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We’ve all experienced a frustrating hold message. We’ve had those bad calls that made us yell into our receiver or slam the phone down (or at least press the end-call button furiously). 

Yet, even though most of us have personally had a bad experience while on-hold, we forget that we may be putting our business callers in the same stressful situation.

As you reflect on your bad calling experiences, see if your phone system is set up with a hold message that is frustrating, or even infuriating your callers. Are you making these mistakes?


1. It’s nothing but silence.

Hold music and messaging helps the caller know that they are still on the line. Without it, the caller is left in a dead silence that makes them feel like they were disconnected. Callers don’t like that experience, and it often leads them to hang up. A study by AT&T found that 60% of callers hang up when left on hold in silence. When you consider that two-thirds of Americans are calling from a smartphone, it’s easier for them to quickly Google a competitor than to wait for you to answer.

FIX IT: Provide message or music to keep callers on the line.


2. It’s too loud.

While silence is annoying, blaring messages and music are almost equally as bad. When callers have to pull the phone away from their ear, it’s a little more than irritating. 

FIX IT: Only use music and professionally recorded messages that are mixed with the right volume for phone experiences.


3. It has static.

If you fail to use professional production to record messages or play music, you may end up with another annoyance on the line – static or radio noise. An unpleasant buzzing or crackling on your line may be enough to get your caller to hang up. Alexander Graham Bell could tolerate static, but your business cannot. 

FIX IT: Use professional recording software and production teams to put together a message that sounds clear and sharp.


4. The music is awful.

Hold music should relax and entertain callers. It shouldn’t irritate them. Frustrating hold messages contain music that is off-brand or difficult to listen to for more than a minute or two. This is not the place to share your brother-in-law’s garage band demo tape. 

FIX IT: Pick out a music genre that fits your target audience and provides an experience they would expect from your organization.

BONUS TIP: Check out these festive party tunes with an island twist


5. The voiceover is awkward, unprofessional, or unpolished.

When organizations have an internal staff member record their hold message, they often think they are saving time and resources. But this usually results in an unprofessional message that sounds awkward or uncomfortable. Winning “Employee of the Month” doesn’t make someone a professional voice talent. 

FIX IT: Don’t force an internal staff member to be the voice of your company. Use professional voice talent that provides a polished final product.

BONUS TIP: Listen to the way different voices work better with different industries


6. It doesn’t offer any useful information.

According to a Google report, 52% of people call a business to check business hours. The caller doesn’t need to wait for a live person to provide this information. But often, they have to wait through useless, unhelpful messages before they can get to the information they need.  

FIX IT: Give useful information to callers early in the call. Think about the questions customers ask when they call your business. Provide the answers to those questions throughout your on-hold messaging so callers can get what they need faster and without waiting for a live representative.


7. It repeats the same message over and over and over again.

While it’s helpful to call to an organization and get a series of messages with useful information, it’s incredibly annoying to hear the same info repeated over and over. No one wants to sit and listen to the same promotion or repetitive message in a too-short loop. 

FIX IT: When you record a hold message, consider the average time your callers wait on-hold. Double that time and don’t repeat a message until that time is up. That prevents callers from being forced to listen to messages over and over.


8. It shares outdated information.

Delivering the wrong information is another way to create frustrating hold messages. You look unprofessional and out-of-touch when you share messages that promote events and specials that have ended or expired. 

FIX IT: Don’t put off updating your on-hold messaging. Schedule a time to regularly review and update your hold messages or hire a company that will manage the process for you.


9. It takes forever to talk to a real person.

While it’s helpful to get information from an automated recording, sometimes callers need to talk to a live representative. Don’t make that impossible. 

FIX IT: Decrease caller wait times by using VoIP phone solutions that allow you to answer calls even when you are out of the office. Or, use auto attendants and IVRs that can quickly answer and route calls.


10. It’s an endless series of automated questions.

Automated questions are helpful for getting initial information from callers and guiding them to the right department. But don’t rely so heavily on automated services that you restrict callers from talking to a live person.

FIX IT: Provide callers with an option to talk to an operator throughout the call so they can quickly get to a live person without going through a series of unrelated automated questions. Remember: the goal is a positive experience for the customer.


11. It never leads to the right person.

Going through automated questions can be annoying. But it’s really frustrating to go through automations, answer the questions, and end up talking to the wrong person or department. It becomes even more infuriating when that results in being left on-hold for a second time.

FIX IT: Before implementing an automated directory system, work out the kinks or work with a professional to ensure that your callers are properly routed.


You know what frustrating hold messages are like. You know how annoying they can be. And, you know that a bad calling experience can physically anger you.

So why are you putting your customers through the same thing?

Consider these frustrating situations and start working toward a less stressful, more helpful and useful calling experience for your customers and clients.

Get more tips and advice for improving your calling experience with our free ebook “Is Your Customer Calling Experience Costing Your Business? Everything You Need to Know Before Putting a Customer On Hold.”