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Transforming The Customer Experience

Improve Your Customers' Experience with the Right On-hold Service

Posted Aug 13, 2013 10:01:00 AM

Customers the world over have horror stories about being put on hold for seemingly endless stretches of time while technical support or customer service representatives run to the top of a mountain in Nepal to find the answers they desperately seek. Those quiet hold times spread out before the unsuspecting customer, until they're driven mad or finally give up. You can be a part of the solution by adding on-hold music and other interactive services to your phone system.

Of course, not every on-hold service is designed the same, so before you automatically default to the music you like or an overly generic message about your company's services, consider the impact on your potential customer. Marketing experts have studied the effects of on-hold services on customer satisfaction and consistently find that they result in happier customers overall.

On-Hold Marketing Engages Customers

On-hold music and other messages help to alleviate the boredom experienced by customers while they wait their turn in long telephone queues. The more deeply they're engaged and interested, the faster time seems to pass, making customers feel like their hold time was shorter than it may have actually been. Messages informing customers of their place in line increase customer satisfaction across demographics, but marketing messages can also make customers less testy.

Nearly every business offers specials or has new, upcoming products or services that may not be well known by the general public. Although you still want to appeal to the majority of people, you can break up on-hold music with informative messages about your daily specials, new movie releases and products that are difficult to find. The customer will learn something new about your business through your on-hold marketing and since they're now busy working out where to put a 10-foot plaster sculpture of their cat, they'll be happier because you didn't bore them as they waited.

Muzak: The Old Standby

A huge number of companies provide hold music for their customers, but it turns out that the type of music and how it's presented actually makes a huge difference to customer satisfaction. University of Cincinnati professor James Kellaris studied the effects of hold music on customer satisfaction for over 12 years - he learned a few things that can help your business increase customer happiness.

- Faster music can alter a customer's perception of time. Slower music made customers feel like time was passing more slowly. The same effect is commonly noted in retail settings.

- Different types of music affect customers differently. For example, light jazz was most preferred overall by the customers in Kellaris's studies and was the most engaging. Engaging music makes customers feel that time is passing faster. Music with hard, driving beats like rock made customers feel more stressed and agitated.

- There's a gender difference in hold music preferences. This is helpful to know if your business primarily caters to one gender. Men benefit most from classical music, perceiving shorter hold times when listening to these soothing notes – women were the exact opposite, with classical music making hold times seem much longer.

Holding on to a Polished Image

Your on-hold messages or music can alter the way your customers view your company, for better and for worse. Poorly recorded, crackly music and long wait times will irritate even the most loyal customer – your choice of on-hold service providers matters. A good company will not only provide you with the best quality audio available, they can help you choose between the endless options available to entertain and enthrall your callers.

The details matter, from the tone of the voice prompt system to the number of menus it takes to reach a genuine human being. Small businesses may not need such sophisticated systems, but that doesn't mean that silence is helpful. Silence leads to call abandonment, with rates of up to 75 percent observed in cases where callers are exposed to dead air. The average time it takes for a call to be abandoned when no on-hold service is present is about one minute; customers with something to engage them will wait up to five minutes on average.

No matter your business, if you get phone calls, on-hold services including marketing and music can make a huge difference in your customer's perceptions. Customizable services are an excellent way to teach your customers about your new products or little-utilized options, if you take care to ensure they're getting the best quality audio possible. Next time your customers are stuck on hold, they'll be interested and engaged until someone can answer return to them.