Music to Marketers' Ears: Americans Don't Totally Hate Waiting On Hold
Americans are not particularly known for their patience. Thanks in part to our gluttonous appetite for social media and all other things digital, the average attention span of a yankee doodle dandy is now 8 seconds short -- all of one second shy of that of a darned goldfish. Yet somehow, if the findings of a recent study ring true, we’re surprisingly patient when it comes to waiting on hold on the phone.
A recent poll of 2,000-plus Americans showed that more than 55 percent were surprisingly chill with waiting on hold for more than a minute. Sixty seconds is just about our threshold for taking in an earful of Muzak and/or marketing jibjab whilst we wait for a customer service rep -- someone, anyone, please make it a human -- to finally pick up and take our call.
It bears noting that this study was not so coincidentally conducted by PH Media Group, a large global audio services and on-hold marketing services firm anchored out of London. The company also found that the British, known the world over for their stiff-upper-lip restraint and exceptionally proper manners -- surprise, surprise -- are not as patient as their ‘Merican cousins across the pond. When it comes to phone hold times, only 45 percent of Brits would keep calm and wait on the line for more than a minute. Then again, Brits aren’t generally known to aimlessly faff about either.
“Traditionally, waiting on hold is perceived as an annoyance for customers,” Mark Williamson, PH Media Group’s sales and marketing director says, “so these figures might come as a surprise, suggesting Americans are fairly patient when waiting to have a query answered.”
Not so surprisingly, well, depending on who you ask, the research also suggests that American women are are more patient than men, with 60 percent willing to remain on hold for longer than a minute, compared to 49 percent of males. The study also reaffirmed that people tend to grow more patient with age, with 59 percent of 45- to 64-year-olds tolerating waiting more than 60 seconds on hold.
Related: 6 Tips for Mobile Marketing to Engage Customers
Meanwhile, the 18- to 34-year-olds, the perpetually painted as impatient millennial set, are are less willing to sit around on hold for longer than a hot minute, that is unless on-hold messages are piped in, the research revealed. Of course, millennials’ willingness to listen to branded messages while on hold is music to marketers’ ears. Never a marketable moment wasted.
“Given younger people are most willing to wait longer if allowed to listen to on-hold messages,” Williamson says, “companies should look to cater to customers of the future by putting such systems in place and ensure your business doesn’t miss out on valuable communication opportunities.”
Do your business and your callers a favor: Hang up on the cheesy, generic hold music and spin pre-recorded, carefully curated messages on repeat between flashes of quality tunes that resonate with your demographic. And, while you’re at it, skip the cruddy audio, banish silence and ditch the old-school “leave a message after the beep” rigamarole.
Instead, engage and entertain your customers with fun, targeted messaging while they wait around to pay your bills. If not, you lose. They’ll hang up and call the competition.
Kim Lachance Shandrow is the former West Coast editor at Entrepreneur.com. Previously, she was a commerce columnist at Los Angeles CityBeat, a news producer at MSNBC and KNBC in Los Angeles and a frequent contributor to the Los Angeles Times. She has also written for Government Technology magazine, LA Yoga magazine, the Lowell Sun newspaper, HealthCentral.com, PsychCentral.com and the former U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. C. Everett Coop. Follow her on Twitter at @Lashandrow. You can also follow her on Facebook here.