"Hold on, I'm coming" . . . Not

"Hold on, I'm coming" . . . Not

And this from our strange but true files. According to research conducted by Lucent enterprise spinoff Avaya, poorly chosen "hold music", or worse still none at all, can cause over half of all callers to hang up on calls to a customer contact centre.

While for most people there is nothing worse than hanging on to a phone for great lengths of time waiting for a call centre operator to answer a query, Avaya claims there is: namely, bad hold music. You know, the kind of music that makes you want to pick up an assault rifle from your local gun shop and go postal from a roof top position. (Well, perhaps not that drastic, but you get the point.)Avaya's research concluded that 15 per cent of callers telephoning contact centres will be lost permanently if met by silence or poor hold music. Some 20 per cent of callers will hang up after queuing for 20 seconds. This increases to half of all callers hanging up after 45 seconds.

Silence during the waiting time is said to lead to the greatest number of people hanging up and never calling back. Yet, surprisingly, Avaya's research concluded that in certain cases playing the wrong music may have a worse effect than playing none at all.

Avaya even managed to get a psychology lecturer to extrapolate on their research from the somewhat untoward named university UMIST. (I personally graduated from the UMIST Class of 1987, majoring in beer appreciation).

According to Carey Cooper, professor of Organisational Psychology, University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST), "People are living frenetic, often frustrating lives and don't have much spare time on their hands. Waiting on the end of the line to make a simple enquiry will make them feel even more undervalued and annoyed. Hold music won't pacify them, but bad or inappropriate music will certainly make their experience even worse."

"People don't mind going through the decision tree rigmarole, wading through a set of numbered options, if they are requesting high-value items. They appreciate that this is often the most efficient way for companies to deal with customers," he said. "But bad hold music is like adding insult to injury."

Real-life examples of inappropriate hold music uncovered by Avaya include:

- A hospital casualty unit playing the Funeral March by Chopin.

- A clothing firm specialising in larger sizes for women playing Queen's Fat-bottomed girls.

- A mail order company playing Hanging on the telephone by Blondie.

- One company advised its callers that their call would be answered shortly and then were played the chorus of Rocket man by Elton John, "I think it's going to be a long, long time . . .".

Real-life examples made up by deranged Tabloid staff include:

- A fertility clinic found to be playing Hold on, I'm coming (covered) by Joe Cocker.

- The Institute of Cosmetic Surgery playing You're so vain by Carly Simon.

- The Port Headland Detention Centre playing Born Free by John Barry.

- An erectile disfunction clinic playing I want your sex by George Michael.

- A paraplegia counselling line playing 500 miles by the Proclaimers.

- A flood insurance hotline Under the water by Merryl Brainbridge.

- The Royal Blind Society playing I still haven't found what I'm looking for by U2.

- A divorce law firm playing For all the girls I've loved before by Julio Iglesias.

- A suicide crisis line Jump jump everybody by Fresh Prince.

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