I hear a ringing sound,

At last a human voice is heard

After the runaround!

“Good morning, this is Ladies wear

And may we help somehow?

Complaints?. Oh! Just hang on a tick

I’ll transfer you right now!…”

“Good morning! Thanks for calling us!

We’re pleased to hear from you!

Your call’s important to us

So we’ve placed you in a queue.

Recently I was researching the features of a customer’s phone system at the manufacturer’s website, and the manufacturer had this to say about its On-Hold message:


The InterStellar Phone System gives you the opportunity to have music playing while a caller is on hold. Best of all you can insert interruptions during each recording in order to play a message.


You’ve experienced this kind of On-Hold situation whether or not you remember it. You’re On-Hold, listening to the music or messaging, when all the sudden “click.” The music is interrupted, and hope springs up within you that your call is going to be answered. Only to have your hopes dashed by the message, “Your call is important to us; please continue to hold.”

Can you say, “Disappointment”?

I was On-Hold with a company last week that interrupted its On-Hold music with this reminder that I was On-Hold every ten seconds! Never do this to your callers.

Just because you use an Auto-Attendant doesn’t mean it has to be a poor caller experience.

Want to know what your caller’s experience is like? Try a Caller Experience Evaluation service. It’s like climbing inside your customer’s head and hearing your business from his perspective. Very informative!

A recent client who used this service, gave this feedback: “Thanks for getting the report to me as fast as you did. I will be correcting a lot of the concerns you pointed out. Thanks again!”

Don’t give your callers the run-around.

Don’t Play the Radio On-Hold!

Retro RadioHave you ever been “invited” to be put On-Hold, and found yourself listening to the static of an unknown radio station? It happened to me recently. I called a prominent, nationwide company‘s local office, and when I was put On-Hold…I heard a radio station that was just slightly off the channel, resulting in a lot of static. Listening to a static radio station isn’t a great way to give me a good feeling about the company.

“Of course,” you say, “in your business, you’re a lot more tuned into thinking about the On-Hold experience.” True. But have you paid attention to what your callers are saying about your On-Hold experience?

Want a real-time view of what callers hate (and like!) to hear while they’re On-Hold? Go to, and search for On-Hold. Then call your company. Ask to be put On-Hold, and walk a few minutes in the shoes (or “ears”) of your customer. The experience might change you….If it encourages you to start talking to your caller, in his language, and transforming your caller experience, then great!

Anything less, and you’re really just tuning static.

Are You Listening To Your Customers?

ListenI’m spending too much time On-Hold” or “Every time I call, I get put On-Hold, and I don’t like it!

You usually won’t get this kind of straightforward feedback from customers.

So when customers do take the time to speak up and tell you what you’re doing wrong, it would be best to listen.

But it takes really listening, not just to what they are saying, but what they are meaning. If someone is calling your company to see whether his order came in, there is a certain expectation that he will have to wait for you to find out if it has arrived.

Yet these same people would say, “I’m spending too much time On-Hold” or “Whatever you do, don’t put me On-Hold.” So in essence, they are expecting to wait, but they are asking you not to make them wait. Hmmmm….

Have you ever been somewhere, expecting to have a mediocre experience, but you came away surprised at how much you enjoyed it! (I sure have!)

Most people’s experience and expectation with being On-Hold is one of frustration, anxiety, and disgust. They’ve experienced the silence (“Am I still connected?” “Did they hang up on me?”), the radio station (“Exactly the kind of music I don’t listen to.” “Don’t they know this radio station is not tuned in?”), and “Rhapsody in Blue” on repeat.

So what could your customers be saying? They may be telling you that the experience of being On-Hold at your business makes them want to hurl their phone through the window (or some other nearby glass object). They may be telling you that the phone is one area of your business that is not drawing them in to do more business with you.

Have someone unrelated to your company call into your business and get put On-Hold. Have him evaluate the experience. Is it silence? Do you have a message playing but the volume is so loud that you can’t understand what’s being said? Is it so soft that the sound is dropping out? (Hint: the volume of your On-Hold message should be the same level as your receptionist answering the phone).

Is the radio in tune? One of the hazards of using a radio for your On-Hold is the ease of having the antenna bumped or station changed. (Not to mention that playing the radio On-Hold is illegal in most cases)

So what kind of experience are you providing for your callers? Is it an environment that is pleasing to your callers?

And if your customers are talking to you about it, are you listening to what they are telling you?

And here’s an interesting anonymous tool for reporting bad (and good) On-Hold experiences: Next time you’re On-Hold and hating it, check it out.

So what are your callers listening to…and what if you delighted your callers?


Keep Your On-Hold Current and Fresh

In a study released in January 2010, Consumer Reports revealed that waiting to talk to a live human when calling a company ranked as the second most annoying thing you and I deal with daily. (The first? Hidden fees.)

There’s no doubt why. We’re all busy. We want to accomplish our goals while taking the least amount of time possible. And waiting while listening to silence is more annoying than being stuck in a traffic jam! (Only #14 on the list.)

In fact, respondents said they would rather scoop dog poop than wait On-Hold! (Don’t believe me? Check out the results at Consumer Reports)

As a business, what can you do about this situation? There’s always the first thing that comes to mind…Hire more people!

That’s what most people suggest. And mostly that suggestion probably comes from someone who has never owned his own business. There can never be a 1-1 ratio of employees to customers. It simply is not feasible.

But most helpful folk don’t stop to consider that. They just want you to handle their issue right now.

Take your On-Hold time seriously. As seriously as a customer walking in your front door. What are the things you do to make your customer’s first impression a great one? Do you hire an interior decorator? Do you keep the customer-visible areas neat and clean? Do you have information for customers to take with them when they walk out the door?

You can do the same thing for customers who call your business.

Make a great first impression by having more than silence On-Hold. An On-Hold message will grab your caller’s ear when he first hears it.

You’ve got my ear…now what?

Now you’ve got a few short seconds to convince the caller to keep listening. Is it going to be interesting? Or is it going to be about how long you’ve been in business?

Are you going to tell the caller a story…and make him the star? Or are you going to keep all the stardom to yourself and try to make your business the most important thing in the message. (Hint: customers like to imagine themselves using your product or service to make their lives better. They don’t really care that you’ve been in business since 1942.)

If you want an On-Hold message that will turn angry customers into laughing ones, tell callers about products or services they didn’t know you offered, or flat-out sell more products, you better be paying attention to the phone. After you resolve that situation, then let’s work on a solution for tailgaters…that’s the next most annoying thing on Consumer Report’s list!

Don’t Remind Them They Are On-Hold!

Adam Alter has written an interesting article about the quirks in time perception that we all share. Why does the first hour of a long flight seem sooo long, while the last several hours all cram together in your mind?

I’ll bet you’ve had a similar experience in micro…the last time you called a company and were put On-Hold. With so many things that need to be done in our busy lives, no one wants to wait, and who can blame us?

Have you been in Best Buy and had to wait in line to check out? What do you do while you wait? You probably skim the end caps, but I’ll bet you spend most of the wait watching the Best Buy TV program on one of the many screens the store has positioned in site. Why do they put those there?

Because when your mind is engaged, it doesn’t think about the amount of time you’ve been waiting. It feels like only a few seconds, when really the store has been able to play four one-minute promos for you!

Now back to the On-Hold. If your business is putting people On-Hold and just having them listen to silence, you’re actually extending the perceived wait time. How would you like it if Best Buy required you to put on a blindfold while you stood in line? Every second would feel like an hour until you could take that blindfold off!

But if you choose to engage your callers during those inevitable times they have to wait On-Hold, then the amount of time they perceive they are waiting will be quite a bit less. Custom On-Hold messaging that is engaging and relevant is just like hanging those screens near the checkout line of Best Buy.

In his article on time perception, Adam Alter explains:


There’s still plenty we don’t understand about how humans perceive time, but one fact is clear: we don’t perceive time the way clocks portray time, one second at a time, with each second passing just as quickly as its earlier and later counterparts.


Sure, nobody likes to wait, but what kind of experience is your company providing for those customers who call in? Is your Caller Experience a good one? Are you speeding up your customer’s clock, or slowing it down?

Move the Needle on the “Who Cares” Meter

Wagon Yard LogoYou’ve just called the Wagon Yard, a furnishings and collectibles store in Texas. You’re calling about the 54″ cherry roll-top computer desk you heard that it carried. That would look great in your office! And while you are transferred to the furniture department, you hear this:

Wagon Yard On-Hold Message

Now you’re interested in more than just a roll-top desk! And why is that?

Because a compelling, relevant On-Hold message moves the “Who Cares” meter!

I’m sure you’ve heard or seen the opposite in an ad…maybe even today. “We’ve been in business since….” Really?

Who cares?

Now you’re probably saying, “But Chester, I don’t want to do business with a fresh, young, inexperienced company!” Really? Like Google? Facebook? Twitter? These are all companies that developed huge (did I say huge?) customer bases, and they weren’t built around how long they had been in business.

Let’s break this point down a little more. When a company leads with how long it has been in business, what is it really trying to say?


  • Its experience makes it the expert.
  • You will be able to count on warranty support.
  • You won’t be left “holding the bag” if something goes wrong.


I’m sure we could come up with a lot more things here.

Any one of those would be more compelling…more interesting to you and me as customers, than, “We’ve been in business since…”

Why is that? It’s because of the difference between facts and emotion.

Facts say you’ve been in business for fifty years.

Emotions tell me that I want to buy from someone who is an expert.

Phrases like “family-owned,” “superior service,” and “exceptional value” don’t create a strong emotional reason to do business with your company. Don’t get me wrong; it’s nice information. But it’s not the “bottom-line food-truth”

about your business that is going to get your visitors salivating for what you have to offer.

Draw me into the world of emotions, and I am more likely to find interest in your product or service. And the best way to engage the emotional side of the brain is to tell a story.

Tell me a story…make me a star.

Tell your customer a story, with him as the star, and you will instantly engage his emotional power. (Take a moment to go back and read the first paragraph of this section again. Did you notice it was about you?)

When we tell stories, we engage the emotion rather than the intellect. Emotion and intellect are not connected! Intellectual ads are about inarguable facts. It’s about “New!” (when it really is new!)

But emotional ads are about what the customer already knows or feels. They connect with what we already believe to be real, while adding a new perspective.

We do what feels right; then we use our intellectual logic to justify our emotional decision.

So the next time you’re thinking about what callers hear while On-Hold, take out the intellect, and put in the emotion. It will make a powerful difference!

Speaking to your Caller’s Felt Need

Speak to the Felt Need


For the 2011 Super Bowl, Old Spice started a series of fantastic ads that got a lot of media attention.

Here is what was so amusing to me about their ads:

You have no idea what Isaiah Mustafa smells like in that commercial!

I was kind of surprised that this didn’t jump out at me sooner. Old Spice did an excellent job of triggering one sense (your sense of smell)…without even using scent! It only used visual and aural senses to sell a smell.

Whoa! That’s some powerful engagement there! And I’ve seen that ad countless times, without realizing what was happening! (It also helps that I know what Old Spice body wash smells like!)


From the ad: “If he stopped using lady-scented body wash, and switched to Old Spice, he could smell like he’s me.”

Go back and read that again.

Watch the video if you want; I’ll wait.


Now, what’s the point, and why would I want to make it here?

The point is that you don’t have to use all five senses to engage fully your prospect’s five senses.

Did you know the body needs “just” 100 million sensory receptors to experience the physical universe around you?

By contrast, your mental and emotional universe is so complex that your brain requires 10,000 billion synapses to experience the world inside your head! (You don’t have to take my word for it. Learn about the twelve languages of the mind.)

We are much more prepared to experience the world of imagination and dream than we are the physical world.

Words, sounds, images, and more are what transport us into those worlds. And you can use that same transport to take your customer there.

The Caller Experience a customer has when phoning your business sets that caller up for how he or she is going to experience your product or service. Are you providing a great experience?

Here are some complaints that businesses have gotten that have caused them to talk to us lately:


  • “The voice just wasn’t warm and fuzzy.”
  • “Your receptionist hung up on me in the middle of my saying goodbye!”
  • “I hear our receptionist saying: ‘I don’t know…that’s not my job,’ rather than “I can find out and get back with you.”


How your phone is answered gives people a glimpse inside your company. And just like Isaiah and Old Spice, they don’t have to see with their physical eyes to imagine with their mind’s eye!

Thinking about the possibilities? Think about this.

What does it sound like when you push that little red “Hold” button on your phone? Do your callers get dumped into a black cavern of silence, wandering around looking for daylight, sometimes for long periods of time?

Do they hear the same generic music your competitors have, with constant reminders to “Please stay on the line….please! We’re begging you!”?

Or do you transport them to a magical place, where you engage their senses in a way that is interesting, fun, and still relevant to your business?

Just like what was done here, for Southern States? They wanted to highlight their chicken feed, and what better way than to…well, I’ll let the chickens speak for themselves:

Talking Chickens

You can engage your customers’ minds and draw them into your business, or you can leave them in silence to contemplate the myriad other thoughts they’re faced with each day. Your choice…what does your phone sound like?

Meet Jack…On-Hold!

When First National Bank of the South adopted Jack the Dog as their new mascot, they also gained a unique marketing opportunity. No other bank could use the same mascot to differentiate themselves to customers. And in the world of banking, where little seems to stand out from one bank to the next, Jack the Dog could help First National Bank of the South stand out. Here is an example of an On-Hold message that is unique, customized for one specific bank, and unusable by any competitor:

Meet Jack

It connects deeply with listeners because it’s a continuation of the branding that this bank is doing on its website. And it’s relevant to the caller because it invites him or her into the story.

Anatomy of an On-Hold Message

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

Anatomy of an On-Hold Message

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 to 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 hour 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 all right; I’ll wait.

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

Here’s the thing:

This strategy is quite brilliant actually—but only for the On-Hold message production company. It has 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 the bank’s other marketing and branding efforts outside the bank, like it could if it were 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 the 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 that finding your unique story is more difficult than 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:

  • Ads that fail in one medium will usually fail in others.
  • The medium is not the message; the message is the message.

And the message is what matters most!

What Should Your On-Hold Sound Like?

On-Hold Options


This TED video from Julian Treasure has a lot to teach about the use of sound in business. Take a moment to watch it, and then I’ll point out a few ways you can make the most of this information.


First, you may have noticed some pretty big numbers….a drop of 66 percent in productivity in open-plan office environments and a sales drop of up to 28 percent in a retail environment when inappropriate sound is present.

I especially liked his observation that we, “…move away from unpleasant sound and toward comfortable sounds.”

Telephone Sound is one of eight types of commercial sound that Treasure talks about. If you haven’t thought about the rest of your soundscape, your phone sound signature is a good place to start. A Caller Experience expert can help craft your phone sound to be a reflection of your business goals. You can go from there into more purposeful and directed tactics for every other element of sound in the business.

If you already have a unique soundscape in your advertising, in-store experience, products and services, you’ve made that expert’s job easier, but no less urgent.

Crafting and producing an On-Hold message is not good territory for Do-It-Yourself business marketers. As a business owner, you’re likely only to mention information that’s important to you, while failing to take a customer-centric view. You risk falling into instruction mode instead of taking an informative and (if appropriate) entertaining strategy.

But not all On-Hold message companies are created equal. Here are some of the pitfalls to watch out for from any On-Hold provider:


  • They offer “canned,” pre-produced, or fill-in-the-blank messages.
  • They expect the business owner to write the scripts.
  • They leave it up to you to remember to make changes to your message throughout the year.
  • They make no attempt to customize your message to match the sound signature of your business and other marketing efforts.
  • They provide equipment that doesn’t allow instant updates, flexible scheduling, and constant monitoring.


A great On-Hold message provider will:


  • Thoroughly uncover the key values of the business.
  • Dig deep enough to find the important facts for the message.
  • Provide turn-key support and quick response for updating messages.
  • Provide advanced playback equipment.
  • Monitor your system’s actual playback on a regular basis.


I like Treasure’s first three golden rules of commercial sound:


  1. Make it congruent (with the core values and other sound elements of the business).
  2. Make it appropriate (to the intended listeners).
  3. Make it valuable (by offering more than a caller expected to hear).


So, what’s holding you back?

If you’re abusing your customers by delivering a bad phone experience, it is one of the easiest marketing touch points to fix.

If you’re not sure what kind of experience you’re delivering, get it evaluated.

If you currently offer flat, dead silence, that’s the best place to start.

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