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Writing your Message on Hold

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Whether you are selling to customers and clients or branding your company with radio commercials or TV spots, putting together some sentences and graphics for print advertising or creating a web page, sooner or later you have to write about your company.  You’ll have to put together words to describe your company, or convince your customers why you matter in their lives with the products you sell or the services you provide.  In this article I am offering advice on how to put together and write a “message on hold” script that a voice over talent would read and produce with music, eventually being played on the telephone.

Speaking mainly to small business owners an important piece of writing is your message on hold script.  After you have chosen your message On Hold Company they’ll ask for your script.  They may offer to write the voice over script, which most likely will be an extra cost, and because their writer won’t know the in’s and out’s or your business, office, culture or industry you’ll receive a dry, bland and generic script.   Why the extra cost?  It’s time consuming, oftentimes there are many in the office who need to approve it, and you’ll have to teach them how to talk to your customers and hope they get it right.  For example I recently received a script for a “pigging ” company.  I thought it was a joke at first or maybe a descriptor for what happens at an all you can eat buffet the day they offer all you can eat crab legs.  No, pigging is the process of recovering liquid your company produces while in the manufacturing process.  To decrease their carbon footprint many companies have pigging equipment.  You can imagine the confusion the copy writer experienced when handed that voice over project.  And when confronted with how to speak to their pigging customers I’m sure there was a lot of back and forth on how to talk about their company mission, the parts and service they wanted to sell, and the copy writer had to learn to speak their language, which takes time, and that means extra fees.

That leads to how to write your own Message On Hold voiceover script for the category your business is in.  First, determine the length of the script you have agreed to with your on hold company.  4 minutes is typical for a smaller business.  Break that up into 4 paragraphs with a :15 second break in between paragraphs.  That gives you 3 solid minutes of talking or 490 to 540 words depending on the speed of the voice over talent. To make it simple, roughly 125 words per paragraph.  Most word programs have a word count option in their Tools tab, it’s indispensable so you don’t overwrite or underwrite your message. Also, numbers such as 1245 will count as one thousand two hundred and forty five or 6 words.

Give each paragraph to a department in your company that creates your profits.  Auto dealers will of course talk about the latest vehicles on their lot, or the car manufacture special deal of the month, but their parts and service department creates a lot of income for them so they’ll include that end of their business in the message on hold too.  Other benefits they may offer the customer may be free loaner cars when their vehicle is serviced or free car washes for life.  Of course anytime they are better than the  competition may be of importance to them.

That philosophy could be different for a dental clinic.  Advice for their patients may be more prudent.  Maybe the Dentist is involved in the community or has many awards or certifications that may help encourage his/her patients to book an appointment.  Other areas to mention may be profit segments such as teeth whitening or fluoride treatments.

Take a look at your company and identify what you would mention to a prospective client at a cocktail party, talk about your bragging points, the involvement you and your employees may have in the community, are your employees certified in anyway?  You’re’ going to mention your credentials and what makes your company special over your competition.

I personally don’t think hours of operation need to be included unless they are unusual for your business, as an example a local jewelry store near me isn’t open weekends or evenings, they let callers know right away what their store hours are.  You should include them if you do business across other time zones or countries, especially if you extend your hours to accommodate those customers.  Be sure to include your own time zone with the addition of the city you operate from, such as Charlotte, North Carolina in the Eastern Time zone.

I have found following these guidelines always give me a good start to an effective message on hold script.  I already covered my opinion on the exclusion/inclusion of business hours but there are some other sayings or clichés I feel should be avoided.

Please don’t say “Thank-you for Calling/holding, you are important to us!”  If your caller were that important you would have had a human answer their call right away.  There’s also a slight reminder that they have been put on hold, which means waiting, which is a negative. Another one?  We’ll be with you shortly”.  How long is “shortly”?  Till you finish everything else that’s more important than me your customer?  Never include the WWW part of a website address.  We haven’t needed W’s for quite awhile and by the time the listener has heard “W” 3 times they are no longer taking note of your internet address.  Another No No is saying “please call us”..For an estimate, for service, for an appointment.  Why would your customer who just called you need to call you again for what he just called about?

I don’t feel there is a need to treat each paragraph with an open and end statement.  To clarify, avoid “Thank-you for Holding…our company is blah blah blah…then We’ll be with you shortly.

Just open the paragraph with something like “We know for a fact that we stock more parts in our inventory than….blah, blah, blah….”and you can also order them online at our website at blah blah.com.”  There are literally dozens of clichés to avoid in your message on hold but I will refer you back to how you would describe your business to a casual acquaintance at a cocktail party.  Would you say, “we have all your insurance needs”, or “we’re conveniently located” to who?  The guy who is 25 miles away?  Or you the business owner who built his business down the street because it is close to his home?  Another one that is irritating is “Your (anything) Headquarters” unless headquarters is part of your business name it doesn’t make sense, does KFC say “your chicken headquarters”?  How about “our friendly courteous/knowledgeable staff is waiting to help you”, if your staff wasn’t courteous, knowledgeable or friendly you would not be in business.  

Bottom line, don’t fill your copy or let a copywriter fill your copy with empty phrases.  You have only so many words to make a good impression, think of your positives and write them conversationally.

Every industry also has a different approach, a pediatrician’s office may find that message on hold is a great time to help new anxious mothers by educating them in regards to vaccinations or what to do when your child has a fever.  A rehabilitation facility may want to let future patients know how pleasant their stay will be by mentioning their food menu or activities, an electronic supply company included simple, fun to know trivia about their industry, auto repair talked of nothing but the certifications their mechanics had and a better business rating.  

Is a mission statement a big part of your business?  In industries such as insurance or banking it may be what differentiates you from your competitors.  They’re the kind of industry that earning trust is important.  But just saying, “trust us” is not effective; so a well thought out mission statement could be the first impression to earning that trust.  Don’t be generic though, make it sincere and communicate that in your copy.  Even though this falls into marketing in general, your message on hold may be the only chance you have to convey that to your consumers.


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