The Benefits of Music on Hold and Why Silence is a CX Killer

The pros and cons of music on hold

Music on Hold
Contact Centre

Published: March 1, 2021

Anwesha Roy - UC Today

Anwesha Roy

The pros and cons of music on hold is a polarising debate if there ever was one. There are customers who swear by their favourite tunes, and would likely wait for several minutes reassured by music on hold. Others find music on hold annoying and would rather hang up than listen to it. A recent survey by Genesys confirmed this divide – when asked about their preferred hold music genre, 15% categorically said that “I would rather have silence.”  

Yet, music on hold serves an important purpose. As per a study conducted by AT&T, customers put on hold without music felt a 30-second wait time lasted for 90 seconds. Customers who listened to music, on the other hand, felt that they had to wait for just 15 seconds.  

So, why is silence such a CX killer, making hold music an IVR staple for several decades now?  

3 Reasons Why Music on Hold is Better Than Silence  

Hold music fulfils a basic psychological need that customers experience as they wait.  

1 – It shrinks perceived time

“Dead air” or unoccupied time understandably seems endless, adding to customer frustration.  In contrast, any activity like automated spoken content, a live agent, or music distracts the customer from the act of waiting, making it feel like time is passing by more quickly. As a result, you can maintain a higher quality of CX even if your queue is longer than average during peak periods.  

2 – It controls anxiety in the caller

A lot of your inbound customers will call with grievances, urgent queries, and frustrating issues, making them prone to a degree of anxiety even before an agent picks up the phone. Silence adds to this sense of anxiety, creating an “unexplained wait” where there is no music to reassure the caller and no message to inform them of their place on the queue. Customers are likely to bring this anxiety to the interaction itself (that is if they do not abandon the call), influencing the CX.  

3 – It reaffirms the brand promise

Inbound customers are usually seeking some sort of promise fulfilment from the brand. Companies can reinforce their brand’s identity with their choice of hold music, subtly telling customers that they are in the right place and will be served soon.  

What Music Should You Offer for a Better CX?

Music on hold can help you offset long wait times, reduce customer frustration, encourage patience, and boost your chances of first-time-right. But to achieve this, you need a smart hold music strategy.  

Research reveals that classical music is the #No.1 choice for hold music among adults, followed by country music. There are also specialised tunes like “Well, let me tell you all a story / about a man who was on hold all day…,” selected by 9 out of 10 organisations as per DialPad. Finally, it can be useful to incorporate messages like queue information and marketing promos into hold music, informing the caller even as you keep them engaged.  



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