Please hold…

Retro black phone with focus on the handset in the foreground.

Today I seem to have spent an insane amount of time in varying stages of being on hold with quite a few companies, which kind of inspires the post really. I don’t usually mind being on hold, I can get up to other things at the same time, but sometimes there is that little trigger than just makes the experience so deeply unpleasant….hold music!

Today I admit was not my worst experience, it was mostly classical or nondescript electronic music that was so bland it was ignorable. Like Rob Gordon (John Cusack) in High Fidelity says when explaining why he chose to listen to Belle and Sebastian, “I just want something I can ignore”, and whilst I couldn’t ignore Belle and Sebastian to those levels, the character has a point. When you’ve called Customer Services, generally something is wrong, so your nerves are a little frayed and you don’t need any further help down that slippery slope of shouting at the poor person who eventually answers your call. So people who run customer service lines, listen up – keep it chill, keep it ignorable, or give us options.

The worst perpetrator of musical evil whilst being on hold, in my mind, is Virgin Media. I’m not their customer anymore but when I was I hated having to call them as they went with their version of hip and cool; today’s indie hits cos we’re down with you kids. No. You’re really not. I’d rather have a frontal lobotomy than listen to Mumford and Sons, thanks! To me, it just seemed like a really contrived thing to do, and also just assuming everyone would enjoy it – I can’t stand indie music for the most part, so being made to listen to it doesn’t make the call any easier. I don’t put it on speakerphone and dance around my living room!

Now, with technology being as it is these days, your hold experience could be a lot easier. If you’re going to be on hold for sometime, give us a choice – load up a few different albums, link to an internet radio station, just bleep every once in a while to suggest you are still on hold, anything than presumed cool soundtracks to disaffected consumers; It could go a little something like this….

Phone – thank you for holding your call is important to us. The queue is currently 8 minutes. Press 1 for Mumford and Sons, Press 2 for The Locust (chances are you could listen to an entire album of their’s in 8 minutes!) or press 3 for Lady Gaga.

Now you could be super difficult and not like any of that, but go for something from most genre’s so you can choose something that’s the least annoying to your own ears.

Like I said, most times being on hold, it’s classical music and I like that. I feel vaguely calm and cultured and the call generally goes quite well afterwards, even if I don’t get the answer I want. If I am made to listen to something I find annoying, I get proper tetchy. I try not to be unpleasant to people on customer service lines because it must be a horrible job. I get shaken up when someone starts having a go at me at work on the phone. I can’t resolve their call, but I know they are frustrated and generally unhappy and they want to feel better so they have a go at the first person who picks up. I get it. There are ways to soothe jangled nerves though and that’s with music that doesn’t make the mood worse.

Also, whilst we’re on the subject, keep the volume down. You might be playing Debussy but have it up too loud where you have to pull the receiver away from your ear and that’s a whole new tension creator right there!

So please, customer service, think of the person on the end of the line, and your customer service employee. They don’t want to have to deal with someone tetchy and irritable, and the person on the other end doesn’t want to be that person either. Make the experience more pleasurable and chances are we’d get more done, unless the music is so good you want to stay on hold of course!

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