Millennials Say AT&T’s Hold Music Actually Helps Them Look Forward to Conference Calls

Millennials Say AT&T’s Hold Music Actually Helps Them Look Forward to Conference Calls

Smiling and a positive outlook can help with your stamina and performance, according to neuroscience research.

If you are like me, you’ve probably spent a fair amount of time dialing into conference calls and waiting for other participants and/or the host to arrive, essentially on hold. And maybe you’re not smiling while you’re waiting. Maybe, instead, you feel a little frustrated.

In that situation, engaging transition or hold music when dialing into a conference call can help set the tone for a productive exchange. I noticed the effect of positive hold music when the team of young strategy consultants I work with became visibly more upbeat listening to AT&T’s conference call music. Here’s a sample from YouTube, if you’d like to hum along:

I reached out to my favorite audio branding expert, Colleen Fahey, for her insights. She’s Managing Director at Sixieme Son USA and author of Audio Branding: Using Sound To Build Your Brand. Fahey offers her observations about this particular song, along with AT&T’s audio branding in general:

"It has a carefree feeling, which certainly helps reduce pre-call anxiety. The beat is relaxed, but there are little variations in the rhythm to keep it interesting--and new instruments build in after the intro, giving it a mood-lift.  The loop, too, is well-executed, making it feel seamless. As a functional sound, it does the job. As branding goes, though, AT&T could be more intentional about leaving a consistent earprint both here and, for instance, in their YouTube channel where their sound is all over the place and nothing ends with a branded audio logo." 

While I’ve heard this familiar AT&T hold music for years, for my younger colleagues, it literally struck the right note. I saw them straighten up and take notice. These Millennials wished their own company would take hold of its audio identity and make it something they were proud of, as this comment illustrates:

“This music is really good, I like it. I wish our boss would let us use more interesting music for our company hold. Right now we use something really boring.”

Millennials Say AT&T’s Hold Music Actually Helps Them Look Forward to Conference CallsWe’ve explored the topic of audio branding before with Colleen Fahey and how this can help make business presentations at conferences and sales meetings more productive by setting the tone.

Research has found that playing music the customer likes “reduces the perception of waiting time and increases satisfaction.” By comparison, offering information cues such as the amount of time left to wait or your place in line, did not have an impact. Earlier research found that customers who had wait times that were “filled” with music tended to have higher customer satisfaction and more positive perception of the business. Also, providing choice of listening options (i.e., silence, choice of music) was helpful. Of course, if the hold time becomes overly long, none of these tactics will work.

Recently, I’ve toured several call centers, where thousands of phone calls are processed daily. Working with call center expert Jay Minnucci, President of Service Agility, I’ve learned about features that give callers a sense of greater choice and control, such as virtual hold. Virtual hold is where the caller is given an estimate of how many minutes the expected hold time is, and the option to leave their number for a callback in a virtual queue. Personally, I love this feature as it means I don’t have to listen to music for such long periods of time. With shorter holds, however, I will choose to wait and frequently the feature is not available. Again, engaging music would help make me feel that the time I’m spending is productive and upbeat.

While it’s also possible to load the hold time with messages about other products and services, frankly, I find that unappealing. I like to envision the organization I’m calling will help first with the reason I’m calling, and is happy to do so (as the upbeat music implies), rather than trying to sell me other things. It seems reasonable that most customers would feel the same way. Minnucci adds:

“The best wait is no wait at all. The one thing we know when a customer calls us is that this is the absolute best time for them to call, so anything that delays the answer is an inconvenience. If you are going to inconvenience your customers, you better do everything you can to make the wait as pleasant as possible. Yes, a message that is truly informative (and not an infomercial) can help. For longer waits, though, you need to entertain your customer, and the right music goes a long way to encourage some patience.”

For conference call wait times and customer call centers, the choice of hold music is more important than we might have initially thought. Audio branding continues to be a great opportunity for adding value to your customers and differentiating your company.

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    Michal Clements

    Michal is co-author of Tuning Into Mom and an experienced consultant. Michal develops winning growth strategies and detailed go to market plans for some of the world’s outstanding organizations including McDonald’s, Gatorade, Abbott, Barilla, Tylenol, Clorox, Key Bank, Eagle Ottawa, Quaker and the Baker Demonstration School.

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