7 Tips For Effective On Hold Messages

Sorry for the wait… blah, blah, blah. Is this how your on hold messages sound? What are you apologizing for? Callers expect to placed on hold at least once during their call. They may not like it, but it’s a fact they know they can’t avoid.

According to a recent poll (January 2013) on PR Newswire, over 80% of callers said they are placed on hold each and every time they phone a business. EIGHTY PERCENT! And, that’s not 80% of the time, that’s 8 out of 10 people said it happens 100% of the time!

This makes it extremely important that your callers hear exactly what you want them to hear in your messages on hold. Entertaining them with music is a waste of precious time… YOUR time! And, silence is DEADLY… since a high percentage of callers will hang up after a short time, if they don’t hear anything while they’re waiting on hold.

Your time is valuable and so is that of your callers. How you spend the time you have with potential customers is up to you. And, may I remind you that basically ALL callers are potential or return customers.

So, the content of your phone on hold messages have a direct effect on your bottom line… agreed? OK, let’s move on to the tips.

1. Make it count: Don’t waste time apologizing for putting callers on hold. We already mentioned this, but it’s THAT important. Several studies have shown that apologizing for this just increases a caller’s frustration. Instead, make an impact with your words. After writing your on hold marketing script, go through it again carefully and remove any unnecessary words. We learned this at an industry conference years ago and we’ll never forget it. It sounds simple enough, and I promise you, it’s worth the extra time.

2. Tell your story: Give callers an idea of who they are doing business with. If you are a professional such as a doctor or lawyer, list your credentials. For example, “Dr. Smith graduated from Johns Hopkins University with a degree in neuroscience.” Retail stores, salons and spas, welding distributors, real estate brokers, restaurants and cafes, car dealers, etc should try something like this in their on hold messaging, “We’ve been serving our community at the same location for over 20 years.”

3. Know your customer: Again, this sounds simple but you’d be surprised at how many businesses don’t take advantage of this knowledge. Knowing who your callers are makes it easier to talk to them in a way they can understand and appreciate. And, we all want to be appreciated… right?

4. Synergize: No, it’s not a new workout program. Synergy in this case, is simply maintaining consistency with all of your advertising. Your messages on hold should contain much of the same information that is in your print, web, radio and TV ads. Synergy in your advertising is a crucial part of your branding efforts.

5. Don’t repeat yourself: Too many on hold messages have lines that repeat more than once. DON’T DO IT! It’s a fair bet that your customers will call more than once. Whether they’re making appointments or reservations, checking prices on seasonal promotions, doing research on a product or service, chances are they’ve called before and/or will call again. Since the average hold time is 40 seconds (roughly the length of a radio commercial), you want your callers to hear something different each time they call. Since many message on hold productions are between 4 and 6 minutes in length, this gives you plenty of time to talk about more than just the basics. Besides, many callers are calling for details about a product or service, so including some details may save you from paying an employee to explain it to them.

6. Be interesting and engaging: Unless you operate a funeral home, humor is almost always appreciated when a caller is waiting on hold. If you feel a little humor isn’t right for your brand, do your best to hold your caller’s interest in other ways. Be creative! Take risks! Isn’t that what being in business is all about – taking risks? Don’t try to copy your competitor’s on hold marketing messages… be unique! Use background music that doesn’t put callers to sleep. Talk about the latest innovations in your industry. Mention a product or service that not everyone knows you offer. If it interests you, chances are your callers will be interested, too.

7. Keep it fresh: Be sure to update your on hold advertising regularly. The only thing worse than playing music only or having no on hold program at all, is having a stale, outdated message! Most businesses are dynamic… new products, new services, new promotions, new staff members. Even if you think you have nothing new to say, update your message on hold at least twice a year. For optimal impact, change your phone on hold messages at the same time you change your other advertising (remember synergy?). No business stays the same forever. Even if you just change your background music a few times a year, your repeat callers will at least think you’re doing something different.

Here at AAA Phone On Hold, we strive to produce the most effective on hold marketing in the industry. Listen to samples of our work here.