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Call centres: Study reveals which brands have the worst hold music

23rd Oct 2014
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Nothing gets the blood boiling quite like opening up the can-of-worms-debate that is hold music. Just check out this exchange from UK Business Forums, back in 2006.

Even now, with everything we know about contact centres, self-service and IVR support, the issue of hold music remains a key driver in determining whether or not a customer has had a positive experience with a company’s customer service team on the telephone.

While most consumer opinion is forged by the length of time kept on hold in the call centre process, a recent survey from Powwownow also found that 81% of consumers’ moods are swayed by the type of music they are asked to listen to while kept on hold.

The Press Association ran a Freedom of Information Act (FOI) request to 150 local councils in 2013 to decipher that symphonies from Mozart were most used and generally perceived to be easiest on the ears while on hold, however Powwownow’s study suggests otherwise, with pop music deemed the better genre to enhance moods and make people feel “more positive” about a brand.

And despite the general negativity the term ‘hold music’ often evokes overall, Cisco recently showcased the rare power of a good signature tune by revealing the cult status its hold music (placed as standard within 65 million of its sold handsets) had fostered, having been kept as its music since 1989. The music, called Opus No. 1, was specifically composed to put listeners at ease while they waited.  

However, some brands have not been as successful in creating the same level of positivity in their hold music, as Jacqui Keep, Powwownow’s content marketing manager explains:

“Companies can really benefit from understanding both the good and bad effects that music can have on employees and customers; the respondents in our survey were keen to identify those brands that were getting it right and also those who were getting it really wrong.”

BT were ranked by consumers as having the worst hold music (despite ironically stated to be "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik" by Mozart) in Powwownow’s study. In fact, of 5,000 people surveyed, 4.2% voted for BT. In comparison, 1.5% voted Sky, 1.2% British Gas and 1% HMRC.  

BT has often struggled with the overall service experience it offers its customers, having taken accolades such as Money Mail’s ‘Wooden Spoon Award’ for bad customer service in 2008 and a 2010 vote as Britain’s most irritating call centre. Adding the title of ‘worst hold music’ seemingly gives the telecoms giant a clean sweep of customer service prizes no organisation really wants. 

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