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Music hath charms…

Soothe savage SOHO clients with music on hold.

I don’t know anything about music. In my line you don’t have to.
-Elvis Presley

One key to achieving success with a new SOHO operation is looking bigger than you really are. While some clients prefer dealing with small, personalized firms, many still cling to the “bigger is better” mentality. The trick, as Alice discovered, is figuring out the best way to make yourself look bigger.

When one of my friends started her business, she was the only employee, but she gave the company two family names–much as law firms often do. The first was her maiden name, the second her married name. A well-designed Web site can make even the smallest company look bigger, but one of the simplest ways is an old standby: Play music for callers on hold.

Research on music-on-hold done by AT&T showed that seven out of 10 business phone calls are on hold for an average of 30 seconds. The bad news is that even this brief time causes an abandonment rate of 80 percent. Worse yet, one-third of the callers never call back. Now we get to the good part: When callers hear music while on hold, they tend to stay on the line up to three minutes longer.

Simple, inexpensive adapters from companies such as start at less than $30, and allow your callers to listen to Smashing Pumpkins (more on this later) while they wait for you to pull their file, order, or whatever. On-Hold Plus offers inexpensive music-on-hold hardware and a product line that includes cool-looking and practical on-hold music devices.

You also can use the music-on-hold time to cross-sell some of your other products and services. A survey by Telemarketing magazine showed that 15 to 20 percent of callers make purchases based on information they heard while on hold. This statement agrees with AT&T’s research, which concluded that one out of five callers make a purchase based on on-hold sales suggestions.

You don’t have to be David Grohl of the Foo Fighters to know that you should tailor the type of music you play to your existing or potential customer base. Rap music might work for teenagers, but it will cause clients age 50 and older to hang up faster than you can say Crosby, Stills, and Nash. Next, there’s the question of rights. You can go through your CD collection to find tunes you like to listen to, but that doesn’t mean you can use them for your new music-on-hold system. When you bought that CD, you only purchased the right to listen to it, not the right to use it for your business. You might find that it’s best to work with a specialist firm such as Flashpoint Solutions, Royalty Free Music, or even a local sound studio to record the music and add a voice-over that will help you produce the sounds of income.

Look into one of these telecommunications alternatives for “silence on hold” today. Don’t give your caller what’s called “dead air” in the radio biz–sell ’em something instead.

Contributing Editor Joe Farace is the author of more than 1000 magazine articles and 23 books.

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