If you’ve ever been on hold when trying to contact a company by phone, you’ve probably experienced the irritation of hold music. Typically, this is an irritating experience for two reasons:
- The sound quality is awful. This is particularly true if you’re calling via a mobile/cell phone. I gather that phone calls via the GSM network are optimised for voice; they literally cut out non-voice frequencies to save bandwidth, meaning music sounds compressed and garbled.
- The music is interrupted every 30 seconds with a recorded voice explaining how important your call is and how ‘we’re experiencing unexpectedly high call volumes right now…’.
I can’t imagine anyone particularly liking hold music, which begs the question why does it exist in the first place, particularly when the phone system compresses and garbles it? Surely it just irritates customers which is bad for everyone?
My best guess is that companies use hold music because it’s the ‘done thing’. It’s a well-established convention and telephony systems provide the functionality out of the box. To use a tried and tested cliche “it’s the way we’ve always done things around here”. Crucially, when implementing or changing a telephony system this leads to questions like “what hold music shall we use…?” rather than “should we use hold music at all…?” or “should we create a service where people don’t have to hold at all?”.