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

Time For a Proofread

Here in the Message On Hold Copywriting Department, we write a lot of scripts.  We proof them personally before we submit them to be proofed by the other copywriters. Needless to say, we’re forever looking for errors in our copy.  There are a few cardinal sins… using stale phrases like ‘one-stop shop’ and ‘needs & requirements’ or mistaking ‘you’re’ for ‘your’. Proofing is where these sorts of subtle errors get picked up.

Should a mistake slip between our fine-toothed comb for one of our clients to pick up, we find a fair bit of egg on our face. If they don’t, the gentlemen in studio will, making it virtually impossible for a written typo to be recorded that, in turn, makes our clients sound foolish.

This is not a luxury you get with all marketing efforts, especially ones you do yourself. You can now make and host your own website, print out your own pamphlets and upload your own videos to the web (as mentioned in this story). If no one is looking over the copy you’re putting out there, you run the risk of public embarrassment. If you want to bottom out your credibility as fast as possible, just chuck in an obvious typo and watch your brand equity evaporate.

Typos are never fine.

Typos are never fine.

I recently found a website that contained the word ‘personalised’ in the company name yet in the ‘About Us’ section they had referred to themselves as ‘personzlied’.  ‘Personz lied’ to whoever thinks this is an acceptable public display of your brand. The easiest typos to miss are the skipped words (e.g. ‘the’, ‘that’, ‘a’). Unless you want to sound like you were raised by apes, get someone else to read over your copy… more often than not you’ll be surprised by what they find.

Take this opportunity to proof-read your website and ad material, if you catch any typos… you can thank us later.

– Jakub

Writing for the Voice

Posted By Copywriting Dept on 03-Feb-12 09:39

It’s not something I would usually admit to, but when you walk into our copywriting department on a regular afternoon, you’ll often find us talking to ourselves. Yes, you read that correctly, not talking to each other, but talking to ourselves. It’s not that we’re all maladjusted, or that we prefer our own company to that of our fellow copywriters, it’s simply this: when writing for the voice, the best way to read it, is out loud. In fact there a few ways that writing for the voice is different to writing for the page – as I’m sure any playwright, speech writer or script writer will tell you, and that’s what I thought I’d talk about today.

In a drama class I took at University our tutor gave us some interesting advice on how to write dialogue. He actually told us to carry around a voice recorder and record all our friends’ conversations. It was meant to show us how real conversation works so we could apply it to script writing. I decided not to record all my conversations in a bid to not weird out my friends too much, which seemed to be for the best, because since then I’ve learn some much simpler and less intrusive ways to tweak your words for the tongue.

The main thing is the tone. A more casual tone will make your messages sound conversational – so callers feel like they’re listening to a person they can engage with, not just a recorded robot. Now how do you achieve that tone? Obviously some of it comes down to the Voice Talent and how they read it out, but we’re talking about the words, so here are some things we do when writing scripts to make it sound more conversational before the Voice Talent even sees it.

Choice of Words: Choose words that are more casual, avoid industry jargon (unless you would actually use it in a conversation with your customers), and by all means, use colloquial language – the kind of words and phrases you’d never be allowed to put in an essay or research paper but would always use in everyday life.

Ask Questions: We use actual and rhetorical questions all the time in conversations, and it helps the other person feel engaged, why not use it?

Use the First Person: Referring to your company as a thing that the message is talking about puts distance between you and the caller. But if you use ‘we’ and ‘our’ and ‘you’ the caller feels like they are being engaged in conversation with a person, not just listening to someone talking about the company.

Use Contractions: We ‘don’t’ usually say ‘do not’ unless we’re really emphasising a point, also ‘you’ll’ probably notice you say ‘we’re’ rather than ‘we are’ when you’re (you are) speaking to someone.

Most of us are trained to avoid all these things when writing for the page (in essays, reports, newsletters, etc), however when writing for the voice we embrace them, and so should you!

– Rachel Inglis

You Ask – We Tell!

An important part of my role as Head Copywriter is offering new clients helpful suggestions for maximising the effectiveness of their On Hold audio productions. We’re firm believers that the creative process isn’t complete until the client and copywriter have spoken, so every client who comes on board gets a call from the real, actual person who will be writing their script.

It’s better customer service and firmly establishes in the client’s mind we’re the experts and here to help.

Here are the three most common questions new clients ask us.

New Client: What happens next?
Copywriter: After this phone call I’ll draft your first On Hold script. Your creative coordinator will then send it to you to review. This is your opportunity to ensure the content I’ve written is accurate and you’re happy with the direction and tone we agreed to take. Send it back to your creative coordinator with your approval and he/she will pass the script to our studio team who will record and mix the production for uploading on your playback hardware.

NC: How long will it take?
CW: Our turnaround time on all scripts is one business day. Once we receive approval, your production will be playing on hold within two business days.

NC: Our receptionist just won a bake off? Can we talk about that and our history/commitment to customer service?
CW: All these things are nice and can be a good way to build rapport, but you only have a few precious moments during each wait to get your point across to callers. That’s why I recommend using your on hold messages to help prospective customers make an informed purchase decision. Save the other stuff for your website or newsletter when potential customers have the luxury of time and let’s focus on promoting your products and services on hold.

Of course, any time you’d like our assistance with the direction of your script or help fleshing out potential message topics, let your creative coordinator know and he or she will arrange a time for us to speak.

Until then, happy scripting!

– Lachy Banton

Lessons in Language

As a copywriter for Messages On Hold, I speak to a lot of clients who want to know how they can make their On Hold production more effective. Time and again, I say that use of language is one of the best ways to improve the effectiveness your On Hold. So let’s take a closer look at some of the small changes that can have a big impact.

Tip 1: Don’t tell customers what they appreciate the least
“Thank you for calling Generic Company X, we appreciate you holding and will be with you shortly”. Sound familiar? The customer has just been put on hold, and now they’re being reminded of it. Sometimes every 30 seconds! Instead, why not use that time to promote your latest deal or upcoming event with a creative message? It’s a far more effective way to connect with your waiting callers.

Tip 2: Say more by striking out generic phrases
Ever seen a TV ad and been left wondering at the end what the ad was for? It happens all too often On Hold too. Take the following for example:

‘Our range of products will meet all your needs and requirements.’

What products? And where’s the benefit? It’s better to be specific. That’s why we’ll write something like this instead.

‘Our heavy duty washing machines will clean even the dirtiest clothes.’

The product is clearly washing machines. And the benefit? They’ll clean everything. You have 500 words to use in your production. We make sure every one of them counts.

Tip 3: Save industry speak for the office.
They say it takes a lawyer to understand legalese, but the same applies in most industries. I bet that even in your workplace there are common terms, phrases and acronyms that make perfect sense to staff, but mean gobbledegook to most customers. Simple language is easier to understand and therefore more effective. We use shorter sentences and familiar language wherever possible to give your caller a clearer picture.

There are On Hold messages, and there are intelligent, assumptive, creative, rich and informative messages by Messages On Hold. Create an effective on hold production by using creative language that’s not bogged down by jargon, and losing the generic throwaway sentences and messages that reinforce the fact callers have to wait. The results will speak for themselves.

– Rachel McGeorge