The impact of on-hold music for improving customer retention

There have been several studies that have looked at the impact of on-hold music for improving customer retention during waiting time. 

Interesting findings from two of these studies are summarised below. 

In a research experiment conducted by USA Business Telephone Today to understand the impact of on-hold music, 30,000 callers were placed on hold for one minute. The callers were split into 3 groups; one group was placed on hold in silence for one minute, a second group was placed on hold listening to music for one minute and the third group were placed on hold listening to music and information for one minute. Callers (who hadn’t hung up within 60 seconds)were then asked to estimate the length of time they had been hold. 

Some fascinating findings emerged and these are summarised in the table below:

Silence

Music

Music + Information

52% hung up within 1 minute

13% hung up within 1 minute

2% hung up within 1 minute

100% estimated on hold time exceeded 1 minute

44% estimated on-hold time exceeded 1 minute

19% estimated the on-hold time exceeded 1 minute

27% estimated on hold time exceeded 5 minutes

0% estimated on-hold time exceeded 5 minutes

0% estimated on-hold time exceeded 5 minutes

Very few businesses can afford one in two of their customers to hang up after a minute which was the response of half the sample of callers who were left holding in silence. In contrast, the playing of music in the on-hold environment seemingly had a major impact on callers’ customers’ propensity to remain holding which the inclusion of information along with music improved further still. The key driver appears to be the effect music has upon the perception of time; over a quarter of the callers who were left holding in silence for one minute thought they had been holding for over five minutes compared to none of the callers who listened to on-hold music.

Research conducted by Avaya in the UK tends to support these findings. It found that silence during waiting time leads to the greatest number of people hanging up and never calling back. Furthermore, this research goes one step further stating that playing the wrong music may have a worse effect than playing none at all and quoted some hilarious real-life examples:

• A clothing firm specialising in larger sizes for women playing Queen’s “Fat-Bottomed Girls

• A mail order company playing “Hanging on the Telephone” by Blondie

• One company advised that calls would be answered shortly whilst playing the chorus of “Rocket Man” by Elton John, “I think it’s going to be a long, long time”

John Winchester, Vice President & General Manager of Avaya in UK and Ireland, said, “There is a serious side to this issue. Namely, companies can impact their bottom line by playing inappropriate music. It’s tantamount to saying ‘you mean nothing to us as a customer’ go away”. 

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