The Business Monthly
Volume 23, Number 17
August 2001

Putting Your Business On Hold

By Natalie McIntyre

Telephony has put its best foot forward. State-of-the-art telephones and telephone systems have come of age. Quality and complexity have leapt hand-in-hand into the 21st century. In fact, quality is so good that now you can be put on hold and not hear a sound — no static, no hum, no line noise — nothing, just dead silence. Has that happened to you? Were you tempted to hang up and call back, or did you hang on, thinking you’d been cut off — expecting any moment to hear the recorded telephone company message: "If you’d like to make a call, hang up and …."

On the other hand, silence may be preferable to high-volume, pseudo-rock music and annoying commercials from that radio station you’ve learned to hate. Typically, the music is inappropriate for the business you’ve called, or you’re amused when you phone your lawyer and hear an ad from a competing law firm. You know you’ve not been disconnected, but wish that you had been. Has that happened to you? Were you tempted to hang up?
But, it still could be worse. Anything may be preferable to those annoying on-hold messages that sound like an airport voice, one that incessantly reminds you not to leave your bag unattended; or like those train departures and arrivals which nobody can translate. It’s not silence and it’s not music, and you sure know you’ve not been disconnected. Has that happened to you? Were you tempted to hang up?

Finally, there are those recorded on-hold and after-hours messages from the oldest staff member, or the youngest. The information is important and useful, but you have to hang up and call back to hear it again because you were too distracted to listen the first time. You can tell she’s tried eight times to get it right and can hear the fatigue (or boredom) in her voice, almost see the sweat on his brow and marvel at the choice and intensity of the background music (if any).
You think this is exaggeration? Maybe, but when was the last time you called your business and asked to be put on hold? Take the time to do that. Do it now. Or call some Sunday morning, or on a holiday. What do you hear? What don’t you hear? Is that how you want your business to present itself to the world?
What does your sales department want callers to hear? What do your marketing or public relations people want callers to hear? How much did you spend for that phone system? How much did you spend last year on maximizing the return on investment in that system? How much did you spend on marketing your company’s (or business’s, or profession’s) image? How much did you spend to be sure the messages and voices on your phone system enhance that image?
The word "spend" is not just a reference to money. Good public relations and marketing take time and attention to detail. As a business person, you spend hours attending to the details of your marketing and public relations plans in an effort to put your best foot forward. That’s what we all try to do in our businesses — put our best foot, and our best voice — forward.

So don’t leave your business on hold. Move your business forward with your best effort and your best voice. Just remember, that first contact, and most repeat contacts, come through your telephone. So, when you take your business off hold, put your best voice forward.
Natalie McIntyre is an owner of ImageLine On Hold, creating on hold messages that are engaging, interesting and informative for businesses. She can be reached at 410-889-0654 or visit the company’s web site at