The Daily Record
Dated Thursday, July 26, 2001

On-hold messages: Make caller think,
‘I just made the right decision’

By Laura Fick
Daily Record Business Writer

No matter how efficiently a business is run or how expensive its phone system is, every company inevitably puts somebody on hold at one time or another.

The on-hold message that keeps callers occupied while waiting to connect with their party actually can play a very significant role in marketing the company.

"We’re usually on hold for a lot longer than people like to admit," said Natalie McIntyre, co-owner of ImageLine on Hold, a Baltimore-based company that develops on-hold messages. "You can use that time and let people know more about the business."

According to McIntyre, the time a caller spends on hold can be filled with professionally recorded telephone commercials that include public service information, success stories, company statistics and information about additional services that the company offers.

"They can do a lot," she said. "I think one of the most common responses we get from our clients is that their callers come back and say, ‘Hey, I didn’t know you did that."

According to local recording studios, the message can market the business to callers, possibly increasing the reputation of the business in the caller’s mind.
"I think it’s more useful as an image-building subliminal thing," said Mike Sokol, president of JMS Productions, a recording studio in Hagerstown. "In terms of offering additional services…it does offer you another advertising pallet. You basically have a captive audience while they’re on hold."

"You can’t measure…the return on investment," said Marc Hess, CEO of Baltimore-based Kipp Visual and Security systems, which had a professional message created more than two years ago. "I’m of the belief that the time that [the customers] are on hold, they’re getting educated. I think people like to hear our success stories. That instills a little bit of our reputation."

According to Pamela L. Porter, regional director of the capital region of the Small Business Development Center, on-hold messages, as well as other telephone services such as additional lines and voice mail, can be important for entrepreneurs to consider when starting a business.

"I tell new businesses, startup businesses, even established businesses that you have to manage your telephone traffic professionally," she said. "You can’t just get your telephone and say, ‘Oh yeah, I have a telephone for my business.’ You have to think about how are you going to manage that traffic?"
Besides managing the traffic, businesses should turn to professional messages over other alternatives to fill the air, such as broadcasting a radio station over the hold line.

"It’s a [Federal Communications Commission] violation for plugging the radio into your hold line," said McIntyre. "And you have no control over what they say. Chances are very good that [the radio station] is going to play one of your competitors’ ads."

"You want to get them information," she said. "Especially in some types of businesses, people are calling in some amount of distress. …You want the caller to always have the feeling of, ‘I know I made the right decision."