Worst On Hold of The Month - May 2017

This month we go way back in time with a classical music track that you've probably heard thousands of times whilst On Hold. 

This company contacted us because the track doesn't reflect their forward thinking technological brand.

We're only too happy to help, by replacing the existing classical track with professionally recorded On Hold Messaging and music. 

If you would like to benefit from Professional On Hold Messaging click here to request a free audio demo or call 0800 0112 123

History of the Phone Part 6

We left part 5 of our History of the Telephone in the transatlantic, with cables stretching 1,500 nautical miles to connect the UK to Europe, the US and Canada. It was also the year that AT&T’s monopolised hold on the telephone industry was reduced, limiting them to 85% of the telephone network in the US.

As modern conveniences became more and more important to the everyday consumer, Bell’s merchandising department realised that growth was limited by the company focusing on customer’s needs rather than wants. Rather than a utilitarian hallway phone, people wanted ease of contacting whoever they wanted, whenever they wanted and wherever they wanted from within their home. Bartlett Miller, one of Bell’s merchandisers decided to tap into this potential market to deliver a design with marketing over engineering in mind. The idea was to produce a product that could sit neatly in the home, easily placed on bedside tables, in hallways, on the kitchen counter, wherever the owner wanted their phone.

Henry Dreyfuss was entrusted with designing the new phone which was named the Princess phone, he oversaw the design after having designed earlier models for Western Electric. The result was a ‘little and lovely’ telephone, lighter than previous models, smaller and all round more stylish. Released in 1956, criticism flooded in about the design, which didn’t evenly distribute the weight of the phone, meaning callers had to hold the base down in order to dial with the other hand, leaving them to position the phone between neck and shoulder. The early design floor resulted in the Princess phone being commonly referred to as the ‘three handed phone’, not quite what Miller had hoped for.

Over the next ten years the Princess Phone is re-developed, re-weighted, re-coloured and adapting to customer demand. Touch tone models were released in 1964 and replaced in 1968 with a 12 button model. Dreyfuss had earlier designed the Model 500, in 1949, it was consistently redeveloped like the Princess phone, to include more touch tone keys.

Back in the UK and two years on from the installation of the transatlantic cable, the Subscriber Trunk Dialling service is introduced in 1958. Callers were able to make calls without the use of an operator. Queen Elizabeth II was the first to use the new system, dialling a call from Bristol to Edinburgh, 300 miles away. The new system made it easier for callers to connect with areas further distances away and was much cheaper!

With the Post Office being responsible for the UK telecommunications industry at the time, they introducted their own take on Dreyfuss’ 500 Model with the 700 Series, designed for the Post Office by W.J. Avery of Ericsson (yes that one!) in 1959.

We all know how important customer service is, particularly in telecommunications. In 1959 the Friendly Telephone policy was introduced by the Postmaster General to ensure there was a focus on positive customer service and call handling, operators were allowed to use risqué phrases such as ‘Good Morning’ for the first time in 54 years, when previously restricted to asking the customer for the number they wished to dial.

This was a huge step towards not only improving the role of the telephone in business and social aspects but also in customer service and as a customer focused company, social surveys were carried out to meet customer’s needs and find out what they wanted, all promoted by the Post Office.

"The aim and purpose of the telephone service is not only to serve, but to please the customer. Everything must be subordinated and surrendered to that aim. Our telephone service must be a personal service to meet the customers' wishes. We must study their wishes all the time; we must then satisfy them by a service which is courteous, pleasing and speedy."


With the UK focusing on improved customer service, the Post Office laid a second transatlantic cable, connecting areas of France and Canada in the same year, a year later in 1960, the first direct cable to link Sweden and the UK was laid. Despite advancements in laying cables and connecting the UK to the rest of the world, public telephones were still frequently used, with a home telephone still being considered a luxury at the time.

Over the years, from 1951 to 1966 the amount of households with a telephone had increased from 1.5 million to 4.2 million. Despite this, by the end of the sixties we Brits were favouring the television, with 75% of households owning a TV but over 50% still not owning a telephone. Cost was still a huge factor with people having to rent a phone from the General Post Office. It’s easy to draw comparisons in the way the GPO regulated and monopolised the UK telephone services to the way Bell’s company had done years before. http://www.retrowow.co.uk/telephones/700_series/60s_telephone_service.php#foot1

Cost and time were an important factor, with calls taking nearly forty seconds to connect and costing £10 to have a phone installed, rising to £20 just two years later, this is the equivalent of over £350 today. Over the next twenty years the UK would see developments in mobile communications, BT would become established and British telecommunications would advance even further.



Worst On Hold of The Month - March 2017

Every month we'll showcase the worst Music On Hold we've heard that month. 

March 2017 we have this beauty straight out of the 80's which sounds like a broken ice cream van.

Needless to say the client contacted us because clients made negative comments about the On Hold Experience, 

If you would like to benefit from Professional On Hold Messaging click here to request a free audio demo or call 0800 0112 123

1 in 5 Callers Get Through On The First Attempt

If you’ve read our past blog posts, you’ll know we’re quite fond of statistics. We’re back again with some more shocking stats that should push you into action to prevent new and loyal customers from slipping through the net.

Think back to the last call you made to a company, was your call answered first time? If it was you’re one of the lucky ones, with 8x8’s recent research finding that a staggering 78% of callers hadn’t had their call answered the first time they rang. Meaning only 22% of your potential new customers, or loyal current customers, are reaching an agent on their first attempt.

What could you be missing out on? Well 35% of those callers were new customers. How off putting is it to call somewhere you’re looking to do business with, purchase something or find some information out, only to waste precious time calling back later? Your customers are trying to reach you and have made the effort to call directly, meaning you are potentially losing out on gaining new business.

The risk of new customers being put off doesn’t even end when they eventually do get connected, with 12% of those surveyed, that’s one in eight people, searching for a competitor whilst speaking with a company on the phone. You might also want to consider your audience, with this figure rising to 26% when focusing on young people aged 25 to 34. The tolerance for poor customer service is much lower in younger people, with the figures also finding that 26% of young people also named and shamed a company live on social media whilst on the phone.

Making multiple attempts to call a business is a huge pet peeve, it can be difficult to avoid if you are a busy company but you need to be able to manage the volume of calls or put measures in place to keep your waiting callers happy. You should review the technology you have in place, you could use a call back service, a message to direct waiting callers to other means of getting in touch, or take a look at our options for On Hold Marketing!

Just one in five people manage to get through the first time they call a business, which is a likely explanation to why 91% of us Brits revealed that we’d had a poor experience over the phone. We’re not shy about singing from the rooftops about it either, with almost three-quarters of those surveyed saying that they feel personally responsible to warn others about a company after they’ve received poor service. What you should also bear in mind is that for every one customer who makes a complaint directly, 26 remain silent only to share their experience through other means such as social media or word of mouth, the silent assassins who will be detrimental to your reputation.

Kevin Scott-Cowell, 8X8’s UK MD has a few words of advice;

A business only has one chance to make a great first impression and getting off on the wrong foot can destroy the customer relationship for good. That starts by making sure new customer calls are answered first time. With the right technology in place, it can be easy for businesses to make sure calls are routed to a manned phone and appropriately-skilled agent so new customers are never left to competitors.

History of the phone part 5

After Veil’s demise in 1920, the Bell Telephone Company needed to refocus, they were facing financial trouble with costs rising more rapidly than revenue. Walter Gifford followed in the footsteps of Veil in 1925, he proved to be as innovative a leader as his predecessor, realising that the many pies that Bell System and Western Electrical had dipped their fingers in, meant the focus wasn’t on providing communications services anymore. He sold off various researching arms to other companies, and was quoted as saying that Bell System has "to provide the most telephone service and the best, at least cost consistent with financial safety".

In 1927, the first commercial radiotelephone service was introduced by AT&T between America and the UK, costing £9 for a three-minute call, with around 2000 calls made per year. On January 7th 1927, Gifford contacted Sir Evelyn Murray, who was the then secretary of the General Post Office in the UK, who managed the phone system in the UK at the time.

The call hears Gifford explaining that this achievement will facilitate business, act as a social convenience and strengthen the ties of friendship, something that still resonates with how we use the phone today. Murray notes that there are still difficulties to face regarding regulation and reliability of their service, before declaring the service open to the public.

You can hear their telephone conversation here, http://www.history.com/speeches/first-transatlantic-telephone-call

The service continued to spread, connecting North America to Europe, followed by a Pacific service in 1931 and Tokyo in 1934, costing $39 for three minutes. 1935 was a year for celebration as AT&T made history once again. Gifford and T.G. Miller, VP of AT&T, phoned one another from separate rooms, in the Long Lines Building in New York, with their telephone call being transmitted on a circuit which travelled 23,000 miles around the globe. You can listen here http://www.history.com/speeches/first-transatlantic-telephone-call

However around this time at this time and following from where we left Part 4, Congress were considering a new legislation to regulate the telegraph, broadcasting and telephone industry, passing the Communications Act in 1934, this meant the telephone industry was under investigation, with the monopoly created long before, finally being scrutinized.

The war left the Bell System weakened, seeing nearly 70,000 of it’s employees serving in the armed forces and the focus of business shifting to provide army telephone facilities. By the time the war had ended the Bell System was in need of modernisation to cope with the increased demand for the use of the telephone.  The situation in the UK for those at the Post Office was just as strenuous, with 73,000 employees joining the armed forces, in some areas losing up to 25% of their staff and again the focus of telecommunications shifting to serve the forces. During the war, continental telephone services dropped, gradually re-opening during 1946.

75 years after the invention of the telephone, the UK introduced the first law of the telephone as being a separate device to the telegraph. The Telephone Act was introduced in August 1951 and allowed for rental charges by statutory regulation. This was also the year that the first answer machine became available, the Swiss Ipsophone.

By 1952, the telephone was widely available but there was still no solid transatlantic service, the Post Office External Telecommunication Executive was created in order to control overseas services, it would later become BT. On December 1st, 1953 AT&T, The Post Office, Eastern Telephone & Telephone Company and the Canadian Overseas Telecommunications Corporation signed an agreement to deliver the first transatlantic telephone cable.

Four years later, on September 25th 1956, the first transatlantic telephone cable was launched, linking Canada, the USA and the UK. It was a victory for modern, world wide communication. The 30 telephone circuits provided a link to the UK from Canada and the US, with the remaining circuits dedicated to connecting the UK to the rest of Europe. The project cost £12.5M and three years of careful planning and installation to complete. The entire cable was laid by one ship, the Post Office’s Cable ship, Monarch, it carried 1,500 nautical miles . Although cables had been placed under water before, this was on a much larger scale and required development of new methods of securing the cables in deep waters, although the cables and technology had been in development since WW2.

1956 was also the year that a consent decree was introduced to limit AT&T to 85% of the national telephone network in the US, in a bid to reduce the hold the monopoly had over the telephone service industry. Communication was growing ever more easy across the globe, with some of the first ‘mobile’ phones being introduced.

What the NHS needs now is... Clarity

For the past few weeks I've been suffering with a cold, thanks to the great British weather, I'm not one for letting a little cold get in the way of work or play, so I've been soldiering on. Before a day of meetings, a couple of weeks ago, I learnt not to take the wrong cold and flu tablets before bed, yes you guessed it the ones that contain caffeine, I was wide awake at 2:30am on the Tuesday morning knowing I had a full day of meetings ahead, not good, but thankfully one of the team was driving not me!

Anyway I digress, on Saturday after a walk followed by coffee and cake with the family, I had to give into the nagging of my wife, sister and mum to finally seek medical advice. Being the weekend, the doctor’s is closed, so I took the line of least resistance... the pharmacy.  On explaining my symptoms, the pharmacist said, ‘You've probably got a chest infection; I’d advise you to see a doctor'.

Now this is where it gets interesting from a business point of view. My wife handed me her phone which was calling the out of hours GP line, I was greeted by an automated message along the lines of, ‘This out of hours phone line is no longer answered... if you’re at death’s door call 999, if it's not urgent call 111’.  

Thinking that 111 was not going to get me an appointment with a GP I drove to our local walk-in centre, and booked in. As you can imagine the waiting room was packed, not to worry I came prepared - popped in my headphones and continued listening to my audio book. 

After a 25 minute wait I was called in for assessment, the nurse did all the usual stuff, temperature, blood pressure, sats... all normal if you're interested. Then informed me it was a 2 hour wait.  

She could see my face sink, so I asked why the out of hours GP service was no longer available, to which her reply was “it is”.  After explaining that I'd rung the out of hours GP number before coming here and got a message saying no one was available she said, ‘Well did you ring 111?’ My response was, ‘No because that wouldn't get me a doctor’s appointment’. What she said next made complete sense and I can see why the PCT or whatever it's called now have made this change because it's for the better but the way they've implemented it is shocking.

The nurse explained all enquiries are now fielded by the North West 111 service, they perform an initial triage assessment over the phone to decide the most appropriate form of treatment for you, one of which being an out of hours GP appointment. This was not made clear in the voicemail message I received when calling the out of hours GP. 

I told the nurse and the receptionist at the walk-in centre, I wasn’t going to wait 2 hours and ring 111 instead.

So after a quick 10 minute call I had an appointment to see a GP in 30 minutes. Driving straight from the walk-in centre to the surgery I arrived early and was surprised to find the car park only had 3 cars in it and the waiting room completely empty! Turns out the 3 cars belonged to the 2 doctors and 1 receptionist, there was literally no one else there, so a couple of minutes later I left with a prescription having received the best service ever from the NHS... it was like having a private appointment.

Empty waiting room at the Out of Hours GP

Empty waiting room at the Out of Hours GP

Walking out I couldn't help thinking how many of the people at the walk-in centre could have been seen by a GP?  My guess is at least 70%. But because of an ill thought out voicemail message which fails to explain how to get help properly, no one knows how to access the out of hours GP! I’d like to know how many patients were seen by the two doctors at the surgery on Saturday compared to the walk-in centre. 

What's the point of my ramblings? I've got one thing to say...

In business your message, whether it's a marketing message or operational message, needs to be crystal clear. 

Effective communication and getting your point across in the simplest way possible is super important to the success of your business. 

Imagine for one second that the walk-in centre and out of hours surgery were normal businesses, that had to turn a profit. One would be overrun with customers and the other would be shutting up shop within a month due to lack of them. All because of an unclear voicemail message which didn't give me (the customer) all the information I needed to make an informed decision.

Make sure your message, whatever it may be, is crystal clear.  

PS If you know anyone at the North West PCT I’d love to have a chat with them to help improve the quality and clarity of their voicemail messages.

When was the last time you called your own company?

When was the last time you called your own company?

I’m sure that no matter what sector your business belongs to or you work in, that you’re no stranger to calling other businesses. On hold marketing is where you get your first impression of a company, sure you can see their website but the likelihood is that they used a fancy web designer for that, it’s not a true reflection of their customer service.

If you’ve not called your own business for a while or if since you’ve had your on hold messages in place you’ve not really thought about them then it’s definitely time that you picked the phone up to yourself.

Why would I call myself I hear you asking…

  1. Do you know how your on-hold audio and IVR menus sound? Are they muffled, crackly and full of echoes? Do the voiceover and music track suit your business?
  2. Does your script make sense? Are you being as clear as possible in your messages about what your company does and the services that you offer?
  3. Do your menus make sense? Is each option clearly described and will it make navigation a breeze or will your customer select an option and still be passed around from department to department?
  4. Is everything up to date? Have you mentioned your opening hours and contact details, are these still correct? Do you mention a service you no longer offer or have you expanded to offer more that you should be informing your callers about?
  5. Can you navigate your own menus? Do you find yourself thinking ‘None of those options are suitable for why I’m calling?’ If your caller doesn’t find an option has been presented to them that reflects why they’re calling, they’ll likely press any button just to get to speak to someone. This means that callers for that department are in a queue and that the original caller will likely need to be transferred somewhere else, taking not only your customer’s time but also your team’s. You can accommodate these kind of callers by making sure you’re aware of the most common queries and addressing these in your on hold messages, or having an option for ‘all other enquiries’.
  6. Are your call handlers able to offer the best possible advice to your callers? You might think this has nothing to do with your on hold marketing or navigation, sadly you’re mistaken. If calls are coming through and your team aren’t able to help your customers, then you need to ensure training is topped up! This is a double edged sword, your on hold messages need to be organised in a way that quashes quick queries, by directing callers to your website as an alternative source of information. You also need to make sure if you have an IVR menu that when callers are connected to their choice, that the team has the ability to help them.

We hope this has given you something to think about, having up to date on hold marketing and menus is not only the first impression a customer will get from your company, but this also affects how they will perceive your customer service. Nail both of these and you’ll soon be as well known for your customer service as these guys