Archive for the ‘On Hold Marketing’ Category

garbage can2 Watch out for this Audio Branding Mistake

Oftentimes we get asked to help companies with their on-hold music or IVR systems. Typically our clients for these types of projects are just getting started or they’ve had a system but it wasn’t customized to their needs. Now they are looking to step up their game, which is good for everyone involved including the customer who calls on our clients.

What sometimes happens is that companies also forget that a voice is needed for these types of projects. This isn’t so much a problem because it’s easy enough to book a professional voice actor or actress to do the job (click the link to visit our friends at However, it seems that it never gets budgeted for or that it gets neglected in some way or another. This is where the problem lies.

Instead of procuring a professional voice over, companies will use someone internally to save costs. I guess the thinking goes, “since we have a couple hundred people on staff surely we can find someone with a nice voice”. In general, this approach never turns out well.

What ends up happening is one of two things and sometimes both. First, the recording will be of low quality, sometimes with audible clicks and pops in the audio. Along with this, the clarity of the speech gets mangled. The other issue with this method is that there is very little opportunity to build brand equity. In order to build an audio identity you need to make sure you use your sound consistently across all sorts of mediums (we’ll be talking about the mediums in an upcoming post). Time and again, we’ve found that this is not possible when you use the voice of an employee as they usually have other responsibilities.

One thing to remember is that your phone system is your first point of contact with customers – you need to present a professional image. After all, you wouldn’t show up to a client meeting in sweatpants, unless of course you’re a personal trainer.

So, make sure you take the time to invest in a professional voice actor for all of your business activities. It’ll save you money and headaches in the long run and will help you build a stronger brand that can withstand the test of time.

You’ve seen me ramble on about how to make a successful radio ad or creating a better experience for customers who call you and even the top 10 audio logos and what if you want to put them all together into on cohesive audio brand?

Well, here are 5 things you need in order to maximize the ROI of your audio identity.

Memorable – Is your audio branding program memorable? If you’re going to invest in music and sound for your brand then you want to make sure people can remember your brand by the sound it makes. Memorability will play a large role in how successful your audio branding program will be.

Flexible – A good audio identity must be flexible enough to be used in many different ways. Just like the visual logo that a company uses, an audio asset, such as and audio logo, can now be used in many different mediums. It’s also important to be flexible so that the identity can change with time and still maintain its memorability.

Distinctive – Have you ever tried to name a song after the first 3 seconds? It’s certainly possible for the average person to do and this should be your goal. With that said, one thing you want to ensure is that your brand isn’t just another whizz bang sound. Each part of your audio identity must be distinctly yours.

Congruent – One of the best ways to make the most out of your investment in music and sound is to make sure that your audio identity naturally fits your brand and your audience. For example, if you own a Japanese restaurant then playing traditional Japanese music would be a good idea. However, you need to balance this with a bit of surprise because if you get too close to exactly what people expect then they get bored.

Purpose – As with many branding techniques it’s important to seek out a purpose for each asset. This will give staff and employees a true reason to keep using the audio brand in the way it was intended. The best example of this is the NBC Chimes which have a wonderful history that you can read in the linked article.

One thing to think about is that it’s not always possible to have all 5 parts present. Sometimes one aspect may be stronger then another and that careful balance is where an audio branding expert can help you make the most of your investment in music and sound.

Having an on hold or IVR system is a great way to keep customers happy and minimize cost to your company…if it’s done correctly.

A friend of mine recently told me a story of a client of his who had an on hold marketing system. The system was easy to use and inexpensive. The company in question simply connected a local radio station to their phone lines so that when customers were put on hold they could at least listen to the radio. Of course we think that playing music to help user experiences is great, however, the execution wasn’t so sexy.

The problem with this type of system is that the business itself doesn’t have control over the content that is playing on their phone. For many businesses this could mean that a commercial for a competing business could end up on your phone. Of course for my friend’s client this is exactly what happened. The business owner of course had never thought of it but is now well award of the quote “you get what you pay for”.

In many cases the best way to reduce waiting time to deliver a service is to adjust the delivery system. That said you can only go so far with this method before quality starts to drop. In this brief article I want to share with you a few ways music can help create a better retail environment.

Music is a powerful mechanism for improving mood. Many of you have seen the recent viral video of a retired man hearing music from an earlier part of life and when he does you can see the joy come right back to him as if he was 16 again. In a similar fashion you can use music to improve the environment of your store or on hold system.

The key to success in using music to influence mood is to make it congruent with the environment or what is expected of the environment. That means if you run a fitness club you can choose energizing music but if you are a classy upscale restaurant then you should try some jazz or classical music.

Music tempo, the speed of music, is an influencer in how fast or slow we do things. For example, if you are a restaurant and you want to turn tables over a little quicker during a dinner service without upsetting customers then a faster tempo music can be used to aid in speeding up eating habits. When this happens your staff will be able to move quicker without jarring the customer.

Volume also has an impact. In this case you want the volume level to match your target demographic. Loud music typically would attract a younger audience where is softer music would be great for your parents.

All of these things help to improve mood and in some cases help to change the perception of wait time. Again, the one thing to remember is that music played in your store is a piece of your brand so it must be congruent or it will fail to attract your target audience.

Questions? Comments? Leave them below.

Have you ever cried during a sad song? Get pumped during a workout with your iPod? Music is powerful stuff my friend.

Recent research at How Stuff Works has shown how music can change the chemical balances in our minds. It also seems that medical researchers are paying closer attention to how music can change the mood of patients. Medical centers are now looking into the idea that audio branding can help calm and sooth patients.

As a marketing professional you’ll be curious to know that music and sound can also have an impact on how people perceive your brand. Careful selection of your advertising music, on-hold music and even your corporate lobby must take place if you intend to maximize the power of your brand.

Next time you are waiting for something have a listen to what’s around you. How does if make you feel?

Continuing in the series why your on hold marketing sucks let talk about the second half, the technical problems.

Phone Technology

Up until recently phone lines have been designed to carry voice data. What this means is that when you speak into a phone only certain parts of the voice sound will get through. Through methods of compressing the sound high and low frequencies (sound waves) are cut off. So, when an on hold system plays music across a phone line part of the music will naturally be degraded.

The second issue is that phone technology still uses monophonic sound. This makes sense since we’re only listening with one ear. I personally don’t see this changing until we can dial and pick up a call all in our head. Monophonic isn’t so much of a problem but we expect more because our life is in stereo or 5.1 surround depending on who you talk too.

The solution to both of these problems is to know the limits of the system. When a composer creates music for an on hold system he or she must know the limits. That means no big bass sounds or high piccolo melodies. This idea also holds true for the audio engineer who is producing the music.

On Hold Technology

Technology everywhere is improving by the minute. Nowhere is this more true than in sound design.

One of the problems with on hold technology is that it followed my rule, you should design for the limitations of the system. It’s a safety feature in a way so that you don’t overload the capabilities of a phone. What this means is that most on hold technologies only allow you to place mp3 files on the line. Mp3 is a lower quality format because it compresses the audio, which has a similar effect to the issue I mentioned above.

Some newer systems allow you to play CDs on the phone line. This is a great step but can get many unsuspecting marketers in trouble. Primarily you’ll overwork the phone line and cause distortion, a nasty sound to say the least.

Again, the best way to solve these problems is to know what you can and can’t do. Mp3′s can be of high quality if produced correctly, but it will never stand beside full spectrum audio files. So, another part of this solution is to know that what you hear on the phone is not meant to be a movie going experience. However, using the proper techniques will get you one step closer.

I hope this series has been helpful in creating solutions to your on hold marketing problems. If you have any questions please place them in the comments below.

on hold Why Your On Hold Marketing Sucks   Part I

"Your call is important..."

For many people being put on hold is just a fact of life. Do we really need to suffer through mediocre music and poor quality sound? Well, the short answer is yes but I’d like to help you change that.

On average businesses spend 96% of their marketing budget on inducing calls while only 4% of their budget is spent on call center activities. With budget allocations like this is it any wonder why businesses aren’t seeing results from their on hold marketing?

Over the next two weeks I’m going to discuss with you why your on hold marketing is not reaching its potential and I’ll give you ideas on how you can improve.

Lets start by outlining what the main issues are:

  1. Customer service
  2. Poor technical standards

Customer Service

I’m not sure what the percentages would be but I can safely assume that one of the top priorities for companies is the service they provide to their customers. In fact, many businesses will state in their mission that they will provide excellent customer service. Here’s the problem we lie through our teeth, a lot. Think about the last time you called a company and received the message “We are experiencing higher than normal call volume…” This may be true but I find it highly unlikely when I call at 2am.

The other message we hear a lot is “Your call is important. Please hold.” If I am really important you’d be on the phone with me right now. No?

It’s not all bad but you should understand the economics here. To have an agent waiting for every call would put a serious strain on your organization. On hold systems make sense from cost perspective. They also make sense for three other reasons – reducing drop calls, improving mood of callers and increasing sales.

What I am suggesting to you is that you change your message not the medium.

Case in Point – WestJet

I want to point out a company that does this really well, WestJet. Now, it has been over a year since I’ve last had to call them but when I did they made light of the fact that you are on hold. They didn’t dance around it and neither should you. They used a time estimation for how long you would be waiting. Plus, WestJet also used the time as a opportunity to provide you with useful information.

The end result: I came out loving WestJet for being honest and providing excellent service. And look I’m spreading the word.

Okay, that should do it for today. Please check back next week for the second half where I’ll cover some of the technical problems. If you have any questions please share in the comments below.

Waiting on hold isn’t the greatest thing in the world. However, for many businesses it is a necessity to have an on hold marketing strategy. Not only does it make economic sense from a cost savings perspective, but recent data shows that 20% of callers make a purchase because of what they heard while on hold.

Here are a few tips on how to create an enjoyable experience for your clients and customers who are waiting for you:

1. Keep it Slow
Using slower tempo music reduces the perception of wait time. Studies have also shown that slower music helps to relax the mind and ease aggression.
Read on »


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