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:

Track Day with Speed of Sight

A day to remember with Speed of Sight

Last Monday (21st March 2016) we spent the afternoon with our chosen charity for 2016 Speed of Sight.

3 Sisters Race Track was the venue, we were there to grab some sound bites and sound effects for their On Hold Audio. Little did we know we'd be given the chance to get behind the wheel - BLINDFOLDED!

After three laps of the track sighted, into the pits we came to don a blindfold for a truly unforgettable and sightly terrifying hot lap of the track. After the first 3 corners I'd lost my bearings and in the hands of the instructor providing directions - when to turn, brake and accelerate.

The team and I now have even more respect for blind or partially sighted people and anyone with a disability. Thank you to everyone at Speed of Sight for an amazing experience, keep up the good work.

Take a look at some of the pictures and sound clips below. 

Here are a few sound bites from the day...

For more information on the fantastic work of Speed of Sight visit their website

Easter Eggstravaganza 2016

Easter Eggstravaganza

Back by popular demand for the second year our online Easter egg hunt is now live.

We've hidden 5 (there's a clue) Easter Eggs like the one below across our website with clues to find the next one. Follow the clues to find the letters associated with each egg to spell out a word.

When you've figured out the word, (it's easy, even my 7 year old worked it out) Click here to submit your answer via the online form

While you're following the Easter egg trail, take a look at the pages as you go you never know what you might learn along the way.

Next Wednesday 23rd March we'll select one lucky winner from all the correct entries and they'll recieve a Cadbury Easter Hamper, hopefully the next day just in time for the Easter weekend. 


Picture for illustraion purposes only.

Picture for illustraion purposes only.

Good luck!

If you're going to be closed over the Easter weekend it's a goos idea to have a specific voicemail message recorded to let your customers know when you re-open.

Click here to find out more or order online

And finally Happy Easter from all the team at iNarrator OnHold.

The big showdown - Silence vs Music vs Messages

We get asked a lot about on hold music, whilst it’s really important to have something for your callers to listen to whilst they wait on the line, music isn’t the most engaging option when on its own.

Combine music with messages on hold and you’ve got a winning combination! The standard Music on hold included with every telephone system is often poor quality, tinny and let’s be honest, boring! Plus call handlers are constantly made to feel guilty for interrupting waiting callers’ private discos…

Research shows that there’s 3 stages of how much your caller will put up with when placed on hold, when faced with varying levels of entertainment.

Average hold time of callers whilst listening to...

Average hold time of callers whilst listening to...


Placing a caller on hold for them to be faced with silence is unsurprisingly bad for business, with callers staying on a silent line for an average of just 40 seconds before hanging up. Being faced with silence is confusing, your customer doesn’t know if they were placed on hold properly or if the call is even connected correctly.  Your caller is now sat debating if they should hang up or not, a debate that lasts just over half a minute. The next best thing would be to add a little music in to jolly things up and reassure your customer that their call hasn’t been lost to the on hold abyss. Oh and if you’re thinking our phone system beeps to let callers know they’re still connected that’s just as annoying!


We can be honest here, no one likes listening to dodgy on hold music on its own. Often crackly, dated or over exuberant classical music is played, unless you’re really treating your customers and subject them to deafening and confusing beeps. Making them reminisce back to the dreaded bleep test you used to do in school PE does not help to retain your customers unfortunately, with callers who are placed on hold to music alone hanging up after around two and a half minutes.


There are many benefits to having on hold messages and music playing to your waiting customers, primarily that they will actually wait! Unlike the previous options, callers placed on hold who were able to listen to professionally recorded messages in combination with music stay on hold for around four minutes!

Average Hold Time

The average hold time of a caller when faced with silence, music only or music and messages


Put yourself in your callers’ shoes, when you ring a company how would you feel if there was silence on the line? How would you feel if there was music? Now think how you would feel if there was music with messages?

What better way is there to introduce your company to new customers than by telling them directly what you do, why you do it, how you do it and how well you do it? On hold messages are perfect for instilling confidence in new customers that you’re a professional company and also reassuring returning customers. You’ll turn what would have been a passive caller into an active one!

Think of your return of investment, by opting for both music and messages on hold you’re more likely to keep customers on the line, meaning you’re not losing calls and potential leads. What’s more is that you can target your patient callers whilst they wait happily on the line.

On Hold Marketing is a fantastic way to communicate and build a relationship with your customer before they even speak to anyone within the company. It gives you the chance to promote your products, offers and services whilst they wait, which could not only create a positive conversation when the call is connected but could potentially convert into a sale. This also helps to improve your credibility, by informing your customers of your experience or accreditations you’ll increase their faith in your services.

Hopefully we’ve convinced you to consider the contrast of call outcome from a caller faced with silence to one faced with entertaining and crisp sounding messages and modern music. If you think it’s time for a Spring clean of your on hold audio then get in touch, we promise not to bore you if you’re on hold!

Client of The Month: HeadOffice3



We've been working with Head Office Interiors for several years providing On Hold Marketing and Telephone System Messages. Head Office has grown consistently to incorporate 3 divisions’ corporate transformations, educational fit out and refurbishment, and residential architectural design and construction. The company undertook a big re-brand to become Head Office 3, and we helped craft their audio branding.

The project covered writing and recording a new batch of On Hold Marketing Messages, Telephone System Messages and recording the voiceover narration for a video to reveal the new brand to the world.

You can check out a sample of the On Hold Audio and watch the re-brand video online

Evolution of the Telephone Part 4

Continuing on from part 3, we take a look at how the telephone network expanded in the USA in the early 1900's. 

Universal Service had well and truly kicked off after Theodore Vail had surged forward with his intention of providing every American with access to a telephone, when he re-joined Bell in 1907 as the company’s CEO. He was at the peak of his power in the early 1900s as he embarked on a mission to build the first coast to coast telephone line, starting work in 1908.

The line was completed in 1915 ran 3,400 miles from New York to San Francisco and was the start of a further control, changing the market and committing the company to providing the best telephone service possible. Vail essentially spared The American Telephone & Telegraph Company (AT&T) from near ruin, with expired patents and smaller, independent companies expanding rapidly, providing more competition. He focused on the long-distance system, spanning the US and steered the company towards a more scientific approach, researching and developing his ideas in Bell Laboratories.

Vail trialled the line in July 1914 with success however this wasn’t celebrated until the Panama Canal completion in January the following year. Bell and Watson recreated their first ever telephone call on the 25th of January 1915, with Bell summoning Watson to New York and Watson allegedly replying from San Francisco...

"It will take me five days to get there now!"

Vail had begun construction on the long distance line a year after he re-joined Bell, taking 6 years to complete, but creating a connection across the country that took just 1/15th of a second, a lot easier than a 16 day canal journey to have a chinwag! The price of a call was reportedly around $400 for three minutes. It wouldn’t be until 1956 that the UK and USA connected wires.

Coming to the rescue one last time, after the US Federal Government took over the telephone service in the US in 1918, Vail organised contracts meaning private control and power was soon resumed to the Bell System. After all he’d done for Bell and technology as we know it today, Vail died in 1920 aged 74, but did so having inspired huge ambitions in the telephone industry.

The 1920s were a period of experimenting and the Bell System invested in a dial service which had already been available from many of the independent competitors. The first ‘step by step’ switch was installed in Dallas in 1921 by Bell Telephone Company. By December that year Dallas was the first city to have all dial phones. These were commonly known as ‘French telephones’ and the rates of calls also decreased during this time. The 1920s were a period of prosperity for the US, with technological developments in machinery, mass production and a boom in the electricity industry. Telephone sales had grown from 10 million in 1915 to 20 million in 1930.

The UK and USA had been connected by telegraph for some time but the first time the two countries were connected via telephone was in 1927 from the Post Office long wave wireless station in Rugby. A unified telephone system had been available to UK citizens since 1912, operated by the Pot Office, by 1913 they were one of only 3 providers of a telephone service in the UK. 1924 also marked the year the public telephone box was designed by competition winner Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, the bright red kiosks were then introduced in 1927.

With the looming depression for the US came a hit for Western Electric and the Bell System, employment rates and the use of phones decreased locally and long distance and the company began to look to other means of communication such as telegraphs. The Government was about to step in and have it’s say in the monopoly that Bell and Veil had created.


Article sources:


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Evolution of the Telephone Part 3

Evolution of the Telephone Part 2

Evolution of the Telephone Part 1

How Happy Are Your Callers

According to recent research, those in the US spend an average of 43 days on hold during their lifetime, however UK research shows contrasting data that we Brits spend around 22 days on hold during our lifetime (or 60 hours a year depending on which sources you believe…) and the average wait time is 27 precious minutes.

The issue here isn’t just wasted time, it’s a huge expense! Costing an average of £30,780 – which could be put towards important things, like paying off student loans, putting a deposit on a house or going travelling! The survey found that a mere 7% of callers were actually aware how much being placed on hold was costing them. The only upside to this is that Ofcom took action last Summer to ensure measures were in place to make it clearer to callers how much numbers cost to call, enforcing more prominent advertisement for call pricing.

Combine the time and money that callers are effectively wasting and that equals poor customer service. It’s frustrating for customers, but it’s likely that the call handler you’re waiting to speak to has exactly the same experience when they need to call somewhere too. However it’s still not surprising that call centres have made the Top 100 most annoying things lists and in another survey 47% of people said their biggest pet peeve was being placed on hold and listening to on hold music.

Call us bias but we think if their on hold marketing and music was provided by iNarrator the figures may have been lower…

How Happy Are Your Callers?

How Happy Are Your Callers?

Now that you’ve got the figures, you need to know what it is that’s causing grumbles amongst callers. Last year Which? conducted a survey that found good knowledge of products, helpful staff and of course speed of service were the factors that gave customer’s a good caller experience. Contrasting this and probably not surprisingly

call centres not based in the UK, automated telephone systems and being passed around lots of different people

were what callers found contributed to poor customer service.

 These factors highlight how important it is to ensure your phone system is up to scratch and that you’ve got the right staff in place to deal with your call volume. You can reduce the annoyance of being passed around with a minimal and specific menu, clearly directing callers to the right department first time. Automated systems are necessary but have a look at last week’s blog to find out if you’re making any mistakes and how to improve these!

Callers are much more likely to stay on the line when they have something to entertain them, with 70% of people handing up if they’re placed on hold and have to endure either ominous silence or disconcerting beeps. It’s inevitable that callers will be placed on hold when calling some companies, yet if you’re unable to change your customers’ wait time then you can look into improving their experience.