Tipsheet: Avoid These Five On Hold Marketing Mistakes

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On Hold Company CEO Bryant Wilson explains some of the pitfalls to avoid in on-hold messages.

"I spend half my life on hold!" It's a common consumer complaint with an element of truth: more than half of calls placed to businesses are put on hold. Smart companies use strategic on-hold marketing messages to turn hold time into a positive experience for the caller and the business, says On Hold Company CEO Bryant Wilson.

“It’s imperative for businesses to use that time on hold to present information that is relevant to callers,” Wilson said. “Use things that add value to the messages as a marketing tool.”

Wilson offers the following five mistakes to avoid when creating on-hold marketing messages for a business:

“Thank you for holding”: While well-intentioned, a recorded message reminding callers that they're on hold can actually have the opposite effect. “It’s old school,” Wilson said. “It doesn’t feel genuine to the caller, despite the intention. Instead, train your staff members to say ‘Thank you for holding’ when they answer the call. It’s much more sincere that way.”

Using alternative phone numbers: Putting alternative phone numbers in on-hold messages is not a well-planned strategy on two levels. First, you are telling a customer who has dialed one number to hang up and call another number. But the real inconvenience for the caller is that unless they have a pen and paper handy, recalling that alternative phone number can be difficult.

“It’s a short-term memory issue for most people,” Wilson said. “Short-term memory can recall a website without writing it down, because there is a logic and a rhythm to it. But if they aren’t expecting you to throw out a 10-digit number, they aren’t likely to remember that.”

Too many technical details: On-hold marketing is a series of short messages, about 30 seconds each. It’s not the time to dive deep into technical specifications about a company’s products or services. Instead, focus on the features and benefits. “Highlight the big points, what captures the imagination,” Wilson said. “The goal here is to pull them in and make them want to know more.”

“... when we return to your call.”: Like “Thank you for holding.”, this phrase may sound polite. But don’t give callers reason to feel that you have “left” them. “Some callers will already be annoyed by having to wait on hold,” Wilson explained. “Giving them the feeling you have ‘left’ them might be just the excuse they need to hang up and call the next company on the list.”

Outdated information: On-hold marketing is a great opportunity for businesses to promote products, services and even special promotions. But if a caller gets excited about an offer mentioned in an on-hold message and then is told that offer has expired, it can leave the caller doubting the business’s credibility. “Updating your on-hold messages frequently shows callers that you are on top of all facets of your business,” Wilson said. “Plus, frequent changes keep the marketing sounding fresh to frequent callers. A business doesn’t use the same radio or TV commercial for very long without becoming stale. The same rules apply to on-hold marketing.”

About On Hold Company
On Hold Company ( is a leading provider of custom telephone on-hold music and messages. The company has been in business since 1994 and provides on-hold marketing for more than 13,000 clients across North America. On Hold Company also provides digital signage solutions, telephone voice prompts and overhead music and messaging services.

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Scott Anderson
On Hold Company
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since: 09/2010
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