Have you ever thought about who writes those messages you hear when you’re waiting on hold? If you have, the writer hasn’t done a very good job. Because you shouldn’t be thinking about how the message was written; whether it’s clever or funny, and certainly not if it’s annoying or pushy.
You should be thinking about the product, service or special offer. And if the writer did a really god job, you should be thinking about how much you want that product, service or special deal, or at least that you need to know more about it.
Well, I’m the guy you never think about. Because I write many of the on hold messages for Mind The Gap clients. And I’m here to tell you how it’s done.
On Hold Messages Are Unlike Most Other Ads
I’ve been writing advertising for more than 30 years. I started as an ad agency copywriter. I was an agency creative director. I taught advertising to college students for 10 years, and I still write TV commercials, print ads, videos, and websites as well as on hold messages. So I can say with some authority that writing on hold messages is unique.
With traditional advertising, the first thing you need to do is get attention. If someone is watching TV, you’ve got to keep them from hitting the remote or taking off for the bathroom. When you create a print ad, you’ve got to keep people from turning the page.
But with on hold messages, you already have a captive audience. No tricks, no jokes, no heart-tugging moments are needed. In fact, such typical advertising ploys can be counter-productive. They can get in the way of the message.
With traditional advertising, one of the main goals is to get the audience to remember your name. It’s all about creating brand awareness, and often the most important thing is to make people remember your brand in a positive way. Think of the GEICO gecko. He was created to make you remember the name of the company; and to make you feel fondly about an insurance company!
With on hold messages, people already know who you are. They’ve called you! So creating brand awareness is one huge hurdle you don’t need to tackle.
How On Hold Messages Are the Same As Other Advertising
With all the differences, on hold messages are still quite a bit like all the other advertising we see every day. Their purpose is to make you aware of a particular product, service or offer; and to motivate you to take some action. It could be anything from making an inquiry to making a purchase or simply filing away the information for future use.
That requires more than just telling the audience something; you’ve got to tell them in a way that’s relevant to them, a way that makes them see how they can benefit, and in a way that they’re likely to remember.
So let’s take a look at some basic guidelines for writing effective on hold messages.
- Keep it Simple – You may have a captive audience, but don’t make the mistake of assuming they’re paying attention. Keep the message simple, short and to the point. Remember, too, that they may not hear the message from the beginning. (On hold messages run on a loop. When the caller dials in and gets put on hold, they hear the message from whatever point it happens to be at.) The listener has to be able to “get” what you’re saying even if they haven’t heard the message from the start.
- Say it Again – It’s a good idea to repeat the message in a slightly different way. If they didn’t get it all the first time, it may register the second time. Be sure, however, to change it up a bit. Never be boring.
- Make it Conversational – People are less likely to pay attention if they feel like they’re being read to, lectured to, or “sold” to. A good on hold script is written and performed to sound natural and conversational.
- Put Yourself in the Listener’s Place – Think about what’s interesting, important and relevant to the listener. How does what you’re promoting benefit him or her? Does it save them money, make things more convenient, provide a choice that isn’t otherwise available or just make them feel good about doing business with the company? Consider who the caller is likely to be. Is it a busy mother, a student, a senior citizen, business executive? You can’t always zero in on an exact type, but when you can, it really helps to think like they might think.
- Assume The Voice of the Business – Remember that your on hold message is perceived as the voice of the company. It isn’t just a commercial they hear when they call the business. So speak with an attitude and personality that’s right for the business. A message for a doctor’s office, for example, should have a different vibe than a message for a restaurant.
- Be Descriptive But Clear & Concise – Paint pictures with words to make the message more appealing; but be careful not to go overboard. You don’t want to sound too flowery. You don’t want to use words that the listener won’t immediately understand. And you don’t want to sound like an over-enthusiastic late-night infomercial. (In my opinion, nothing should sound like a late-night infomercial. Not even a late-night infomercial.)
Writing an effective on hold message is not rocket science. You just need to find the essence of the subject matter, figure out what it is about that subject that will interest the listener, then tell someone who is not paying full attention, who probably hasn’t heard your message from the beginning, and is calling for a completely unrelated reason. Oh and by the way, you have to make sure the caller feels important and not like he or she is being ignored. After all, that’s a customer on the phone!
Done right, on hold messaging makes callers feel like they’re getting attention even when they’re on hold, it gives them a feel for the personality of the company, and it informs them about things the business does that may be of interest to them