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Telephone Audio – Getting the Most from IVR and On Hold Marketing

Image of a businessman on his mobileIVR is short for Interactive Voice Response, an automated system that uses a touch response telephone to direct your call. You will have one of these if you have multiple departments with lots of incoming calls.

60% of callers put on a silent on-hold hang up within 40 seconds and callers put on-hold with messages and music will stay about 3 minutes longer.

55% of communication is lost over the phone (body language), leaving us with 38% through tone of voice and just 7% through words.

As you can see from these statistics, giving the wrong message in the wrong tone could actually damage your sales and your reputation.

Many companies spend time and money on their visual branding (logo and leaflets) but neglect their telephone audio. Your sonic branding is as important as your visual branding.

This article looks at some of the common mistakes made with IVR and on hold marketing. It also outlines some good techniques to use.

You rang !

It is best to have just a few options on your telephone on hold system. People lose interest quickly so listing every department is not always a good idea. Think about it from the customers’ point of view, what will they be calling your company for? To buy products? Information? To make a complaint?

It is recommended that you keep it to 3 or 4 salient options max if you can. If you think that you need 7 or 8 options, be ruthless; cut it down to the 3 or 4 relevant points. You can always have the 4th option to cover all other enquires.

Remember, the purpose of telephone IVR options is to get the potential client through to the most relevant department as quickly as possible. Failing that, you need to get them to remain on hold until you are able to deal with their call.

Thank you for calling ABC, for sales please press 1 – for product information press 2 – for all other enquiries press 3…

Make it simple and friendly and always use a professional voice over. People relate to it better and psychologically, it is more accepted and expected by the caller. Your company will sound established and efficient and will instantly inspire confidence. You can always tell when a member of the office records the IVR options, you know, the one with the best telephone voice.

Think about the type of voice-over you want to use… What image do you want your company to portray in the mind of the listener? What is your target market?

Using a voice-over style that will connect with your caller is important. You don’t want a mature corporate voice if your company is aimed at 18-25 year olds, and likewise, you don’t want a young radio type voice if your are a firm of lawyers.

Please Hold!

Being on hold can be annoying, however, you can entertain and use this time to inform and educate your caller about your company, services and products. A silent on-hold is extremely cold and the hold time seems much longer than it actually is, which often results in callers hanging up. Give them something to keep their attention.

Music On Hold

Music can alleviate boredom, however, make sure your music is properly licensed for use on a telephone on hold system, otherwise you could face a copyright infringement charge.

Also, do select on hold music carefully. Not everybody has your taste in music… for example, a banging hip-hop track may alienate some of your callers. It is usually best to go for music that is easy on the ear or chilled and relaxing. Royalty free music is a good choice for on hold use as the caller has no preconceptions about the piece – they just accept it as background music.

As with the voice, it is also advisable to pick music that is relevant to the company image you want to portray. It is acceptable for a nightclub to use a pumping dance track, but clearly this would be wrong for an accountants office.

It is good practice to thank the caller for holding, but not every 5 seconds! Many on hold systems work on a continuous loop. I suggest having your ‘thank you for holding…’ message at the beginning and in the middle of the loop. Intervals of 20-30 seconds don’t disrupt the music too much but remind your caller that you care.

Entertain, Educate and Sell!

Don’t waste the opportunity you have when a caller is on hold. You have a captive audience. You have a great opportunity to keep them occupied and educate them about your products and services.

It is best not to blatantly advertise, or to cram as many ads in as possible. A more subtle approach is far less intrusive and more appreciated by the caller. On-hold marketing should use voice and music combined. They are both important elements so let any adverts breath; make sure there is music on either side of them to break things up.

When it comes to writing advertising on hold, make your advert short and to the point. I am not an advertising expert, but, making it engaging and entertaining can really count.

Simple messages can work best, for example:

Thank you for holding, did you know ABC limited sells more widgets in the UK than any other company, and can price match any quote.

This Autumn we have great savings on widgets, ask your operator for details.

You get the idea. Short sentences, no hard sell and let people hear the music before and after the voice; this is when they will take in and process the information.

This article is based on our experience of creating on hold audio packages for many clients. We have a limited knowledge about on hold equipment, but we advise that you always test any newly installed audio.

Phone your company as a client to check that it all works. Is the volume right? Is it clear? Are there anomalies in the system that cause delays or the first split second to be cut off?

There is nothing worse than hearing your perfectly produced on hold audio being butchered by incorrectly configured hardware. Your callers will notice it, but won’t say anything about it. Not to you anyway!

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