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On Hold Messages 101: Creating the best experiences

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Let’s get right down to it: no one likes being put on hold. Unfortunately, waiting on hold is a part of doing business, and the abandoned rate for these callers is very high.  An estimated 70% of business callers are put on hold. When left on hold with silence,  approximately 60% of those callers will hang up, and of those an estimated 30% don’t call back. But the on-hold stats aren’t all doom and gloom.  In fact, callers that are given information while on-hold will remain on the line for up to 3 minutes longer than those waiting in silence.  People want information and taking advantage of that with a custom on-hold message allows you to turn those “please hold” lemons into lemonade.

Whatever your industry, your business’ on-hold program can help you build your brand, educate callers and tap into your phone system’s marketing potential. But where do you start? How do you write an on-hold message? We’re breaking down all the basics of  your on-hold system so you can create professional quality, custom on-hold messages that increase hold times, reduce caller frustration and improve your bottom line.

Understanding Your On-Hold System: Traditional Vs Cloud

In order to design a great on-hold program, you need to know how your phone system’s on-hold message feature works. There are two types of on-hold messaging systems: traditional and cloud-based.

Traditional On-Hold System

Traditional or legacy phone systems require an external audio player to be installed onsite and operate on a continuous loop. Picture it like a carousel that continues to go around and around whether or not someone is riding. When a caller gets placed on hold, they “jump on” the carousel at whatever point the message is playing. It may be mid-sentence, at the third message or anywhere in between, but all callers who are holding will be listening to the same portion of the message at the same time.

With the continuous loop player, callers may hear a different portion of your message each time they call. However, you can’t prioritize the importance of your greetings. So, it’s important to keep messages concise and add an acknowledgement message (thank you for holding, we appreciate your patience, etc.) between every three or four announcements.

How To Choose The Right Message Length

Regardless of what type of system you have, you will want to factor your average caller hold times into your scripting process. This may require you to survey your customers or monitor hold times.

How To Calculate Caller Hold Times

If you are using a cloud solution, many providers track this and offer reports. If this isn’t available to you, you can conduct a one- to two-week test by having employees mark down when they place callers on hold and for how long. Average out times over the duration of your test and use that as your reference point.

If callers are on hold for an average of one minute, keep your message concise and focused on the most important information. If you experience longer hold times, like a couple of minutes or more, slightly longer messages may also be appropriate.

Average on-hold lengths can vary from industry to industry, but, in general, an on-hold program is three to four minutes in length and an average of 200 to 300 words. The message usually begins with a three to five second musical intro and has 12 to 15 second musical interludes between announcements.

However, this structure may not be appropriate for all industries. If your business has extensive hold times of eight minutes or more, you should still keep messages brief, but you may want to space them out further and utilize longer musical breaks. Likewise, if your business deals with distressed or grieving callers, you may want to limit the announcements and opt for more soothing music. Consider the needs and preferences of your typical caller and adjust accordingly.

What Should You Include In Your On-Hold Message?

On hold programs vary from industry to industry. A doctor may tell you what insurance coverage they accept, while an auto body shop may want to share directions for after hours drop-off information. Regardless of your industry, there are a few things all businesses should consider including in their on-hold program:

” Tagline or mission statement
” Website URL
” Product/Service and Benefits
” Hours and location
” Social media pages
” Experience or years in business
” Awards and/or accreditations
” Request for referrals
” What sets your business apart from the competition

Aside from sharing the basics, your on-hold messages can also be a powerful marketing tool if you cross-market and brand appropriately. Before you begin writing your messages, be sure to review samples and consult our on-hold checklist blog.

Selecting Voice & Music
When choosing a voice for your recordings, your target audience should be the most important factor. Who would one of your prospective clients take advice from? Who would they find the most captivating and trustworthy? Whether they’d prefer a conversation with a friend, command from an authority figure or advice from their mom, keep your audience’s needs at the forefront when listening to voice samples.

The music you select should also reflect the tone of your business and the sentiment you wish to portray to your callers. If you are an Italian restaurant, go for the tarantella; a doctor’s office should stick to light easy listening; a gym might choose an electronica track. If you’re self-recording, stay away from licensed music to avoid a potential fine.

Most companies turn to professional agencies, like Snap Recordings, to produce their on-hold messages. Agencies that specialize in phone recordings will give you access to professional voiceovers, pre-licensed music libraries and many other resources that make it easy to have high quality brand voice messaging for your business.

Regardless of which route you take, make sure to understand your on-hold system and follow the best practices outlined here. Implementing a great hold program is an easy and effective way to directly market to your audience and create a positive caller experience, which helps you get the most out of your Mitel phone system.