back to article IT firms guilty of blasting customers with soul-numbing canned music

Self-serving research published with the sole aim of flogging wares is a fairly standard PR tactic. But every now and then something so artfully shameless pops up it transcends the genre. Step forward, PHMG. The company, which designs audio-branded call handling for businesses, has an important message for IT firms. After …

  1. molletts

    For a truly soul-numbing experience, try being put on hold by Volvo Insurance for several minutes. Last time I called them (some years back, admittedly), their hold muzak was a loop about 10 seconds long...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I hate Vivaldi because of BT

      As anyone who had to deal with BT for something non-standard (in my case "downgrade" from ISDN to DSL), I cannot stand the 4 seasons. Every time I start listening to them I hear not what is coming out of the speakers, but a version which has been vandalized for 64bit PCM coming out of a tinny speakerphone....

      1. Alister Silver badge

        Re: I hate Vivaldi because of BT

        I'm not sure if it was BT or O2, who I recently had the pleasure of listening to for an hour.

        But what drove me mad was that despite the hold music being a pleasant piece of Chopin, I think, every time the "your call is important to us, please hold" message came on, it restarted the music from the beginning.

        How bloody annoying that is!

        1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
          Flame

          Re: I hate Vivaldi because of BT

          Halifax are another bunch with ****ing vivaldi....

          But then it usually takes from spring to winter for the arseholes to answer the phone......

          Oh yeah they also add "Your call is important to us" every 30 seconds too

          I got so fed up I decided to give them 1 last call.... to tell them I was shutting the account....

          1. sabroni Silver badge
            Thumb Up

            Re: Halifax are another bunch with ****ing vivaldi....

            I think Halifax phone banking is great. The trick is not answering when they ask you to say what you want. Dial the phone banking no. (03457 20 30 40), key in your account code, sort code and the 2 digits they ask for from your pin, then press *0. Wait till it starts to say something, press *0, wait again, last *0 then all you'll hear is a phone ringing till they answer. Most they've kept me waiting is about 3 minutes but normally it's less than a minute. And the call centre's in the UK.

            1. paulf Silver badge
              Terminator

              Re: Halifax are another bunch with ****ing vivaldi....

              @ sabroni "Press *0 to skip the a

              IME the key combination is "*0#" and it works on other phone systems too, not just Halifax. On a phone system that doesn't specifically recognise "*0#" as the "speak to a person" shortcut, it just treats it as an erroneous response - do it enough and it gives up and routes your call to a meat bag.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Halifax are another bunch with ****ing vivaldi....

              "The trick is not answering when they ask you to say what you want"

              facepalm, why oh why did you HAVE TO REVEAL THAT TRICK?! I used this technique FOR YEARS. Now the world knowS, and halifax know, and these (...) will fix it!

  2. Halfmad

    I don't mind beeps, I don't mind music.

    Just don't keep me hanging on for 30 minutes telling me every 30 seconds how ******** important my call is whilst I'm 305th in the queue also sort out the damn volume level between that message and the music so I'm not deafened by one or the other, then unable to immediately hear the call handler who's whispering in afterwards.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      @Halfmad -- Re: I don't mind beeps, I don't mind music.

      ^^^^ THAT!!!!! Applies to any center. I wish there were a lot more upvotes I could give and some way of hammering this into every call center (except the Indian, for obvious reason) in the world.

      1. Swarthy Silver badge
        Flame

        Re: @Halfmad -- I don't mind beeps, I don't mind music.

        Even more annoying than the volume difference is the variable split-second gap between the music and the "Your call is important" that makes you think they've just answered. The really Evil bastards will stop the music, ring, pause.. and "Your call is important", and go back to the music.

  3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    There's a simpler solution. ANSWER THE BLOODY PHONE.

    Obligatory Dilbert: http://dilbert.com/strip/1998-10-13

    1. Andy Non

      "ANSWER THE BLOOD PHONE".

      This. If companies keep me hanging on the phone with messages, music, beeps, "your call is important blah blah blah" then I quickly switch to doing business with other companies. I have very little patience for this shit nowadays. Especially so when the music is so loud you have to hold the phone away from your ear and when the call centre person in Mumbai finally answers they are barely audible and can't resolve your query anyway so put you back on hold again to find someone else, who also cannot resolve the query so transfer your call back to the UK again to speak to someone just up the road. Yes Barclays I'm thinking of you. Or rather I'm not, because I closed my account due to your appalling customer service.

    2. Snorlax

      @Doctor Syntax: This one works too:

      http://dilbert.com/strip/1999-05-10

      1. Wensleydale Cheese Silver badge

        http://dilbert.com/strip/1999-05-10

        Love the punchline on that one.

        1. quxinot

          I figured someone would have gone with, as the other end of the problem:

          http://dilbert.com/strip/2006-01-09

          1. Korev Silver badge
            Pirate

            Or go Full BOFH™ and make them fear calling you. Imagine how many people wouldn't call up their phone provider if the call centre staff could get some decent current down the bell wire.

  4. Buzzword

    Suggestions for tech firms' hold music

    IBM - "Getting Smaller" by Nine Inch Nails

    Amazon - "Return To Sender" by Elvis Presley

    Tesla - "Electric Avenue" by Eddy Grant

    Fisker Inc. / Fisker Automotive - "Together in Electric Dreams" by Phil Oakey

    I'll let others take over from here.

    1. malle-herbert Silver badge
    2. malle-herbert Silver badge
    3. Your alien overlord - fear me

      Re: Suggestions for tech firms' hold music

      Blondie - Call me

      1. John H Woods Silver badge

        Re: Suggestions for tech firms' hold music

        Never There -- CAKE

      2. David Nash Silver badge

        Re: Suggestions for tech firms' hold music

        "Blondie - Call me"

        Surely you mean "Hanging on the Telephone"!

        1. Stoneshop Silver badge
          Devil

          Re: Suggestions for tech firms' hold music

          Kraftwerk - Der Telefonanruf

          1. Stoneshop Silver badge
            Big Brother

            Re: Suggestions for tech firms' hold music

            Google: Every Breath You Take - The Police

            1. Jeffrey Nonken Silver badge

              Re: Suggestions for tech firms' hold music

              ELO Telephone Line

              1. Korev Silver badge

                Re: Suggestions for tech firms' hold music

                Any call centre: On Hold by the XX

              2. Stoneshop Silver badge
                Holmes

                Re: Suggestions for tech firms' hold music

                Uber: Elvis Costello - Watching The Detectives

      3. abortnow

        Re: Suggestions for tech firms' hold music

        A real example from long ago as I waited in a call cue on a transatlantic help desk call

        Borland International - Blondie - Hanging On The Telephone

    4. Esme

      Re: Suggestions for tech firms' hold music

      Lancia - you and me 'till the wheels fall off - L7

      Cadburys - 'Heaven' (far too many to list)

      Crapita on behalf of TV Licencing - 'Stand and deliver' by Adam and the Ants

    5. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: Suggestions for tech firms' hold music

      BT: "Come Talk to me" by Peter Gabriel

      Battersea Dogs Home: "Dogs" by Pink Floyd.

      Fisher-Price Toys: "Radioactive Toy" by Porcupine Tree

      Google: "Off the Map" by Porcupine Tree

      The UK Government: "The Vultures Fly High" by Renaissance.

      Papworth Cardiac Hospital: "Closer to the Heart" - Rush.

      Every politician everywhere: "O cho mealt" - Runrig[1]

      SpaceX: "Falling for Forever" - Spock's Beard

      [1] "Ach chuala sinn mu dheireadh thall, Na briagan's na faclan falamh, O cho meallt is a tha an saoghal" - "But all we heard at the end of the day, Were lies and empty words, There is much deception in the world".

      One of the few Runrig song to not have the English translation included in the sleeve notes. Largely because it would have got them sued by their former wannabe record company..

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Suggestions for tech firms' hold music

        Blossom Dearie - Brr brr brr busy line.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Suggestions for tech firms' hold music

      You say it best when you say nothing at all - Ronan Keating

      Anon because my employer actually uses this for its hell desk!

    7. Long John Brass Silver badge

      Re: Suggestions for tech firms' hold music

      A mate was working for $corporate entity many moons ago; Was rostered on over the Christmas break.

      Since he had access to the phone system, he brought in a mix tape and duly inserted it into the on-hold system.

      His manager complimented him on his taste in music, but mentioned that the Dead Kennedys was perhaps inappropriate in a business setting. Apparently Frigging in the rigging and To drunk to fuck wasn't to a customers liking over said Christmas Hols :)

      He didn't get fired though; So that was a bonus

    8. fajensen Silver badge
      Angel

      Re: Suggestions for tech firms' hold music

      Morris Dancers, then I'd sit there imagining the sounds of clubs and stomping are made by actually assaulting the flesh and bones of CEx's who forced me to call their stupid support line.

  5. JimmyPage Silver badge
    Flame

    er - call holding in *2017*

    given the technology to implement a call-back-on-busy system must be ... oooo 20 years old what kind of neolithic outfits are requiring their customers to hold ?

    Antler pick manufacturers.

    The older I get, the less time I have for this shit. What the fuck was the point of getting excited about the future in the 1970s if this is what it is now ?

    1. Putters

      Re: er - call holding in *2017*

      Tomorrow's World has a lot to answer for ... raising false hope in an entire generation.

    2. Snorlax

      Re: er - call holding in *2017*

      @JimmyPage: "given the technology to implement a call-back-on-busy system must be ... oooo 20 years old what kind of neolithic outfits are requiring their customers to hold ?"

      What kind of business is going to call customers back at their own expense, especially when they can get the customers to call a premium number?

      Might as well throw money down the toilet...

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: er - call holding in *2017*

        "What kind of business is going to call customers back at their own expense"

        One worth being a customer of.

      2. MeRp

        To be fair...

        Woah, customer service lines in the UK are premium lines? That is crazy, and you must put a stop to it, immediately! In the US pretty much every company has a toll-free customer service line; even if they make you pay for service, you still call on a toll free line and give your CC, bill your account, whatever.

        Some sort of call when no longer busy scheme seems to make a lot of sense here. Amazon does it, but other than that it seems pretty rare here as well.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: To be fair...

          Woah, customer service lines in the UK are premium lines? That is crazy,

          Presumably that's how they pay for the long-distance service to India, and the salaries of call center employees (about 10p a day per person)

        2. Adam 52 Silver badge

          Re: To be fair...

          "Woah, customer service lines in the UK are premium lines?"

          They aren't. In fact the rules for premium lines specifically prohibit it.

          But we do have a set of not-strictly-premium but not-bundled and therefore more expensive than usual numbers where the called party gets a cut of the termination fee.

          Basically our incompetent regulator created loads of loopholes and the ingenious phone companies drove a horse and cart through them.

    3. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: er - call holding in *2017*

      "what kind of neolithic outfits are requiring their customers to hold ?"

      Let me see. It's probably a premium number. You're on hold, to said number, waiting waiting waiting.

      Ketching.

    4. IsJustabloke Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: er - call holding in *2017*

      "What the fuck was the point of getting excited about the future in the 1970s"

      because the 1970's were so very very very very shit

      1. Pompous Git Silver badge

        Re: er - call holding in *2017*

        "because the 1970's were so very very very very shit"

        Oh, I don't know about that...

        Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll – Ian Dury & The Blockheads

        1. IsJustabloke Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: er - call holding in *2017*

          "Oh, I don't know about that..."

          I'll give you that but I think that's more of an exception than the rule :)

    5. Cynic_999 Silver badge

      Re: er - call holding in *2017*

      And when the company receptionist gets the call, is she supposed to ring every extension in the company to find out who was expecting a call-back?

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: er - call holding in *2017*

      "What the fuck was the point of getting excited about the future in the 1970s if this is what it is now ?"

      I wish you hadn't said that. It makes me sad that we've made a world built on crap.

      1. dbtx Bronze badge

        FWIW, we get to find out (or invent) whatever post-post-post-modernism is.

    7. veti Silver badge

      Re: er - call holding in *2017*

      In the 1970s, did you imagine you'd be able to publish your generic discontent to an audience of millions, for nearly zero effort and zero cost?

      It's amazing what people will put up with, provided they're free to whine about it. Take away that freedom, however, and watch the gutters run red. (As witness those idiots who try to stop people posting bad reviews.)

    8. Pedigree-Pete
      Pint

      I'm with JP, disappointed with "the future"

      REF:What the fuck was the point of getting excited about the future in the 1970s if this is what it is now ?

      PP

      >>One for you Jimmy.

      1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

        Re: I'm with JP, disappointed with "the future"

        The future is now, but it's all going wrong. -- The The, Perfect

  6. LapwingWatcher

    All of our advisors are down't pit at' moment

    I quite enjoy PlusNet's Yorkshire-themed hold music. Human League, Pulp, Heaven 17, Robert Palmer... who knew he was from Batley?! They need to improve their Joe Cocker offering though.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: All of our advisors are down't pit at' moment

      Surely Yorkshire themed music should include some of our brass bands. Preferably playing Pratty Flowers.

  7. Captain Hogwash Silver badge

    Hold Music

    I use this:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xywQQXrYi5s

  8. JimC Silver badge

    In the days before internet based call logging systems one IT company I had dealings with might have hour waits to get to the right engineer to deal with your problem. They had a web based system which had all the hold music listed, and you could vote for the tunes you wanted to hear!

    1. Paul Kinsler

      you could vote for the tunes you wanted to hear!

      Since phones these days are qute smart, maybe someone should invent a protocol so that your phone gets to play its own(ers) preferred on-hold music/ radio play/ news reports/ whatever while waiting.

      Also, maybe there's a new ElReg colum here - not "On Call", but "On Hold" :-)

    2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

      "Wait! Could you put me back on hold? I quite liked that tune!"

  9. sebt
    Mushroom

    Vomit

    "Hearing is one of our most powerful emotional senses so the sounds customers hear when they call a business will create a long-lasting impression," added Williamson. "Every element of a music track, whether tempo, pitch or instrumentation, will stir different emotions"

    What if I don't want to have my "emotions stirred" by this twunt and his manipulative earhole-pollution? Being on hold is empty time. I don't want to be "entertained" by it, I just want to switch off or do something else until a clear signal tells me I'm talking to a real person. And the last thing I want is artificially-matey, always female voices telling me how important my call is to them, or suggesting I piss off to their website instead. Answer to which is: if your website had the information I needed, why would I be putting myself through having to listen to your babbling?

    Whatever happened, by the way, to that really useful feature hold systems used to have, where a voice would tell you "You are now number N in the queue"? Probably ousted by intrusive corporate-comms shite courtesy of PHMG and their like.

    If I want to have my emotions stirred, I'll go to a concert or put on music I choose.

    1. Your alien overlord - fear me

      Re: Vomit

      I thought it was a legal requirement nowadays to tell you your place in the queue. Especially if you didn't phone a freephone number.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: Vomit

        I thought it was a legal requirement nowadays to tell you your place in the queue. Especially if you didn't phone a freephone number

        "Your current position in the queue is ... way down. Way way down."

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Vomit

        "I thought it was a legal requirement nowadays to tell you your place in the queue. Especially if you didn't phone a freephone number."

        No such thing...sorry

    2. David Nash Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Vomit

      Yes those messages telling you that you can do most things on their website are some of the most annoying, for obvious reasons.

      We need a "me too" icon...or would that just encourage such non-insightful messages as this one?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Vomit

        Yes those messages telling you that you can do most things on their website are some of the most annoying, for obvious reasons.

        Especially when I'm calling my ISP with a connection or outage problem

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Vomit

      "Hearing is one of our most powerful emotional senses so the sounds customers hear when they call a business will create a long-lasting impression," added Williamson. "Every element of a music track, whether tempo, pitch or instrumentation, will stir different emotions"

      Is that why I keep hearing the same bloody tune on Webex calls while waiting for the host to join?

  10. Snorlax

    Canned music isn't that bad compared to the alternatives

    Give me soul-numbing canned music any day rather than a loop of "Did you know you can LiveChat with support staff on our website?".

    Yes Three, you bunch of shitheads, I'm looking at you.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Mushroom

      Re: Canned music isn't that bad compared to the alternatives

      Or the even more infuriating...

      "Did you know you log an incident or check for answers on our website at www....."

      No I can't you fuckwits! I'm not phoning your broadband service desk because I'm bored and fancy killing 30 minutes of my time.

    2. JimmyPage Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: LiveChat with support staff

      my arse.

      What you actually get, is a connection to a keyword-bot with the intelligence of a flea.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: LiveChat with support staff

        Fleas are actually intelligent when compared to most of the Indian based support these days.

        1. Korev Silver badge

          Re: LiveChat with support staff

          Support in call centres in the West can be dire too, there's no need to single out India-based centres like that.

          1. Adam 52 Silver badge

            Re: LiveChat with support staff

            Virgin media, for example. Their Indian call centre is much better than the UK one.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    Ahhh lovely...

    ...I'll just ask for £20,000 a year so I can play chart music.

    Yes, it is that expensive.

    1. BoldMan

      Re: Ahhh lovely...

      Play current chart music at me and you are 100% guaranteed to lose my business!!!

      1. sebt
        Thumb Up

        Re: Ahhh lovely...

        Got it in a nutshell.

        For other people, it might be Vivaldi that drives them nuts (or drives them to take their business elsewhere).

        It's the idea that you can please everyone - in an area like music where tastes differ so much - that drives me nuts. That you can supposedly "induce the same emotions" in anyone who calls, in a way that's entirely under your cynical, LCD, corporate control.

        This is the idea that should be killed with fire, shot, killed with fire again, shot again, stamped on, dipped in quicklime, buried in a lonely forest glade wrapped in an old carpet, and then nuked from orbit.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Ahhh lovely...

          "This is the idea that should be killed with fire, shot, killed with fire again, shot again, stamped on, dipped in quicklime, buried in a lonely forest glade wrapped in an old carpet, and then nuked from orbit."

          Sorry, you failed your BOFH. You forgot the electrocution and the fall from the 20th storey window into a skip in the car park.

      2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: Ahhh lovely...

        Play current chart music at me and you are 100% guaranteed to lose my business!!!

        Not *all* current chart music is unlistenable-to (and I say this as someone who has the favourite genres of Prog, Folk and Jazz). Good musicians can still get good, listenable stuff into the charts.

        I will agree that a lot of it is vapid, auto-generated, marketing drivel ear-rot though.

        1. Captain DaFt

          Re: Ahhh lovely...

          "Not *all* current chart music is unlistenable-to...

          I will agree that a lot of it is vapid, auto-generated, marketing drivel ear-rot though."

          Unfortunately, it's the drivel that gets shunted off to hold music to earn the company a bit more dosh for trash that's unsaleable.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Chart music vs. classical

    A lot of moronic outfits think they can escape PRS dues because classical music is out of copyright.

    What they (choose to) forget is that there is a separate copyright on the performance ...

    There appears to be enough bandwidth in voice connections for SoundHound to identify the performance and ...

    https://www.prsformusic.com/

  13. sebt
    FAIL

    Hello hackers?

    This kind of enforced "entertainment" really needs subversion. As I don't have the skillz, all I can do is suggest alternative "corporate edutainment" recordings:

    1. The 5-year-old next door playing (I mean... attempting to play) "Indian Wardance", or whatever pre-Grade 1 piece it is he's been stuck on for the last 6 months. ("is he going to get that bit right this time? ... is he...? Wait for ittttt.... No, of course he isn't....).

    2. Sounds of fire alarms, people running about screaming, followed by an out-of-breath voice shouting "OMG THE CALL CENTRE'S ON FIRE!!!! HELP CALL THE FIRE BRIGADE! I'M BURNINNGGGGG...."

  14. adam payne Silver badge

    PHMG's study involved an "audit" of 127 companies (in other words ringing them up) and found that 65 per cent of IT firms still leave customers listening to nothing but generic music, while 14 per cent subject callers to beeps, 9 per cent leave them in silence and 3 per cent just ring at them.

    Not exactly a huge number of companies to base your PR on.

    "Can you imagine if a generic piece of music being inexpertly applied to a company's brand image, such as, say, Michael Bolton's Can I Touch You... There? The consequences could be disastrous."

    I would assume you have some kind of control over what is played. If not then why would you have signed up to that in the first place.

    Personally I don't care if it's silent, beeps, music, or PR drivel just don't leave me on hold for 30 minutes or more telling me my call is important to you every few seconds or telling me I can go on line to your crap website. The reason i'm calling is probably because you can't do what I want to do on your website.

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

      "Not exactly a huge number of companies to base your PR on."

      It's the set-up to a sales pitch. Not science in any way.

  15. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

    generic music is enough to keep callers entertained

    That's odd where I used to work is was aimed at trying to calm irate customers down

  16. Timmy B Silver badge

    Years Ago

    I had to ring Borland technical support - in either the states or Canada, I forget, it was years ago. They had a local radio station playing as their hold music. I was on hold for ages and gradually losing my temper when a mention of me waiting on the phone comes over the airwaves. One of the chaps in my office had found out the station and rung them. By all accounts is was quite common.

    1. Barry Rueger Silver badge

      Re: Years Ago

      Radio on hold invariably involved a dirt cheap AM/FM transistor radio, always slightly off the exact frequency, sitting atop the telco box in the warehouse.

      And nine times out of ten, instead of tuning to CBC (or BBC in the UK) they chose a local commercial radio station that played adverts for their competitor.

  17. David Nash Silver badge

    What's the solution?

    A completely silent call would be disconcerting, and unclear whether you were still connected.

    Given that people's preferred music varies, what is the best option? A continual ring tone?

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

      Re: What's the solution?

      An ELIZA chatbot with a soothing voice.

  18. 2Nick3 Bronze badge

    Time Warner Cable

    When on hold for TWC you would regularly hear Jackson Browne warn you "The Next Voice You Hear Will Be Your Own."

    Great song, wrong message...

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    keep callers entertained

    "IT firms believe generic music is enough to keep callers entertained"

    WRONG. WRONG, WRONG and WRONG. I do not need to be 'entertained' while on hold - usually I am trying to get somethign else done while I wait, so I don't need the distraction of hold music of any kind. I only need something very basic to let me know I haven't lost the call.

  20. kain preacher Silver badge

    What hate is muzak. They take crappy pop songs then have some on do a cover of it. Worse they play crappy cover of a song you like. Oh and how many times can you listen to Marry had a little lamb on a kazoo.

  21. DNTP

    Best on-hold audio ever

    There is one large biotech company that plays, apparently, a loop off a "nature sounds" compilation. Its 20 seconds of water splashing/distant thunder, and then a two second barrage of disproportionately loud duck quacking all but guaranteed to make you rip off your headset if you had it set to normal volume levels.

  22. JaitcH
    Meh

    What we need is a SILENCE option

    The last thing I want to hear is some grating 'music' when I'm calling the 'Service' line.

    An optional SILENCE option on the menu should be provided, along with a queue announcement indicating how many people ahead of you.

    Even worse are those celco's who offer music instead of ringing tones which make it hard to know if you are actually ringing the number you dialled.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Stop

      Re: What we need is a SILENCE option

      " along with a queue announcement indicating how many people ahead of you"

      A decent call centre will NEVER, do that. It is pointless.

      You are number 10 in the queue.

      You are 5000 in the queue.

      Which one would you hang up on?

      You are number 10 in the queue.......1 person answering a call every 30 minutes.

      You are 5000 in the queue......1000 agents handling a call every minute.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: What we need is a SILENCE option

        " along with a queue announcement indicating how many people ahead of you"

        A decent call centre will NEVER, do that. It is pointless.

        It isn't pointless. The point is that the message should be repeated and you can hear how fast it's going down. Your 1000 calls answered a minute will have a total going down by about 50 as fast as they can announce itt and you'll know you'll get to the front of the queue pretty soon.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: What we need is a SILENCE option

          I promise you it doesn't work. Having told endless call centre managers this, they will still think they no best and occasionally come up wit this bright idea.

          Despite us having average speed to answer of less than 30 seconds, it's amazing how many people people drop of the phone after they are number 95 in the queue.

          It usually takes less than a week to "reassess the situation".

  23. Wiltshire

    What happened to the other Al Reg music on hold article?

    Music for cold callers (or something like that)

  24. Hollerithevo Silver badge

    Can be good

    I worked at one of the big six energy companies and they had rather lovely, if a bit new-agey, music that had a long loop. We has customers asking us for it all the time. I believe we asked the group who produced this sort of music to create a track just for us, so we couldn't give customers a name or link to that specific music, but we did recommend the group.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Microsoft

    MS took the lead in this category. Back in the 90's I was stuck in their hold queue for some minor issue. Their music was decent, and then a pleasant sounding voice came on, radio DJ style. She told us what song we just heard, and then said something like: "Let's check out the current hold times, shall we? The Office suite hold time is currently estimated at 30 minutes, the SQL Server queue hold time is currently 90 minutes, the Visual Basic hold time is 18 minutes...".

    I'm still astounded at the fact they hired someone to sit in a booth and play DJ for hold music.

    Inspired me though, at our little regional ISP we set up an old Windows box with Winamp and a cheap soundcard for our music on hold. No repeat workdays for us, heavy on classic rock.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Microsoft

      Please tell me you left the ads in!

      Winamp, It really bites the llamas ass.

  26. Tikimon Silver badge
    Happy

    "Hold" doesn't have to mean Purgatory

    My company wants short messages on the Hold track, upcoming events and "did you know?" informative bits. I select instrumentals that are lighthearted without being obtrusive. I'm noted for my pleasant "airplane voice" and read the messages myself. Then I overlay them every 20-30 seconds on the background track, dropping the music volume so the vox doesn't have to be loud. Loops every four minutes or so.

    I do my best to make HOLD a pleasant or neutral experience. We get compliments now and then. It's not difficult, and I wish more companies followed that simple philosophy.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: "Hold" doesn't have to mean Purgatory

      "I do my best to make HOLD a pleasant or neutral experience."

      Hold is not an experience anyone wants. They want someone to answer the phone. If there aren't enough people to answer the phone quickly the hold queue will grow until it equilibrates; as it grows longer more people will abandon their calls and eventually the rate of drop out plus the rate of answer equals the number of new calls. And every dropped call means a customer or potential customer that your precious company has pissed off.

      Your company might want short messages on your hold track, your callers don't, they just want their calls answered.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    The best hold music I ever heard...

    ...was a large music shop in Birmingham that had it's own tech music studio.

    The hold music was unsigned artists demo's.

    After being on hold for 5 minutes someone answered and I asked to be put back on hold, which he happily did. Once the track finished, he picked up again. I sort of apologised, admitting i really liked the track at which point he said it was a common occurrence and occasionally they were asked to put people on hold until they hung up.

  28. AndrueC Silver badge
    Happy

    Way back in the mists of time when I was young and stupid (I'm not young any more) Borland used to play jazz music while you waited. Apparently one of the founders played jazz but I just thought it was intended to keep the queue lengths down.

    1. Pompous Git Silver badge

      "Borland used to play jazz music while you waited. Apparently one of the founders played jazz"
      Philippe Kahn. He plays saxophone.

      1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

        Zen Internet used to have inspiring MOH...

        ...performed by a relative of one of the company founders, I believe.

        The reason for generic muzak is it is Royalty Free, otherwise you may get a call from the Performing Rights Society. Vivaldi is out of copyright (hence his popularity), but the orchestra playing it are generally still entitled to a cut because the recording is generally still within copyright.

      2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

        Re: P. Kahn

        And the flute. Apparently he sometimes started presentations for investors with a little solo performance.

        Tech Trivia Time: Technically, he started his career in tech as an illegal alien, having entered the US on a student visum and staying on after it expired. He had a good job lined up at HP - which he couldn't take because he failed to get a Green Card. So he founded Borland.

        Try pulling a stunt like that today.

        Oh, and QuattroPro was easier to use than Excel.

  29. Sam Therapy

    Worst I ever heard...

    Was a badly edited (so it didn't repeat correctly) loop of an Enya track. For hours. I didn't like Enya before but now whenever I hear her "music" I get a red mist in front of my eyes.

  30. Ozz

    Fun times.

    I briefly worked for a company that piped generic music for on hold. I'll never forget the time it started looping a rap song that repeatedly dropped the F bomb...

  31. Shadow Systems Silver badge

    Dear Companies, your on hold system is a dual edged sword.

    I don't mind much if you need to put me on hold to go check with your supervisor, look up something in a database or help system, as it means you can assist me better & try to resolve whatever issue about which I've called.

    What I mind is the repeated claims that I should keep holding because my call is important (bullshit - if it were then you would have answered it already) or that I could do all this via your website (bullshit - the fact that it's not accessible is why I'm forced to call you in the first place).

    Every time your on hold system insults my intelligence or pisses me off I increment the counter by +1.

    What counter?

    The likelihood that I'll instead decide to use this call to cancel my account & take my business elsewhere.

    I've had companies leave me on hold so long that the counter has surpassed 100 & thus *guaranteed* that I'd be killing my account, & then they act surprised that I'm "less than pleasant" on the phone?

    You did it to yourself by telling me every x seconds for TWO BLOODY HOURS that my call was important to you & that it would be answered shortly.

    Do you REALLY think ANYONE would be pleasant to you after that amount of bullshit?

    Because if you did then you deserve to be taken out & shot.

    I've got work to do, just like you do, and I can't get mine done until YOU get yours done, so wasting my time while you blow smoke up my ass is an AWESOME way to piss me off enough to vote with my wallet.

    You piss off your customers, we'll vote with our wallets, and we won't be YOUR customers any more.

    *Gives TheFinger with both hands after getting off the phone*

    1. Korev Silver badge

      Re: Dear Companies, your on hold system is a dual edged sword.

      The irony is that they'll probably put you through to the "Customer retention team" who have no wait.

  32. Cynic_999 Silver badge

    Before "hold music" became commonplace, many companies would play the local radio station while on hold. At least it wasn't a loop. Mind you, if the person picks up just as you hear a news bulletin saying, "World war 3 has been decl...." you might forget what you called about.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      That would cost thousands to do these days....

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    MY all time favourite Dilbert..

    http://dilbert.com/strip/2011-04-30

    Most apt in the circumstances.

  34. roselan

    I don't understand

    We use the theme of 2 girls 1 cup and nobody did ever complain.

    Of course, there is that one guy from sales that told us he should have a made a video call...

  35. Howard Hanek Bronze badge
    Happy

    Vivaldi

    ....loved choir boys.........very, very much. You could say they 'inspired' him.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Vivaldi

      How odd, in that case, that he taught in a girls' orphanage.

  36. s. pam

    Ever been on hold with GlobalMeet?

    They've not changed their on-hold music in 15 years!

    1. Captain DaFt

      Re: Ever been on hold with GlobalMeet?

      And you're still waiting for someone to take your call!

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Best I ever heard...

    was the Scooby Doo theme at a long forgotten IT Rec firm

  38. 2+2=5 Silver badge

    We are experiencing unexpected call volumes at the moment

    "We are experiencing unexpected call volumes at the moment."

    Aaaaarggh! I so hate that particular lie.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: We are experiencing unexpected call volumes at the moment

      "Aaaaarggh! I so hate that particular lie."

      If they were so unexpected how come they had a message recorded for that exact situation?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: We are experiencing unexpected call volumes at the moment

      you even get that at 2:30am on a Sunday morning....

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    We had yuge customer satisfaction with Star Trek

    A portable CD player running on endless shuffle in the server rack, playing a collection of quotes from Star Trek into the on-hold input. Some callers even asked to be put back into the queue, so they could listen some more.

    Probably was this one or a similar collection: https://www.musik-sammler.de/media/604872/

    The CD player was later replaced by a bunch of MP3 files on an Asterisk appliance and kept trekking until late last year.

  40. Pompous Git Silver badge

    And thinking of queues...

    There was a queue at the airport check-in. Mr Very Important Person forces his way in at the desk. The very attractive young lady says: "I'm sorry sir; you'll have to go to the back of the queue."

    The VIP says angrily: "Don't you know who I am?"

    The attractive young lady says into the PA system: "We have a gentleman at the check-in who doesn't know who he is. If anyone can assist, it would be very much appreciated."

    VIP: "Fuck you, bitch!"

    Attractive young lady: "You'll have to go to the end of the queue for that as well."

  41. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

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