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.

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.



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,

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

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


Business as usual

It’s so easy to be constantly connected to people, businesses and news nowadays that it’s become the norm to have our lives in our pockets, which means there’s little switch off time. We live in a 24/7 nation with ever present people who are always online or accessible in some way.

I recently came across an article that resonated with how I feel about emails. I get hundreds and hundreds of them and I read about 4 in every hundred because they’re of such little use to me, just another bombardment that I try to ignore.

“We need to take the power back. We need to bring back what it’s like to just be in the world, in our everyday living.”

We need to realise that when it comes to emails in business especially, it is ok, believe it or not, to not reply straight away. That’s what the little flags are for. Sounds like a huge step but you need to get back to business as it was. 

Manage expectations and set some boundaries, prioritise the phone over email. The phone is something you can’t ignore when it rings (unless you want a headache), no company should be screening calls. It’s a fundamental part of your business, it’s the most likely method that your customers will use to get in touch with you if they need to speak with you about something urgent or have a query.  

You might think that taking lots of calls during the day is a distraction, but just think of how many times a day you unwittingly interrupt your own day by checking your emails impulsively? I’m sure you’d agree that when it comes to customer service and getting an answer that bombardment of emails isn’t the best route. Picking up the phone is a much more direct route, saving time, hassle and money and removing any communication barriers that you might face over email because you know what you want to say. 
Where to start?

  • The phone is a priority, you can’t leave it ringing!
  • Set aside specific times of day to check emails, once in the morning, once in the afternoon.
  • Manage expectations. If you have an autoresponder that is sent when you receive an email then let your customer know when you aim to get back to them. Make sure this is obtainable. This won’t stop some people from emailing multiple times but sets out your customer service goals.
  • Get back to customer service as it was.
  • If you can’t get to your phone you can still manage expectations with an out of hour’s message or voicemail option. 

I recently came across Matt Haig’s Reasons to Stay Alive and I can assure you now that checking emails isn’t one of them. He highlights, just like Handley, the need for us to be comfortable with switching off every once in a while. As important as technology is, it only goes so far and can’t replace good old fashioned customer service and speaking with someone in real time.

“To be calm becomes a kind of revolutionary act. To be happy with your own non-upgraded human existence.”

You’ll know it if you hear it. Cisco On Hold Music

Cisco Music On Hold gains cult status.

Cisco Music On Hold gains cult status.

In case you didn't already know, we’re pretty big on On Hold Music. We aren't the silent type, we like music and talking and knowing that if we’re on hold that our call hasn't been swallowed by the abyss of silence.

You’re probably quite familiar with some of the on hold classic tunes, today we’ll discuss corporate phone giant Cisco’s on hold music.

No one wants to be on hold but it has to happen, at least if it does you might get the chance to listen to a piece of music which now has a cult following. In 1989 a song was composed which would change on hold music for ever. Behold Cisco’s On Hold music.

Composed in 1989 by Tim Carleton, his friend Darrick Deel began working for Cisco back in the 90s and contacted Carleton to excitedly tell him that the forgotten track he’d recorded nearly ten years prior, was perfect for Cisco’s default on hold music.

Dubbed as the ultimate background music, if just a subtle reminder that things are still ticking over, the track was quickly uploaded to 65 Million IP phones, quite impressive to go from a forgotten track to being listened to multiple times a day, whenever someone was placed on hold at various companies or call centres. Deel estimates that around 1 Million people hear this track a day, we think it’s probably even more.

Weirdly Cisco’s music has ventured away from being simply on hold music, into that sort of song that irritates you when you first hear it which grows on you until you find yourself foot tapping and humming along to it when you’re out and about.

What is it about music that grabs our attention and stirs something in us? Well it’s all very sciency, and about music linking to our emotions. We like that music is a universal language, available for anyone to enjoy without language barriers and that it makes us happy. As Tolstoy said, “music is the shorthand of emotion.”

Music and On Hold Marketing shouldn’t simply be about distracting your customers before they’re connected to your advisors, you should have a hold over your customer, keeping their attention and making their call to you memorable, even in the supposedly ‘boring’ bit of on hold. Whilst music can be seen as a distraction by some, others find it helps you focus, either way it needs to be entertaining and deter your customers from hanging up! 

So how can you rival the track that so many people unwittingly love? Opus No. 1 as the Cisco track is known, is the ultimate ear worm but if you’re looking for something with less 90s vibes then we have just the thing!

For the full story watch the video below: