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Your 9-Step Process to the Best On Hold Messaging

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So you’ve just been told you’re in charge of handling your company’s on-hold messaging…

…but you’ve never really been trained in writing ad copy.

“That’s okay”, you say, “I can write, and if you can write, you can write… right?”

Well . . . if your goal is just to get a job done and check it off the box, then sure . . . you can just write up some cheesy stuff that sounds like every other on-hold message you’ve ever heard, get it produced, and let it ride!    You callers will continue to hate being on hold, they won’t learn a thing about your company, and they’ll probably be more irritated when they get to the phone . . .  but at least you will have it off your list, right?

Still with us? Good. That means you want to really understand how to communicate most effectively in this very unique one-on-one space with your callers!

Our writing team posed the question to the president of, a man who has spent nearly 30 years creating, voicing, and producing thousands of on hold messages for hundreds of clients all across the country, and currently owns three separate on hold marketing companies. He has 9 pointers for you about your On Hold Messaging: 3 questions to ask before you start writing, 3 mistakes to avoid as you’re writing, and 3 things you absolutely must do for a successful message.

 Before You Write, ask yourself:

 Who is calling you?   This is another way of asking “Who is my audience”?  This may seem like a self-evident question – after all, Google, Twitter, and Facebook wouldn’t be making billions of dollars for targeted ads if audience didn’t matter. So if this is the first question you asked, congratulations – you’re already thinking like the professionals! And really, it just makes sense, right?  If most of your caller demographic are men over 50, then you probably should communicate differently with them than you would if  your audience is mostly 30-year-old moms . . . right?  Of course, after you’ve answered this question, tailor your messaging to YOUR callers!

 Why are they calling? Sometimes this question has an obvious answer . . . but if you’re not actually fielding the calls, do your research.  It may be different than you believe. Get specifics. If you’re running a veterinarian clinic, you might believe that most people are calling to make an appointment, but it may very well be that they’re really calling to find out whether you’re open on Saturday!

Whatever their reasons for calling, do your best to craft messages which are written to answer their inquiries.  It will save you and your staff time, and it will signal to them that you have put some thought into your business . . . and them, which will increase their loyalty to you!

 What do you want them to DO after they hear your message?  If your messaging is engaging, professionally voiced and artfully mixed, then your callers will already be thinking of you as a more professional company,  they’ll be impressed with  your Customer Service, and they’ll be looking for ways to do business with you.  Now, tell them what to do!  Whether it’s “Ask us about our after school program”, or “Be sure to order extra saw blades today”,  if you know your audience, and you know why they’re calling, there’s a great chance they’ll do what you ask them to!  So make sure you tell them to do something.

Now you can start writing. Be sure you:

 Avoid laundry lists!  – When is the last time you called a business to discover how many brands they offer, or who all their past owners are? …right, I thought so. But every time one of our customers wants to write his or her own messaging, rather than having one of our pros write them, they invariably use at least one of their messages to say “Our Company was founded by John D. Schuck, back in 1926, and now carries the following 78 brand names . . .”  at which point, the caller, who has called to find out if you have a particular item in stock, starts contemplating abandoning the call

 Avoid long, complicated messages – It may be hard to believe, but when people are waiting on hold, they are NOT holding their calendar in front of them checking all their dates to see how it lines up with yours . . . so please don’t waste their time and yours telling them the entire calendar for the month at your organization.  Honestly, that’s just a great way to get them to tune out entirely.  And even if one out of a hundred people DO listen through all that and pay attention, what are the chances they’ll hear the whole message?  Avoid complications!

 Avoid “ad speak” –  Please don’t tell people on hold that your  “people make the difference”, how your employees  “live in the local area”, or how  what sets your company apart is “service after the sale”, or (my personal pet peeve, that it’s  “that time of year again” (for a sale, or whatever).   And I’m not just saying not to use this language because it’s not original or authentic.   More importantly, “ad speak” has been so overused, for so many years, people no longer even hear it.   It’s really, just the quickest way to get your callers to ignore your messages.

There are plenty of other things to avoid as well . . . like using the bosses’ voice on hold, using unlicensed music from your old “Kenny G” collection, or plugging in your old CD player . . . but if you dodge those three sandbars, it’ll be pretty smooth sailing.

 You’re Finished! Did you:

 Use conversational language –  For example:  When you ask your spouse what time you will  meet for supper, does she say “7pm?”  Or just “how about 7”?  Exactly.  Why should it be different if you’re talking about the hours at your medical office, or school?  Same for directions.  Which would you tell your friend “We live a 112 South Main Street, North, North west of Joe’s Diner” . . . or would you say, “We live on Main Street, across from Joe’s diner in the little red house with the white front porch”?   Use the same language you’d use when you’re talking to someone else . . . you’ll seem much more relatable, and thus, more trustworthy. (Don’t forget to make sure your on-hold provider helps you select the right voice talent to read your message in a conversational manner!)

 Stick to one subject – There is an old proverb that says “The hunter who chases two rabbits today, will be hungry this evening”.  Yes, I know you have a lot to say, but if you try to say too  much all at once, no one will remember any of it.  Simple message:  One paragraph = One Message.  It’s much more effective

 Ask for a professional editorEven if you did win writing contests in high school and you have multiple English and Marketing degrees, don’t let your ego get in the way!  The more professional the writer, the more certain it is they have a good editor!  Everyone makes mistakes, and a good on-hold editor will catch mistakes you, or even your normal on-staff proofreader, won’t.   Best of all, the best On Hold  marketing companies won’t even charge extra for the edit!

To Review:

ASK:  Before You Begin Always ask yourself:  Who is calling?  Why are they calling, and what do I want them to DO after they hear my messaging? 

AVOID: Laundry Lists, Complicated Messages and “Ad Speak”

DO: Use Conversational  Language, Stick to ONE Subject, and Ask a Professional to Edit!

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