In August 2018, BBC.com published an article called "The Art and Science of Being On Hold." Written by Damian Fowler, the piece featured input from BusinessVoice team members Jerry Brown, Steve Evert and Scott Greggory.
Here is an abridged version of the article.
Hold Music as a Branding Tool
Nowadays, hold music isn’t left to chance. There are companies like BusinessVoice, which specializes in On Hold Marketing for mid-to large-size companies. They see the On Hold experience as an expression of brand identity, mixing music with a verbal message - which sounds closer to a radio advertisement than, say, an easy-listening jazz number.
When creating an On Hold Marketing plan for a new client, BusinessVoice initiates a “caller experience” audit. They will determine things like how frequently the same person calls and the longest time a person will be put on hold. If the average hold time is five minutes, for example, a caller doesn’t want to hear a three-minute loop. The company also determines the caller demographic and from there creates its plan to make the call experience better. “You really want to use the time that people wait on hold to make them feel good about your company,” says Jerry Brown, the founder and CEO of BusinessVoice.
What this means is that on hold music and messaging is necessarily curated according to the needs of the client and the customer. The music and the message are tailored to ensure a positive On Hold experience.
According to Brown, it gets quite scientific. For a company that has a queue for sales and a queue for services, BusinessVoice would create two completely different messages and formats [for] those separate call experiences. “A lot of time we pick out music based on beats per minute of a song. So, if you’re a customer service line where people are holding for 10 minutes, we don’t want to have high beats per minute. If it’s a sales queue and you’re trying to move people to action, we want to increase their heart rate a little bit,” explains Brown.
The company also pays attention to whether hold music should be in a major or a minor key, offering subtle emotional cues to the caller on hold.
The Grammys of Hold Music
The world of on hold music and messaging even has its own awards. The MARCE Awards is an annual competition held by the Experience Marketing Association. This year, the “Most Effective” prize went to Behler-Young, a distributor of heating and cooling products based in the U.S. Midwest, for its hold message tagged “I’m Sworn to Secrecy.” Created by BusinessVoice - which has scooped up many MARCE awards over the years - it’s a highly produced sequence featuring spoof spy music, and a humourous voiceover that channels Mission Impossible.
Humor On Hold is another important concept for engaging callers. “If somebody can make me laugh in that space where there’s usually an ad, I feel more of an affection for that company,” says Scott Greggory, the Chief Creative Officer of BusinessVoice. With a background in radio, Greggory pioneered the idea of making On Hold Marketing palatable with what he calls the “spoonful of sugar” approach.