Transcript: Thanks, Alan. This is David Brower, and thanks for joining us today, folks. We’ve got a special podcast for you today. It’s directed toward businesses, and it’s to educate you, inform you, and encourage you to take advantage of your on-hold messaging service that your business probably has. If it hasn’t, well this is even more important for you. The three basic premises of using on-hold messaging. One, a perspective calls you. Your on-hold messaging gives them the opportunity to hear about your business before you even answer the phone. Two, your current customers. You on-hold messaging service gives them the opportunity to feel reaffirmed about doing business with you. Three, it can help generate sales.
I believe in this so much. A few years ago, I wrote a white paper called How to Sell to Your On-Hold Callers. I’m going to share that with you today. You ready? Ready to learn? Here we go. How to sell to your on-hold callers. Convert unproductive wait time into sales with an on-hold marketing campaign. Let’s say a loyal customer calls your company, agrees to hold, then hears nothing on the line but deafening silence. 20 seconds later, she’s frowning and tapping her pen impatiently against her teeth. By 30 seconds, she’s feeling personally sighted. 50 seconds into the call, she’s mentally tallying up all the hard-earned money she’s handed you, ungrateful louses, over the years. After just one minute, she hangs in a fit of frustration. Let’s face it. Parking callers on hold is a necessary evil for many businesses. We don’t like doing it, but to stay afloat in a tough economy, companies are scrambling to accomplish more with fewer employees. Often, this translates into longer wait times both in stores and on the phone, but there’s an upside as well.
More and more businesses are realizing that hold time present a golden marketing opportunity. How do we make hold time profitable? Well, through my years as a marketing executive, I’ve seen first-hand the power of addressing your customers one-on-one. To demonstrate how you might accomplish this with an on-hold caller, let’s rewind the scene that I just read you. Okay? Your customer agrees to hold and begins pacing the well-worn path around her dining room table, but this time instead of silence, she’s greeted by a warm polished voice that announcing the grand opening of your company’s newest location. As luck would have it, it’s near her neighborhood. The next message announces your store’s extended holiday hours. Your on-hold caller pauses mid-pace considering, “I might be able to squeeze in a visit after all,” she mutters aloud.
Miles away in your office, you race for your desk to answer the phone. As you reach for the receiver, you knock over this morning’s Starbucks. Coffee sloshes across your desk and over the week’s paychecks. When you return from the break room with a wad of paper towels, the on-hold butter is still flashing. Bracing yourself for a scolding, you pick up the phone. “All these years I had no idea,” you customer gushes. “You reupholster too? I’ve got a whole basement of furniture in need of a makeover.” Lo and behold, you’ve just made a sale, and you haven’t even said a word, but you’re not surprised. You know it sounds crazy, but since your company started its on-hold marketing campaign, your products and services practically sell themselves.
What is on-hold marketing? It’s a mixed audio program of ads, updates, special offers, and other messages that play through your phone system. Your customer listens to these messages while parked on hold or being transferred to another extension. When done well, on-hold messaging turns unproductive hold time into a valuable opportunity to speak one-on-one with perspective buyers. You can leverage on-hold messaging to advertise products and services and special offers. Highlight store locations and hours and improve your company image. Best of all, on-hold messaging reaches a highly receptive audience, those customers and prospects who are already informed and interested enough to call you. A professionally produced on-hold message program can have a significant impact on customer satisfaction. Instead of stabbing a pen into a notepad and thinking increasingly evil thoughts, they’ll be engaging, learning, and maybe even laughing.
Research shows that when presented with useful information, your callers are more likely to stay on the line, and to think positive thoughts about your company while they wait. Study after study demonstrates that on-hold marketing is an effective and even necessary marketing tool for any 21st century business. To understand what that means and why, let’s examine how callers think, act, and feel when they’re parked on hold or swept into your automated phone system. What happened the last time you called to schedule a doctor’s appointment, or request cable service? If you waited on hold until your blood pressure climbed to dangerous levels, you’re not alone. A study by AT&T found that 70% of business calls are placed on hold for an average of 45 to 60 seconds. According to one CNN survey, the average American spends 60 hours per year on hold. Americans spend a lifetime average of 1.2 years on hold reports Woman’s World magazine.
Much like yourself, your customers are fed up with being parked. Unless the circumstances are truly dire like a stolen credit card, a malfunctioning home alarm system, you cannot count on them to wait on hold for long. According to a study by North American Telecom, 99% of callers placed on silent hold will hang up in less than 40 seconds. Playing music on hold buys you some additional wait time, but only about 30 seconds on average. Over time, hang-ups can cut into your company’s bottom line. Let’s imagine a first-time caller dialing your number and hearing the words, “Please hold,” and then nothing but vast, yawning silence. Chances are this interested prospect will shrug, hang up, and call the next company on the list, a company that is probably one of your competitors. There’s a good chance you’ve just lost this caller’s business forever.
According to the AT&T survey, 30% of callers who hang up while on hold never call back. How many thousands of dollars does your company lost to hang-ups every year? It’s a sobering thought. Especially if you’re already understaffed and dancing as fast as you can. The North American Telecom study did reveal a silver lining. On average, callers listening to recorded information will stick around for an additional three minutes. In other words, your caller will wait on hold five and a half times longer if you offer them valuable, relevant information in the form of an on-hold message program, and the benefits don’t stop there. Research firm Jefferson Deandrus found that callers who listened to information on hold felt less agitated than those who heard music or nothing at all. In addition to improving customer satisfaction, on-hold messaging is one of the smartest, most cost-effective marketing strategies available today.
A professionally produced on-hold message program can get more return on your advertising dollar. On-hold messaging markets your products and services to a highly receptive audience, those customers and prospects who are aware and interested enough to call you. In repeated surveys, 15% to 20% of Americans report they’ve made at least one purchase prompted by on-hold marketing. You can reach more customers in a positive and professional manner. Compared to traditional forms of advertising, on-hold marketing has an enormous potential audience. Why? Because while Americans are reading fewer newspapers and enjoying more commercial-free radio and TV, they’re also spending sizeable chunks of their lives on hold. As noted previously, the average person spends about 60 hours per year parked on business calls.
You can stand out from the competition. On-hold messaging reassures first-time callers that your company is a professional, knowledgeable, and able to meet their needs. They’ll be more likely to wait and less likely to hang up, cross you off their list, and more on to your competition. You can educate your consumers. Do your repeat customers know every product and service you offer? The National Retail Merchants Association estimates that raising your repeat customers awareness could increase your sales by 30%, leverage on-hold marketing to showcase your full range offerings and increase your value to customers. You could increase foot traffic. Adding locations, hours, and directions to your on-hold marketing program encourages customers to visit your store or office.
In addition, you can give them further incentive to make the trip by announcing promotions, sales, and in-store offers. You can strengthen your brand. Over time, branding can help your company stand out from the competition and create positive associations in the minds of consumers. A professional production company can incorporate your jingle, tagline, and other brand elements into your on-hold messaging, and you can build rapport. Before they buy from you, consumers want to know and trust you. Using on-hold messaging to tell your company’s story and share your mission, vision, values, and successes. By picking up the phone and dialing your number, callers have already sent you a huge buying signal. Effective messaging assures them they’ve made the right choice even if you can’t take their call immediately.
Why do some businesses refuse to use on-hold marketing? Here are some of the common reasons they give. “Our ad budget is maxed out.” Repeated studies have demonstrated that on-hold marketing is far more cost-effective than TV, print, and radio advertising. If you’re already shelling out for expensive ads, shifting a small percentage of those dollars to on-hold marketing may improve your return on investment. “We can’t afford it.” On-hold marketing services come in all shapes and sizes. For a monthly fee of $75 to $150-plus you can contract a company to handle all aspects of your on-hold marketing, including equipment, updating, and production. However, working with a producer on a pay-as-you-go basis is often more efficient for small and medium sized businesses. “We’d have to buy a whole new phone system.” Almost all commercial phone systems in service today have an on-hold jack that will accommodate an on-hold message player. If for any reason your system is the unlikely exception, check with your phone provider for a solution. Additional interface hardware can usually correct the problem.
Some common on-hold marketing mistakes. For all its myriad of benefits, on-hold marketing can still be done badly, even very badly. Here are several of the most common mistakes businesses make that decrease the effectiveness of their on-hold marketing campaigns. Unprofessional messages. A polished on-hold message program with high production values reassures customers they’re dealing a pro. If they’re forced to sit through a fuzzy home recording of your kid screeching the company jingle, they may question your sanity. Even highly motivated callers maybe hang up if your on-hold messages make for unpleasant listening. Don’t take that chance. Invest in quality equipment and professional production, but don’t break the bank.
Repetitive messages. You’ve been on hold for what seems like eight years. Every 30 seconds, a cheerful recorded voice cuts through the muzak, “Please hold,” it chirps, “Your call is important to us.” After 73 repetitions, this statement is not only empty, it’s annoying as hell. Don’t make the same mistake. Aim for a three to five minute on-hold messaging program that contains nine to 15 messages, and none of them longer than 20 seconds to respect your caller’s attention span. Include enough content so that callers won’t hear the same information twice during their call. Outdated messages. Because on-hold messaging works in the background, it’s easy to forget it exists. If your messaging is still announcing a Christmas promotion in April, customers may suspect you’re a little on the flaky side, or worst, that you’ve gone out of business. To avoid confusion, review your program regularly and promptly remove outdated material.
If you’d like to learn more, just contact me. You can call me at 844-DAVID-VO. That’s 844-328-4386, or you can reach me by email, firstname.lastname@example.org. Whether you buy a service from me or not is irrelevant. I hope you picked up on the concept of using on-hold messaging to help your business grow.
Allan: Your 20-minute podcast with David Brower has been brought to you by Audible. You can listen to any of David’s podcasts anywhere podcasts can be found, including I Heart Radio, the Spotify mobile app, and at davidbrowervo.com/your20minutepodcast. Until next time, thanks for listening.