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I get inquiries daily from individuals who are exploring the use of On Hold messaging as one way of better serving their customers and boosting their sales. If you don't have an On Hold message, please read this, it might help in better understanding how this valuable marketing tool can be implemented.


By: Victor Locke -

What do your customers or potential customers hear when they call your business?

Hopefully, a friendly voice on the other end, willing to help them with their questions or needs.  In today's business world, often times we have to put callers on hold. This is your chance to "capture" that caller with helpful information, rather than leave them in a zone of uncertainty.

On Hold Messaging isn't new. It's been around for years. The idea of playing a "sales" message to those we put on hold was first introduced more than 15 years ago. Some tried to emulate on hold by hooking a radio up to their phone. Sometimes, customers heard competitors messages while on hold. Not good!

Others rig up CD players and IPods to play a message they've produced. They simply put the player on "loop" and it works great, until the first power hit or the CD wears out! Then your customers once again are left in the ozone.

The answer is to use a good quality on hold player. Sure, it may cost more than that $69.99 CD player you hooked up, but it's your company's reputation that's at stake. You don't want to play something of lousy quality to your customers do you? Use a device designed for On Hold messaging. Look for a device with these features: Easy uploading of new messages, non-volatile memory, solid state, low power consumption, dust proof (we all know how dusty those phone closets can get) and high quality audio. Older On Hold players used to incorporate cassette tape players. Today, you can buy completely solid state players. Fewer moving parts means great reliability and longevity. You should be able to set it up, and let it rip, without worrying about it constantly. Most phone pbx systems have a plug marked "music" or "moh" where you simply plug in your player. Check out your phone system. If you have such a plug, you're ready to go! With today's player, you can move a new on hold production from your office computer to your on hold player in a matter of seconds with a pocket drive.

OK, so you have the equipment side figured out, now what's the message you're delivering to your customers? Perhaps you want to:

   *Sell your products or services
   *Answer their questions
   *Help them with an issue
*Answer questions your phone staff usually is asked 
*Impart information that cuts down on phone time and frustration for your customer and your staff alike 
*Tell the history of your company, your business philosophy
*Give directions and hours of operation for your business

The list is endless. This is all possible with a well written, well crafted On Hold message. Many customers often ask me how long an on hold message should be. Basically, an effective on hold should run two to five minutes and consist of three to six short, 20-30 second "pitches" with "listenable" music in between. Research shows many people placed on hold, spend 40-80 seconds waiting. They will hear at least one, if not more of your messages. Before deciding on an on hold program, try to determine how long your customers are on hold. Plan your message accordingly. It's not hard to figure out. It only takes a day or two of monitoring phone calls and will help in determining if you should use an on hold program and if so how long it should be.

Lastly, businesses with On Hold programs should "educate" their staff about the program. Be sure your staff knows what the on hold message says, so information they give over the phone coincides with the on hold message in case a caller asks for clarification on something they heard. Be sure your staff knows the answers to questions an on hold message my precipitate. Many times, on hold messages may prompt a caller to "...ask for more details when we return to the line." If you get someone interested in a product or service you have to sell while on hold, you could be half way to making a new sale. Don't lose that business because your staff person doesn't know what to do with the call when asked.

None of us like to put our callers on hold, but sometimes it's necessary. If your business has high phone traffic, and you put a lot of callers on hold, you could be losing $$$ without an On Hold message. One sale could more than pay for your initial on hold investment. Often times we don't think twice about spending big dollars for newspaper, radio or tv advertising. We can't be sure all the time that someone is hearing or reading our message. With On Hold, you have a captive audience and chances are good, with a well produced message, you'll get your point across, which could translate into increased business and sales. I'd be happy to help you out. Just ask! Also, for tips on writing an on hold greeting, see Permission to reuse with credit granted.