PHONE MUSIC ON HOLD, at one point, was a wonder. Having the technology to make music on the phone was a new idea at the time. I’m not talking about the phonograph music to listen to, offered to subscribers in 1901, but the music we hear when we wait for customer service or technical support. You mean the technology of streaming music over the phone is over 100 years old? I was quite surprised, but we are a lot of creativity. The idea in 1901 was for entertainment purposes and was a subscription service chosen by the customer. The custom that is at the center of this article is initiated by the trader without any authorization from the customer.
1. Marketers know that people engaged in an activity are less likely to hang up while on hold and will continue to accept the modern custom of playing music while on hold. Providing customers with music to listen to while waiting assumes people are sheep. This is the first mistake. We are not sheep. We have different tastes, different values of our time, different ways of working and being. Any merchant who wishes to play music to accomplish the mission of keeping us engaged during the wait time must respect us as people and consider our rights when playing unsolicited music.
2. The next mistake is to hide how inappropriate it is to force music on hold. If a business puts a radio in your washing machine that only plays one song with no way to adjust the volume, song, duration, or style; you wouldn’t buy it. Right? Unless that’s the only choice. Yes, I’m used to the freedom of choice that is offered to me in my country, so I’m not happy when a choice is blatantly deleted, like with music on hold. It is inappropriate and looks like a light form of slavery. Before doing business with a merchant, should I check to see what wonderful or abusive music I will be subjected to when I need customer service or technical support? Who needs a new item to consider in the buying process?
3. Choosing the style of music is the next mistake. We do not have the choice. With the exception of one merchant, GoDaddy.com, who should be commended for leading the effort to give the customer the choice to remove 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 say, “Do you mind if I put you on hold?” without realizing that they are subjecting the client to a barrage of non-choice.
1. From error comes great opportunity. From need comes new technology. So here we are, people. It’s now.
1. Let’s create a non-astronomically priced phone system where we all have the choice of giving our beloved customers the choice of music or silence. Many of us work on hold, so this opportunity for silence should be the norm.
2. Let’s create a low cost phone system where we can connect our favorite Pandora station to anyone’s phone system on hold. When we share our personal information or our credit card information, there may be an additional field in which we enter a specific Pandora station or genre of music, if we are not using this already established radio system. Right next to the drop-down that asks if you are using American Express, Visa, Mastercard (which is an unnecessary field as the first digit of each card number indicates what type of card it is) we may 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 intricacies of rhythm, melody, tempo, genre, social proof, etc. 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 extra 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 motivational medley, thoughtful or exhausted silence, welcoming. Option 1 would require the software to play motivating music, which might miss the mark more often than not since our motivations are different. Thoughtful or exhausted would play spa music; and the silence allowed the customer to keep working, creating, doing whatever they were 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 have a choice of 3 songs in the genre that the company knew we liked in the personal information field shown in 2. The system would sing one line of the song and then play music only for that line so that the client can sing on hold. The software would then sing the next line and repeat that line with music only for the client to continue learning and singing. The process would continue as well. The customer can repeat the process with the same song until customer service or the technical support technician intervenes. Email and other email delivery options could be made available to send lyrics or lead sheet (score with melody, rhythm and chord changes) to the client in anticipation of the call or as an add-on during the hold process.
CONCLUSION. Progress is a wonderful thing. Our inventions are based on our inspired ideas. We all have them. It is our responsibility, however, to cherish our fundamental principles, those of freedom of choice, speech and creativity. Our duty to keep our personal values in mind and to protect our personal time and space.
So let’s create phone software that will stop the abuse and be much more effective for every merchant’s marketing team than forced music on hold ever was. Let’s build our brand by taking care of our customers while respecting the fundamental right to choose. The element of music or the lack of music affects our purchasing decisions. But the choice to have or not to put music on hold must be up to the customer.