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The 5 Rules of Creating the Most Effective On Hold Messaging

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1.  Speak Directly to Your Audience

When you write an on hold message, you’re speaking with just one person—the customer you have on hold. Don’t waste your time talking over his head to an imaginary crowd! Address him directly—phrases like “you already know”, “your needs”, “you, our customer” all make sure the caller feels (even subconsciously) like the message was written just for him.

Since you’re talking to just one person at a time, do them a favor and talk about everyone’s favorite subject: THEM. Too often, people want to use on hold messages to brag about themselves, how long they’ve been around, what degrees and credentials they have. It’s boring. Think about that one guy at work, always talking about his favorite hobby horse, and relates every conversation back to it. Don’t be that guy.

That doesn’t mean don’t talk about your business! Just focus on how you help your caller. In other words, when you’re saying something, be sure you’re using your customer’s – or potential customer’s – language!  That makes it a more positive experience for them, every single time!

And as a corollary…  Speak to one person at a time.  Avoid language or a tone that sounds like you are speaking to “all those people out there in radioland”.

2. Be Who You Are to Your Customers – Yourself!

No, I don’t mean try to voice your own on hold advertising . . . remember the last time you heard a car commercial by the guy who works at the lot?  No, always – and I mean always – use a professional service, but use one who speaks from your perspective, and to your target demographic.   Effective communication on hold should be communicated in a voice that really represents your business.

Remember, when someone is waiting on hold, what they hear is the “waiting room” . . . using the cheesiest kind of on hold messaging is like having an old folding metal chair and a 20 year old copy of Farm Tires Weekly on the table.  No business in their right mind, from a marketing perspective, will do that, right?  So don’t do it in your on hold “waiting room”.

Here’s a quick rule of thumb when it comes to any kind of advertising:  if you’re selling fittings and valves, or veterinarian services, but your messaging would work just as well selling doorknobs or cheeseburgers, STOP! Get with a reputable on hold marketing provider, and get it changed – today!   They’ll help you write messaging designed to educate your customers, enhance your professionalism, and improve your bottom line.

And as a corollary… Don’t try to be somebody,  or even worse –  everybody –  else.  How many times have you decided to make a purchase from a company when you are on hold and you hear “Thank you for holding, we’ll be right with you” played over some cheesy keyboard music?    

3.  Stick to ONE Subject at a Time.

As celebrated American author, businessman, and success coach Stephen Covey said, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”  So . . . what is your Main thing?  Is it fast service?  The best widget on the market?  Both? Something else?  What really sets you apart?  Once you figure that out, and you say it, be sure you drive that home.  Of course, you can have different scripts as a part of your on hold messaging, but within each script, try hard to stick to the subject.

Whatever you are selling, stick to that one thing. If you have multiple products to sell, find out what binds them together and sell that. People on hold are not giving you their full attention – walk them down too many paths and they’ll get confused and miss your sales message.

And as a corollary… No Laundry Lists!  Please don’t waste people’s time with a list of all the brands you carry.  The chances you’ll sell something because someone heard your product “line list” is about the same as the chance you’ll catch any particular fish by putting 4 different lures on the line at the same time

4.  Get to the Point

You have to say what you need to say quickly, succinctly, and repeatedly.   Of course, how often, how succinctly and how quickly all depends on the particulars of your business and its callers.  How long are people on hold?  Where are they calling from?  What kind of people are calling?

These are hard questions to answer . . . and even when you know the answers, how should you then create your scripts?  How much music should you put between them, if any?  What genre will work best for your callers?  Well, that’s why we have Rule 5…

And as a corollary… don’t write your own messaging. Unless you are a professional writer, trained to write advertising for the ear, getting to the point is difficult.  And aren’t you trying to sell something else anyway?

5. Hire the Professionals

Doing your own on-hold messaging is not a DIY project. There’s a lot to consider – far beyond the basics of what genre of music you should play or how many messages.  How long should each message be?  How should I EQ the voice and music to sound good on a phone line?  What type of mic should I use to create on-hold messaging? How do I mix the audio best for on hold?  Like representing yourself in court, doing your own on-hold messaging is always a bad idea.  Hire the pros.  You’ll save tons of time . . . and you will probably be surprised at how affordable it is!

This rule is a little more involved, so here are the steps to follow:

Find a company where on-hold messaging is at least 80% of their business.  They’ll have the scriptwriters, voices, audio talent and technical savvy to help you make your program effective and make it sound great on your phone system!

If someone tries to sell you a machine and a one-time message, don’t just walk – run to the next provider!  Find one who understands that good on-hold messaging has to be changed periodically to be effective.

Find a company that provides the necessary equipment and includes it as a part of their program.  That way, when technology changes, you don’t get hit with another bill!

In summary…  the most effective on hold messaging speaks directly to your audience, in a professional voice they will relate to while getting to the point about one subject at a time!  In order to do this, we recommend you hire a professional On Hold Messaging Company who has a team that can help you do this quickly, effectively, and affordably and can help you develop a marketing plan to keep it fresh!

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