I recently read an article written by Tom Vanderbilt for Slate titled “Your Call is Important to Us: The History and Psychology of Hold Music” and found it very interesting from a historical perspective to help explain why it is so common to hear on hold music and messaging when you are placed on hold today.
How Did It All Begin?
According to the article, on hold music first appeared mid-20th century highlighting the filing of an application for a “Telephone Hold Program System” at the U.S Patent Office to help end the tediousness of silence when placed on hold. That was in 1962. After this filing, the movement to music being played to the eventual addition of a message on hold program grew quickly. Today, it is almost impossible to be placed on hold and not hear something. On hold messaging has become so popular that these companies even have a trade group OHMA.
So Why the Popularity of On Hold Music and Messaging?
Studies have shown that having nothing playing will cause a caller to just hang up. Clearly not the result any company wants. So they fill that void with a professional on hold music and messaging program to retain customers. But why do callers stay on the line?
The article points to psychology to help explain this phenomenon. In the British Journal of Psychology, music has a positive effect while waiting due to its effect on our perception to the passage of time. Familiar music can make one’s wait time seem longer than music that is less familiar. It is worth noting as we pointed out in an earlier blog, the type of music callers listen to matters too.
On Hold Messaging Matters
Looking at this industry from this historical as well as psychological perspective all helps to illustrate that having something for your customers to listen to while they are on hold makes a difference in terms of their satisfaction and how long they’re on hold. Its continued popularity and growth across all industries clearly shows the need to make use of this time with your customers. It is a simple solution to a marketing gap that may exist in your company.