Phone: 708.478.5772 PO Box 696 Orland Park, IL 60462

Automated Messages and Hold Music Can Create Angry Customers


Having irritating hold music or an out of date or out of tune automated message for your customers is the equivalent of having a sign on your door that says Keep Out. In customer service we often talk about hold time and how long a customer is willing to hold before hanging up. But how many of you have completely overlooked the customer’s experience while sitting on hold?

Many companies use an automated attendant to help during busy times. It is thought of as a way to help manage call volume. The automated attendant and its messaging should present an accurate impression of the company’s brand while making the customer feel comfortable and relaxed, even entertained. Technology used properly helps the customer feel as if the hold time wasn’t as long as it really was. Unfortunately, most managers don’t know what the customer is experiencing unless a customer takes the time to complain about it. I’d like to share a real experience from a few years ago. One of our secret shoppers called a company and here is the transcript of what took place.

Thank you for calling. To access customer service press zero now. If you know your party’s extension, please enter it now. Caller pressed zero. CSR: Unintelligible whisper by the person who answered. Caller: hello? CSR: Sniffling and crying. Caller: Hello? Are you okay? CSR screaming: You did this. You made him leave. Caller: Hello? CSR: Stay, stay away. Unintelligible screaming and crying. Caller: Hello? Is anybody there? CSR: Screaming and crying. Caller: Hello? Hold music comes on and the caller is on hold for 50 seconds. The phone rings and the initial automated message starts over. The caller hangs up after 3:38 convinced that something awful is happening within the office.

What a customer wouldn’t know, and our secret shopper didn’t, is that this company used a radio station for its on-hold music. As luck would have it, a Rascal Flatt’s song about domestic violence complete with crying and screaming began to play at the very moment the caller pressed zero for a CSR. While this is an extreme example of an automated messaging system gone wrong, some of you have problems with your automated messaging and music that are driving away customers or creating an angry customer out of a normally nice person.

There are 4 key details for you to evaluate when it comes to your own phone system.

 1- What is the on hold music like?  If you have the same musical notes repeat every 3 seconds, loud or out-of-tune music, a customer might feel angry by the time someone answers.  All instrumental music is not the same. You might love fiddles or drums but too much in the wrong arrangement will cause your customer’s blood pressure to rise.

2- Check your after hours message.  A Christmas holiday message in April gives the impression that no one will actually return a call. A prospective customer might get the feeling there won’t be a return call from you and hang up without you ever knowing that an opportunity was lost.

3- How many seconds go by before your company or organization name is given in the automated message?  If the caller doesn’t hear your company name in the first couple of seconds he/she may hang up thinking it is a wrong number.

4- The wording of the message and the voice used to deliver the message should be selected to present the right impression about your company to your customers, employees and the world at large.  Nominating someone from your office to record your message may be fast and cheap, but often times the impression your are making is that you cut corners or don’t care about quality.

Just as a film producer pays attention to the detail of both words and music to set the mood and convey a message, you need to take on the role of producer for your automated messaging.  




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