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MightyCall Blog

Music on hold: 6 Tips to make your callers hold the line

This article will cover:

  • why caller retention is a problem;
  • how to cut the number of customers hanging-up;
  • how to benefit from virtual phone number systems in terms of caller retention;
  • what to consider when choosing music on hold;
  • how to use on-hold time to your advantage.

6 Tips to make your callers hold the line

Customer interaction is essential to almost any owner of a small or medium business. Therefore, the main thrust of customer interaction should be a dedicated support team whose main goal is to provide an instant response to callers and to assist with callers’ requests.

To achieve this goal, a business owner is willing to establish sophisticated support models and hire professional phone support staff. With hard-working experts on the line everything should work marvelously. However sometimes revenue statistics show a lacking in the anticipated growth. In fact, analysts suggest the existence of growing customer dissatisfaction, and suddenly the company experiences loss of clientele. What could possibly have gone wrong?

Why caller retention is a problem

One of the possible culprits of the aforementioned situation is negligence of caller retention. While an average company allocates roughly 90% of its marketing budget on enticing people to make a call, only about 4% is spent on preventing people from abandoning their calls while awaiting a response.

Waiting on hold is considered unavoidable and, therefore, is widely neglected by businesses. Indeed, according to AT&T statistics, 7 out if 10 business calls are put on hold with an average time of 55 seconds (for companies with more than 2 lines).

Everyone waits, so what’s the big deal?

Well, the problem is that 30% of callers who hang up during their initial call will never call you back.

They would rather dial the next number on the list ― your competitor’s. Providing an instant response all the time is virtually impossible, so dealing with this problem is beyond our powers. Let’s just accept the loss, right?


While you can’t eliminate waiting altogether, you can at least minimize this time and make it more comfortable for callers. Improve user experience and reduce the loss of clientele due to premature hang-ups with the following six tips.

1. Minimize time on hold

A Google survey showed that 32% of callers expect to be answered at once, 27% are willing to wait for 1 minute, while 30% will wait for up to five minutes. Therefore, failure to pick up a phone within the first 5 minutes translates to about a 90% loss of calls. The faster you answer, the fewer callers you lose.

To speed up the response, its necessary to establish an efficient call management model.

Small and medium businesses obviously can’t afford an “industrial-sized” call center. Plus, it would mostly be useless except for the really busy hours. Outsourcing is a more feasible option, but outsourcers are notorious for their lack of commitment and personal touch. What’s more, it’s quite problematic to check the quality of the setup or to control them directly. An even better choice is a virtual phone number with a service like MightyCall.

Services like these have features including customizable forwarding, on-the-fly task assignment, and improved call management effectively reduce response times. Additionally, there will be no need to rebuild your existing telecom infrastructure or to inflate your support team. In terms of yield and cost-efficiency, quality usually wins over sheer quantity.

2. Keep callers busy

Make a simple observation of your own: while waiting for a bus at a stop, look at the people around you. You’ll surely notice that many of them fiddle with their phones or listen to devices. Those without gadgets will instinctively study the nearby adverts, banners and whatever readable material they can find ― even graffiti!

Why? Well, being occupied helps to fight boredom.

It’s pretty similar with waiting on hold. A Teleconnect Magazine research discovered that 93% of callers exposed to silence while calling perceived their on-hold time to be 2.5 times longer than the real figure. The North American Telecommunications Association found out that 55% of people put on “silent” hold hung up in less than 1 minute. When music was played, an average caller held the line for about 60 seconds longer, while playing informational messages during the pause prolonged this time threefold.

Furthermore, the majority of callers actually prefer messages to silence or radio recordings while business owners reported they got up to 20% more questions about services advertised in this manner.

Another option to consider is to treat your callers with a quick survey. Not only it will keep them busy, but you will benefit from useful feedback and statistics for free. Just don’t be too intrusive and make your polls really short.

3. Show that you care

There is one more reason to why companies avoid “silent” holds. Silence induces the feeling of being neglected, which ― naturally ― leads to annoyance and abandoning the call. On the other hand, music on hold assures the customer that his/her call is not ignored and the connection is intact.

Depending on the theme choice, music can relax, calm a caller down and improve his/her mood. Needless to say, it only works if callers are pleased with what they hear. That is partly why large call-centers prefer classical themes: they are universally recognized as good.

Another widely-used choice is muzak: light versions of familiar music usually played in trade centers. It is, however, often associated with bad taste.

A small/medium business owner has a far better alternative. With a comparatively narrow target audience it is possible to create a fairly precise “buyer persona”.

Study your typical customers: determine their gender, age, lifestyle, preferences, etc. to create a generalized image. This information will be useful for choosing a proper on-hold music and actually priceless for devising your general marketing policy.

Another thing to keep in mind is variety. People feel neglected if made to listen to a single looping track again and again. Ensure that you have different on hold themes for different forwarding levels (e.g. one for initial incoming call to receptionist, one for sales department, yet another for customer support and so on) and between different team members on the same level. If needed, use audio editors ― there are free easy-to-use programs like Audacity ― to crop your tracks or create a seamless sequence of recordings.

Don’t forget to normalize the volume!

Luckily, many virtual phone systems provide a way to manage your on-hold themes. For instance, MightyCall allows to upload your own music to all redirection levels through an intuitive flow-chart customization.


4. Consider adding on-hold messages

According to Western Communications, a major US-based communication company, providing useful information during hold pauses reduces the number of hang-ups by nearly half. A recent survey claims that up to 20% of clients amend their purchase decisions based on information heard while holding the line.

And yes, 76% of callers would prefer to hear something other than music while waiting for a response.

In case you have informational messages, pay attention to their variety: it’s always bad to subject your callers to monotonous repetition of the same info. Special packages, discounts, new products and services ― make this information useful and diverse. Of course, you should keep an eye on what you are playing: regularly remove outdated messages and substitute them with relevant ones. Nowadays getting a potential customer’s attention is a rare commodity, so why ignore it? Use it to your advantage ― it’s not that hard.

You can even offer discounts if your operator is unable to respond for, say, more than five minutes: if an incentive is big enough you can actually make the callers crave for additional waiting time.

5. Test everything!

Before making any permanent changes to your call management system, spare some time on testing. If you are using a virtual phone system, you can carry out a simple A/B experiment.

Just upload music theme A to one of your numbers and music theme B to another one. After some time you will be able to analyze the statistics of hang-ups, call backs and on hold times via integrated analytics tools.

Another important point to consider is sound quality. Even before a caller has a chance to reach your operator, he/she typically hears a voice menu or a greeting ― it’s like your company’s face. Therefore, no matter how good your on-hold fillers are, poor quality of communication lines can mess it up to the level of incomprehensible gurgling. If that’s the case, music won’t fulfill its role of calming and entertaining an annoyed caller. On the contrary, it will give birth to irritation and stimulate a prompt hang-up, thus severely affecting the image of your business.

Inability to establish a proper communication quality is actually one of the few cases when “silent” hold is more preferable. What is more, a track which is great on your hi-fi home sound system may actually sound gross when played through standard phone dynamic or laptop speakers, so again ― just check it out. More than once.

All in all, it is crucial that you ensure a high quality of sound transmission before attempting to introduce any on-hold fillers. Sound quality varies from provider to provider: choose your mobile service or virtual phone number system carefully.

6. Don’t make copyright owners angry

This point is not directly associated with retaining customer attention, but it can save you a lot of trouble in the future.

In terms of copyright legislation, music played on hold is regarded as having been broadcast.

Thus, playing a track from your rightfully-owned CD or a recording purchased via iTunes is not a good idea without obtaining a proper license ― which may turn out to be quite costly. Some music-on-hold service providers incorporate broadcast rights into their monthly rates, but some of them don’t ― look for an explicit statement. Occasionally, when dialing certain not-so-big companies, you can hear internet- or conventional-radio broadcast on hold.  Again, this is illegal without a proper license.

For those wishing to play music without having to think about copyright issues or paying anyone, there are thousands of royalty free tracks available for download on the internet. They are mainly classics, but you can come across something rather unexpected ― some famous bands are known to render their tracks free to listen and broadcast.

While all the tips mentioned above are extremely useful when dealing with the retention problem, the most convenient way to use them is through a professional virtual phone system. One of the best options to consider is MightyCall. Combining user-friendliness, versatility, excellent customer support and affordable rates makes for a balanced solution that can help small/medium businesses manage incoming calls from phones or website widgets with ease.

Photo by Gavin Whitner

Anthony Constantini
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