PHONE MUSIC ON HOLD, at one time, it was a blast. Having the technology to create music on the phone was a novel idea at the time. I’m not talking about the phonograph music to listen to, offered to subscribers in 1901, but the music we listen to when we wait for customer service or technical support. Are you saying that the technology for streaming music over the phone is over 100 years old? I was quite surprised, but we are very creative. The idea in 1901 was for entertainment purposes and was a subscription service chosen by the customer. The custom that is the focus of this article is initiated by the merchant without the customer’s permission.
1. Marketers know that people involved in an activity are less likely to hang up while on hold and will maintain acceptance of the modern custom of playing music during hold time. Providing customers with music to listen to while they wait assumes that people are sheep. This is the first mistake. We are not sheep. We have different tastes, different values of our own time, different ways of working and being. Any merchant who wishes to play music in order to keep us engaged during the wait time should respect us as individuals and consider our rights when playing unsolicited music.
2. The next mistake is hiding how inappropriate it is to force music on hold. If a company put a radio in your washing machine that only played one song with no way to adjust the volume, song, duration, or style; you wouldn’t buy it. Right? Unless it was the only option. Yes, I’m used to the freedom of choice given to me in my country, so I’m not happy when a choice is flagrantly removed, such as when music is on hold. It is inappropriate and resembles a mild form of slavery. Before doing business with a merchant, do I have to check what wonderful or abusive music I will be subjected to when I need customer service or technical support? Who needs a new item to factor in the buying process?
3. The choice of musical style is the next mistake. We don’t have a choice. With the exception of one merchant, GoDaddy.com, who should be commended for leading the charge in giving customers the option to turn off the music and stay silent, we get what we get when we call customer service. And, customer service and technical support agents, all over the world, are saying, “Do you mind if I put you on hold?” not realizing that they are subjecting the client to a barrage of no choice.
1. From the mistake comes a great opportunity. New technology arises out of necessity. So, here we are, people. The time is now.
1. Let’s create a phone system that is not astronomically priced where we all have the option to give our beloved customers the choice of music or mute. Many of us work on hold, so this quiet opportunity should come as standard.
2.. We are going to create a non-astronomically priced phone system where we can connect our favorite Pandora station to anyone’s on-hold phone system. When we provide our personal information or credit card information, there may be an additional field where we enter a Pandora station or a specific genre of music, if we are not using this already established radio system. Right next to the dropdown box that asks if you’re using American Express, Visa, Mastercard (which is an unnecessary field because the first digit of each card number indicates what type of card it is) we can have a genre box for music preference. including silence.
3. We seem to have lost sight of how personal music is to each of us. As a music therapist, I can discuss how the subtleties of rhythm, melody, tempo, genre, social proof, etc. they permeate and affect us. Let’s create a technology whose phone software is based on the emotional state of the customer. There would be an additional layer of the familiar voice menu, common to phone systems before putting the customer on hold, asking the customer to rate their state of mind, such as medley of motivation, pensive or exhausted, welcoming silence. Option 1 would instruct the software to play music that motivates, which would fail most of the time since our motivations are different. Pensive or exhausted I would play spa music; and the silence would allow the customer to continue working, creating, doing what he was doing before the customer service/tech support phone call.
4. Finally, we were able to create a productive and creative program that allowed us to do karaoke while we waited. We would be given a choice of 3 songs in the genre the company knew we liked from the personal information field provided in 2. The system would sing a line of the song and then play music just for that line so the customer could sing along is on hold The software would then sing the next line and repeat this line to just music so the client could continue learning and singing along. The process would continue in this way. The customer could repeat the process with the same song until the customer service or technical support person came. Email and other electronic delivery options may be available to send lyrics or a master score (score with melody, rhythm, and chord changes) to the customer prior to the call or as an adjunct during the waiting process.
CONCLUSION. Progress is a wonderful thing. Our inventions are based on our inspired ideas. We all have them. However, it is our responsibility to appreciate our fundamental principles, those of freedom of choice, expression and creativity. Our duty not to lose sight of our personal values and to protect our personal time and space.
So let’s create software for phones that stops abuse and is much more effective for every merchant’s marketing team than forced music on hold has ever been. Let’s build our brand by caring for our customer base while respecting the fundamental right to choose. The element of music or the absence of music affects our purchasing decisions. But, the choice to have or not have music on hold should be up to the customer.