Because they’re so much a part of life today, you may think that on-hold phrases and messages have been around forever. Not so. As products and services go they’re a relatively new arrival, and as Wikipedia tells us, if it weren’t for a simple problem with a loose electrical wire, they still might not be here.
- ‘Music on hold was created by Alfred Levy, an inventor, factory owner, and entrepreneur. In 1962, Levy discovered a problem with the phone lines at his factory. He discovered that a loose wire was touching a metal girder on the building. This made the building a giant receiver so that the audio broadcast signal from a radio station next door would transmit through the loose wire and could be heard when calls were put on hold. Levy patented his work in 1966. While other advancements have come to change and enhance the technology, it was this initial patent creation that began the evolution for today’s music on hold.
So 51 years ago with his patent, Alfred Levy originated the message on-hold business and as time went by the industry grew and multiplied. And as it did certain phrases became an essential part of pretty much every package of on-hold messages. And some still are!
- In a Slate Magazine article, writer Tom Vanderbilt describes one of those phrases,
- ‘In 2012, according to Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald, an Adelaide man was kept on hold with the airline Qantas for 15 hours. As a recorded message affirmed, over and over, that a customer service agent would be with him “soon,” he simply stayed on—working, reading, waiting. As he told the newspaper, “I wanted to find out what exactly they meant when they said they would be with me as soon as possible.’
Good question mate! But it’s just one that on-hold message writers need to consider when composing new scripts with old promises, clichés and language that are stiff, inappropriate, or meaningless. Think about some other old standby phrases like, ‘we apologize for this delay’. Delay? Some people listening on hold just got there.
- What about a message giving your telephone number when your caller obviously already has it?
- And even when the message is right, the language can be wrong. If you were actually speaking with your telephone caller, would you really say ‘We invite you to visit us at our web site.’ Rather formal. (Lighter is brighter.)
- Whether on the telephone or off, we need to choose words that really talk to people.
These are just some of the old but tired phrases that have been part of the message on- hold industry for a long while. Perhaps it’s time for a refreshing spring cleaning.
(Just ask for Ken)