We dont say Hold

I don't like to exercise, but I do it. And when I work out, I like to watch TV. Getting my daily Netflix fix takes my mind off the fact that I'm pedaling to nowhere in my living room.

Sometimes, when I'm enjoying a great program, I'll forget to check the readout on my stationary bike to see if I've hit my goal for the session. But that's actually good, because the less I'm thinking about my exercise, the faster I seem to finish it.

The same is true for your callers on hold. They know they're waiting, so we don't remind them about it.

The Better Alternative

When writing the copy for your On Hold Marketing productions, we purposely avoid phrases such as "Thank you for holding" and "We apologize for the delay" because they only reinforce a negative.

Instead, we work to create content that engages, informs and even entertains your callers, not only to shorten their perceived wait, but to provide them with a valuable experience that supports good feelings about your brand.

Using humor on hold is one way we can help callers forget that they're holding. Listen to a few samples here.

Phone Hell

When I worked as a reporter, we had a special name for the most annoying call processing systems. You know, the ones that send you through five different levels of menus as you search for the person or information you need.

We called them "circles of avoidance."

There were a few types of offenders. Some promised pressing "2" would give you an answer to your question about billing, but instead routed you to a telephone desert littered with the virtual skeletons of previous callers.

Other systems got your hopes up, suggesting that pressing a number on the keypad would lead you to the Promised Land - a real live person's desk. Instead, they'd plop you into the voicemail of a clerk who died in 1998.

Still others would hang up on you, inspiring the kind of red-faced rage rarely seen outside of professional wrestling.




Who Are You Hurting?

Common to the city halls, courts, corporations, and in-house public relations offices we tried to contact, these evil call processing systems and their announcements seemed designed to discourage reporters from calling. But they weren't just making us stop. They were stopping residents and customers from calling, too.

If your call processing announcements don't deliver callers where they need to be quickly and easily, you're violating your customers' trust and doing damage to your brand and bottom line.

Check It Yourself

Do your call processing announcements incite frustration? Find out by navigating the system yourself, or by asking a non-customer to try it as you listen. Does the system take you to the correct extension, or does it dump you into your own circle of avoidance? If the latter is true, it's time to rethink your system's design and/or announcements.

You'll never know how many frustrated callers have hung up as a result of your inefficient call processing system, or how many lost sales they represent, but you can stop future bleeding. Learn more here.

On Hold Messaging Survey

Are you considering On Hold Marketing for your organization?

If so, you may find these statistics helpful. They come from a survey of 1,555 people whose companies already use On Hold Marketing (OHM).

The survey was commissioned by the On Hold Messaging Association (OHMA) and conducted by Greystoke Insights in the spring of 2012.

The Three Key Findings

1) On Hold Marketing users report an extremely high level of satisfaction with the service.

2) OHM delivers clear marketing benefits.

3) It provides real opportunities to generate revenue.

A Few of the Important Numbers

  • 85% of current On Hold Marketing customers are very likely (60%) or somewhat likely (25%) to recommend OHM to others.
  • 85% of respondents consider On Hold Marketing to be "a useful marketing tool that adds value."
  • 24% of companies using On Hold Marketing generated real sales value. If the average sale is worth $500, the annual revenue attributable to On Hold Marketing is $89,000.
  • On average, 57% of calls are put on hold.
  • 67% of callers are on hold between 15 seconds and 1 minute. Another 15% are on hold between 1 and 2 minutes.
    (See more On Hold Marketing statistics here.)

Respondents ranked the benefits of On Hold Marketing in this order (from highest effectiveness to medium effectiveness):

1) Building image and professionalism

2) Providing value to callers on hold

3) Decreasing hang-ups

4) Increasing sales

For a copy of the complete survey, please ask your BusinessVoice Account Manager or contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. at +1 419.724.7311.

Put Yourself On Hold

Do you assume that all of your automated systems are always working properly because they're...well...automated? That could be a mistake.

Listen to the quick audio below to hear a short segment of an On Hold Marketing production I heard after calling a company recently. (I recorded the audio with a smart phone.)

The annoying three-second glitch you hear repeated itself about once a minute. And I was on hold for more than seven minutes!

If an employee of that company put himself on hold every now and then, problems like that could be fixed before irritating too many callers.


Check Your Systems

What about the forms and auto-replies on your website? Fill them out yourself once in a while to make sure they're being routed to the right staff member, and that you receive the proper emails or downloads in return.

How long has it been since you listened to all of your company's auto attendant messages? Is that telephony system directing callers to the wrong extensions or people who are no longer employees?

Review your automated systems regularly to make sure that they are:

  • Working properly and efficiently.
  • Making it easier for customers to conduct business with your company.
  • Consistent with your brand identity.

Get the Beep Off Your Telephone

Need another reason to use On Hold Marketing?

Consider this: our brains can't quite grasp the beeping sound that often replaces customized on hold content delivered by a human voice. That's according to Anthony McGovern, a New York-based freelance science and technology writer.

In this article, McGovern examines why most people are so irritated by the beeps that come from microwave ovens, trucks in reverse, and certain telephone systems. In addition to their high-pitched, monotone nature, those artificial sounds end abruptly.

In contrast, natural, more-nuanced sounds gradually fade in volume. McGovern explains that that's one factor our brains use to determine what made the sound. He writes that "the flat tone of a beep lacks that fadeaway, or any other small variations of a natural sound."

He then quotes researcher Michael Shutz by adding, "Flat tones are basically incompatible with the physical reality of the natural world."

What People Want to Hear

An unpublished study by Schutz showed that people react more positively to natural sounds.

Schutz displayed two different cell phones to study participants. Each phone played the same four tones when a call was missed. However, one phone generated flat, artificial tones, while the other phone used tones with a more natural decay. Almost 90% of the participants preferred the phone with the natural tones.

Don't Create a Negative Environment

Are you subjecting your callers to those annoying beeps while they're on hold? That tells your customers that you don't care a whole lot about that particular experience with your company. And because those monotone beeps are so irritating, they can actually lengthen your callers' perceived hold times.

Are you part of the mobile movement

A survey entitled "The Mobile Movement" looks at how we use our smartphones. The short answer is a lot - at home, at work, while consuming other media, and especially while shopping.

The findings should be a wake-up call to anyone who uses the web to sell a product or service.

The Google survey found that 74% of smartphone shoppers make a purchase as a result of using their smartphones to help with shopping, while 88% of those who look for local information on their smartphones take action within a day.

And there are these two figures from the survey that I found most fascinating. The important number here is 79:

79% of smartphone consumers use their phones to help with shopping, from comparing prices, finding more product info to locating a retailer, but 79% of businesses surveyed say they don’t have a mobile-optimized website.

That’s a huge disconnect from the people who are ready to buy from you. Would you have signage in your store that only 21% of your customers could see? Or print a marketing piece that nearly eight out of ten people can’t read? That’s what you’re doing when you ask smartphone users to use a website that’s designed for viewing on a computer monitor.

So, what can you do to reach these connected, active smartphone consumers? Here are a few suggestions:

1) Create a mobile version of your website that’s optimized for smartphone viewing. Focus on features that are useful to customers and elements that are likely to attract visitors from your search engine links.

2) Design your own smartphone application. It might combine the most-useful features of your website in a branded package with a great marketing platform that's also a useful tool for your customers.

Serving the smartphone audience should be a key part of your website design and marketing plan. Without it, the mobile movement might just leave you behind.