On Hold

Choosing the Right Voice for Your Brand

We’re told from a young age that “first impressions are everything”; they’re the ever-lasting picture a new person paints of you from the moment you meet. While we tend to take this with a pinch of salt when socialising with others, the idiom rings all the more true when there are physical barriers in place, such as communicating over the phone.

When it comes to the first impression of your business, the stakes are much higher, as this often determines whether or not a new customer will jump on board with you and what you have to offer. While meeting customers in real life gives you ample opportunity to charm with your smile and warm personality, interacting over the phone is an entirely different story, and it’s the initial aural handshake that truly counts.

This is why choosing the right voice talent for your audio production is so important to your branding and customer reach. If a new customer is calling your company for the first time, it’s imperative they’re greeted with a warm and welcoming audio greeting that perfectly reflects your brand.

If your business is in a delicate industry, such as respite care or a funeral home, your voice talent ought to be soothing, comforting, and informative, rather than energetic and bubbly. On the other side of the coin, a younger voice with bright tones and a vivacious energy will be better suited to a childcare centre or café.

Each of our voice talents offers varying degrees of tone, warmth and personality types, to mirror your company’s image. There’s Candice, whose glowing, cheerful smile can actually be heard down the phone line; Magnus offers a host of character voices; Grayton has an authoritative, deep tone that commands attention; and Annie’s mature voice connects with callers while being helpful and comforting.

The right voice talent for your audio production shouldn’t be so out of line with your brand that it distracts the callers: what your callers should be focusing on is the content of the messages, rather than the voice. If you currently have a welcome message recorded in-house by your nervous receptionist or ambivalent IT guy, then the impression you’re offering isn’t all that strong or professional.

Take a listen below and see what you think. Here’s an average run of the mill in-house welcome example:

 

And here’s something we rustled up with one of our professional voice artists, Adrian:

 

So what do you think? How are you greeting each and every customer and prospect over the phone?

The right voice talent for your brand will not only receive every customer with professionalism, they’ll also get your customers excited about your promotions, keep them informed with vital information, or even calm them down if they’re stressed out.

Think about your company and brand as a person. What are their values? What do they talk about? What do they sound like? Now head over to our massive voice talent library and find the right voice to bring your messages and business to life!

– Cassie

Sound Like A Winner On The Phone

At Messages On Hold we conduct 95% of our business over the phone, so we’re acutely aware of how important our phone manner is. We know that nothing drops the buying temperature of a lead like a poorly handled phone call. To ensure every person in our company is not just competent on the phone but confident too, we go through rigorous training.

Customer Service Guru & Messages On Hold MD Kym Illman

Customer Service Guru & Messages On Hold MD Kym Illman

So you can start 2014 by offering your customers unwaveringly brilliant service over the phone, we’ve compiled our five most powerful phone techniques.

1) Smile!

Sounds simple, right? If you smile while you’re on the phone, your voice will sound relaxed, friendly and upbeat. Keep in mind that 38% of communication is tone of voice. Over the phone, it’s north of 50%.

2) Eliminate the hanging or…

“Do you want to hold or…” This sounds unprofessional and indecisive. If you can’t provide a second option, drop the ‘or’ altogether.

3) Never say “It’s not my department”

Believe it or not, customers don’t care about how your company is structured. All they care about is who they’re speaking with – you – the representative of the entire company. Instead, try saying “I’ll help you with this” then do the leg work to resolve the issue.

4) Stop placing your hand over the receiver

Your hand is not sound proof. It merely muffles the office sounds as you shuffle papers about your desk, frantically type on a keyboard or worse yet, call out across the office for a colleague. Remedy this by purchasing a soft touch keyboard or using your phone system’s hold button.

5) Have a pen handy

Almost every phone conversation will result in you having to record details of some sort. Telling the caller that you just have to get a pen & pad impresses nobody. Be ready.

That’s it! Implement these rules across your office and notice the difference it makes to how customers respond to you. To find more helpful tips that you can implement right now to sound like a Fortune 500 company, visit Messages On Hold.

If you’d like to share a useful tip, leave a comment on our Facebook page today!

– Lachy

Soft Serve Is Not Soft Sell

I scream, you scream we all scream for… t-shirts?

I scream, you scream we all scream for… t-shirts?

Real estate is expensive; there are thousands of retailers fighting for attention and department stores are unlikely to take a risk… what’s a poor designer to do? Travel around the UK in a brightly painted ice-cream truck selling t-shirts I hear you say? Well that’s exactly what London designer Henry Holland did.

Selling House of Holland clothes and accessories out of a van was a low risk way of testing out a retail space in different areas. The company could gauge reactions, get a bit of publicity and sell £50 t-shirts. A stunt like this perfectly suited the House of Holland ethos; it was fun, playful and a bit different. It also offered customers and fans a chance to interact with the brand. At a time when customers are more likely to buy online, this ice-cream van removed all the middle-men and sold from designer to consumer.

Sure, some people just wanted a soft-serve cone and were a little confused, but the stripey-spotty van made a real impact in Covent Garden. Plus, according to the company, the only ongoing costs were petrol and staff – and that ain’t too bad either!

Are you ready to shut up shop and invest in an ice-cream van? Or can you think of another creative way to make a big impact in the retail world?

– Emily

 

Second Impressions Last

In business, consistency in customer service is essential to long-term success. At Messages On Hold, we do a number of things to impress clients time after time, so they stick around. We’ll suggest message ideas to them regularly, refresh productions with new voices or music if they get a bit old, and even offer to record a new voicemail if we reckon we could improve their existing one. It’s all part of a proactive team effort to make a superb impression every time, while ensuring the customer gets as much value out of us as possible. We’re not the only company taking the initiative though.

A few weeks ago I talked about how I was blown away by the first impression I experienced at a retailer for one of Australia’s leading skincare brands. As someone relatively new to the whole “looking after your skin” thing, I was won over by the attentive but personable assistant and the liberal use of free samples. The second impression I got was just as good!Welcome Back! Doormat

When I needed to purchase more of a product I had run out of, I went to a different branch to last time as it was more convenient. I knew what I was after so I just went to the till and made my purchase. After my last purchase I had been saved in the national customer database. The shop attendant saw the last time I had bought the product, and noticed that I had used it up very quickly. He then recommended that I use the product out of the shower to make it last longer, before generously seasoning my shopping bag with some free samples. He paid attention, got on the front foot and offered me a way to save money.

Sure, thanks to his handy tip I’ll probably be using less of the product in question, but this on-the-ball attendant helped win me over as a long-term customer, and that’s invaluable.

If you want to make sure clients stick around for the long haul and are a source of repeat business, it literally pays to make outstanding impressions beyond the first.

– Magnus

Put Your Ear To The Ground

Every morning after I boot up my computer and check my emails, I log onto Twitter to see who’s talking about our company. I do this because I want to be able to respond to potential leads and communicate with customers. In doing this daily ritual, I have found many companies are placing customers On Hold without a professional On Hold production… and the results speak for themselves – literally!

If you’re a business owner and currently place callers On Hold to listen to radio, chimes, or worse yet – silence, you’re in for a not-so-nice surprise. These potential customers are taking to Twitter in droves to complain about your service.

A little bird told me that chimes, radio & silence frustrate callers On Hold

A little bird told me that chimes, radio & silence frustrate callers On Hold

Here’s what some people are saying:

“ABBA, Bon Jovi, Queen, Blink 182, Michael Jackson, and a lot more ABBA. Just a taste of the Ikea hold music #onhold

“Someone really needs to do a remix of the Oregon courts hold music. Then again I think it may already *be* a remix. #onhold

“I dont think I can listen to Beethoven for another 9 minutes! #OnHold

You can bet for every one person voicing their frustration on Twitter, there are another 10 voicing it to their friends and family. That’s word of mouth advertising your business could do without!

Surprisingly, 80% of callers placed On Hold with silence hang up within the first minute. This is why having a professionally written & produced On Hold production is so important. On Hold messages have been proven to keep holding callers happier for longer and it’s easy to see why. If you’re actively engaging callers with relevant information, their mind isn’t on waiting – it’s focused on what you’re telling them!

So, how do you remedy people taking to the internet to complain about their phone experience? You can’t simply stop placing callers On Hold, but you can replace the chimes, music or silence with a professionally written production.

– Lachy

It’s Always Personal, It’s Business

“It’s nothing personal, it’s just business” is a phrase that, unbelievably, still lingers in some modern business owners’ lexicon. The reach of social media, the rapid rate at which consumers can communicate and the speed with which they can congratulate or condemn means that whether you’re in customer service or marketing: business is always personal.

When customers use social media to query or complain, the business is presented with a unique opportunity: to personally engage with this one customer. Studies into complaints made over social media indicate that 50% of customers give a brand only one week to respond to a complaint before they stop doing business with them. The same study indicated that 89% of customers began business with another company after a poor experience. Can you afford to stay silent?

The most common words on a major airline’s Facebook newsfeed.

The most common words on a major airline’s Facebook newsfeed.

It would be unreasonable for a business to completely change their terms of service on the whim of one customer… but prompt acknowledgement and resolution of a complaint online can help a customer to not only forgive the grievance, but flip their view of the company from negative to positive, thereby strengthening brand loyalty.

Another study indicated that after having two-way interaction with a brand over social media, 90% of customers would recommend the brand to others. In developing an emotional connection, a sense of loyalty, between customer and brand, social media is an invaluable and incredibly effective approach.

Still not sure just how “personal” it can be? In 2008, United Airlines were shown just how effective social media can be as a weapon when it was used against them with humiliating and ruthless efficiency. After irreparably damaging musician Dave Carrol’s guitar during a flight, and refusing to reimburse him despite 9 months of negotiations, Dave released a song on YouTube which blasted their business and customer service. The song went viral, and four days after its release, United’s stock had dropped by 10% – an estimated $180 million.

As more consumers choose social media as the means to communicate with the brands they use, the age old adage “it’s nothing personal, just business” should recede from all minds serious about strengthening brand loyalty, and increasing their customer base.

– Kyle

In The Spotlight

At Messages On Hold, each department has its specialty, whether that be writing, sales, voicing productions or keeping the finances in check. But when it comes to customer interaction, everyone is responsible for controlling the variables that make the difference between a positive experience and a negative one. The same principle applies at restaurants.

I love pizza, and I was understandably excited when I got the chance to eat at one of Perth’s most exciting and hyped new eateries, which happens to specialise in this particularly delicious genre of comfort food.

Probably a little too bright for a restaurant interior...

Probably a little too bright for a restaurant interior…

It exceeded my expectations. The pizza was beautiful – wood-fired and topped with fresh ingredients, along with a herby sauce that provided a welcome twist in what is traditionally a by-the-book dish. Even the non-pizza items and desserts were impressive.  What’s more, service was friendly, knowledgeable and casual. In a nutshell, it was all perfect… except for one thing: the lighting.

A single light illuminated our table – and I’m talking a football stadium-esque spotlight, not the ambient mood lighting you might expect from most restaurants.  Bizarrely, the spotlight was angled in such a way that it shone both directly into my eyes and onto my cutlery before reflecting back up into my face.

The restaurant is a casual place, so perhaps high-end ambient lighting would be inappropriate. However, while it might be unreasonable to expect the team in charge of a casual restaurant to be experts in interior design, all eateries should be aiming to deliver excellent food with top service in an environment that’s comfortable to eat in, and it should be easy to do!

If I was in charge, I’d simply think about how I’d want to be treated. I can safely say that “having a bright light shone in my eyes for the duration of a meal” would not be on the list.

I’m a copywriter – I primarily write scripts. But I’m also well aware of the fact that I’m responsible for creating a superb overall customer experience on behalf of my company, which involves far more than writing a quality script… kind of like running a successful restaurant is about more than quality food.

Have you ever thought about the accidental spotlights you might be shining in your clients’ eyes that are dimming an otherwise bright customer experience? What can you do to ensure your customers see your company in the best possible light?

– Magnus

Trust me, I’m a professional…

Sometimes it can be difficult completely letting go and putting your trust in a professional service – even when you’ve parted with money for it.

For me, this is never more apparent than when I’m sitting in the hairdresser’s chair. Usually I have a rough idea of how I want my hair to look but I’m very particular about my hair so it takes a lot for me to put my trust in someone changing my ‘do. As I’m sitting nervously in the chair though, I relax a little bit when I remember that the hairdressers creating my stylish new look are professionals and they’re there to make me look my best. I know I want a full fringe and a few highlights to take me into summer, but I’m happy to accept they’re going to make me look better than I would if I hacked into my hair myself.

Trusting professionals never hurt anyone, especially Ferris Bueller

Trusting professionals never hurt anyone, especially Ferris Bueller

I’m taking a risk because I’m trusting someone to know better than I do. When we employ the professional services of those around us we’re basically paying them to know more than we do about whatever it is we want them to do.

When my kitchen sink breaks I have to trust that the nice man who’s come to fix it for me knows more than I do about plumbing. When my throat hurts I have to trust that the doctor I speak to knows more than I do about medical science. And when I order a meal I’m going to trust that the professional chefs cooking my dinner know way more about how to cook my pasta al dente than I could hope to.

It’s the same when it comes to marketing your business. You probably have a rough idea of what you want the outcome to be but what’s the point in blindly fishing around, and possibly making mistakes, when you can rely on professionals who can help you reach your goals?

Sometimes people are unsure about trusting a team of copywriters to write their on hold productions, and that doesn’t surprise me. After all, most business owners know their business inside out so it makes sense they’d know best how to explain it. But knowing how to effectively sell your business is a different kettle of fish altogether.

Here in the copywriting department, we want you to rely on our expertise. When you trust us to write your production, you’re trusting that we know how to sell your business and your products effectively… and to be honest, we do! Just like my hairdresser listens to my thoughts on what I want out of my new haircut, we’ll listen to yours on what you want from your on hold production and use our skills as professional writers to give you a production which is going to be as effective as possible. All you need to do is sit back and enjoy your fresh new look… I mean, on hold production!

– Sophie

Phone Phoneys

I recently made one of the biggest investments of my life: a high-end laptop worth over $2000. It took a significant bite out of my savings, but to this day, I don’t regret the decision one bit. It boots up in seconds, runs the latest software, has a stunning display, showcases beautiful design and is solidly built. It packs a premium price tag, but that’s okay, because it’s a premium product.

The company behind this piece of kit is famous for displaying this trend across their entire product line – leading-edge quality and stunning design. But I’m still a bit disappointed in them. Why? Because of their on hold production.

This company’s products are extremely popular, so there’s normally a build-up of callers on their phone lines, leading to pretty hefty wait times on hold. When I called their store in Perth, Western Australia, I was immediately greeted by a fuzzy, robotic voice with an American accent. “That’s okay,” I thought, as some generic, tinny music began to play. “I’ll get to the high-quality voice production promoting their innovative products next”.

Does your brand sound robotic on the phone?

Does your brand sound robotic on the phone?

The same voice killed my hope: “You are… ninth… in the queue”. It was a really unpleasant surprise that breaks the consistent branding that makes them unmistakeably who they are. Sure, outside of their on hold, they’re industry leaders and pioneers, but in terms of phone service, they’re stuck in the Dark Age. And that’s bad customer service.

It’s very disappointing when a company of this size, innovators that take pride being in pole position in the field of consumer electronics, neglect the quality of their phone service so dramatically. It’s even more shocking since there’s so much they could be promoting. Their latest phones and tablets, a groundbreaking new wireless storage device, or even the world’s thinnest desktop computer. Apparently, instead of generating more enquiries, reinforcing branding and cultivating potential add-on sales, this organisation wants a robot to point out to callers how much longer they’ll have to wait.

In other words, by taking the cheap option on hold, the company is missing out on opportunities every time someone is placed in the queue.

– Magnus

Avoid These Phrases

On Hold scripts have come a long way since I began writing them over five years ago. Every day we’re finding new ways to promote products and services even more effectively than we have before. The scripts are more creative, compelling and rich. However, with everything we know now about writing for the On Hold medium, I still see companies who insist on inserting ‘nothing phrases’.

A ‘nothing phrase’ is one that does nothing to distract the caller from the fact they’re waiting. It doesn’t help to reduce the perceived wait time and it doesn’t promote any products or services. In fact, it sometimes draws the caller’s attention to the fact that they’re waiting!

Customers Tune Out When They Hear 'Nothing Phrases'.

Customers Tune Out When They Hear ‘Nothing Phrases’.

So what are these phrases and why should you avoid them? Good question – let’s take a look at the worst offenders.

1) Thank you for holding. Being thanked by a recording is impersonal and drawing the caller’s attention to the fact they’re still holding makes the wait time seem much longer than it is.

2) Your call is important to us. Is it really? That’s the first thing the caller will think when they hear this phrase and they’ll immediately get their back up. This is not the frame of mind you want your caller in when your staff pick up the call.

3) We’ve been around for 40 years. Big deal! This is a great milestone for you but to a potential customer it means nothing. They’re focused on themselves and want to know how you’re going to help them.

4) Our friendly team delivers attentive customer service. This phrase is bad in two ways. ‘Friendly’ staff and ‘customer service’ should be a given – if not, you’re in the wrong industry.

5) A range of products to satisfy your needs & requirements. These are just plain lazy. Be specific about what need or requirement you are ‘satisfying’ and use your wait time wisely.

6) Call us. This one is self explanatory – they’ve just picked up the phone and dialed your number. It’s thoughtless and the subtext is you don’t care.

7) We appreciate your patience. Similar to number 1, this phrase is impersonal and does nothing to sell your products or take the caller’s mind off the fact they’re holding.

8) Visit our website 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It’s 2013 – people know how the internet works. Instead, give callers a reason to visit your website. What’s in it for them?

So there you have it, the top offenders of on hold messages. At Messages On Hold, these banned phrases are ingrained in every copywriter to ensure we use every second of an on hold production wisely. If you have an on hold message service, have a listen to your production: do you hear these phrases? If so, get rid of them! If you’re thinking about getting on hold messages installed on your phone system (and you should be!), avoid these phrases at all costs. Alternatively, give Messages On Hold a call!

– Lachy