Why Waiting Music Matters

On average, we are to spend a total of 1.2 years on hold in our lifetime. And even more when you factor in waiting rooms and lobbies. How can you make this experience ideal for your customer and employees?

What We Listen to While Waiting

Studies have shown that the use of music while on hold greatly improve customer satisfaction. According to a study done by marketing professor James Killaris at the University of Cincinnati, most customers find that their wait time feels shorter than it actually is (by minutes) when music is played versus silence. But there is also music that can make your wait seem longer *cue the elevator music*. Needless to say, waiting music is important to consider if your customers or patients have to wait for your business, at their expense.

Waiting music needs to be something to fill the sonic void of the time waster. Obviously no one wants to wait around. We’ve got things to do! People to see! So ideally, waiting should made as comfortable as possible. And that does not include the overplayed muszak that adds to the tedium. No more generic ballads or routine jazz loops! Unfortunately, music licensing laws doesn’t allow you to throw on a playlist from your phone or Spotify. The music you play to entertain customers has to be licensed for specific usage such as waiting rooms or on-hold systems.

Many companies like to opt for instrumental only music, to avoid licensing fees for lyrics. But the good news is lyrical music or music of any genre can be affordable without worrying about license compliance. Luckily there’s royalty free music. Royalty free music is pre-licensed music that allows you to buy once, and use again and again without paying royalties. There are restrictions on where and how you can use the music. But because the market is so large, there’s an option and price point for every business. Some royalty free music stores already have collections set up for on-hold systems or waiting room situations.


So what ways can waiting music be used? And how can it be beneficial for your business?

On-Hold Systems

On average, customers will wait up to 13 minutes while on hold. And it turns out that 34 percent of those who hang up, aren’t going to call again. It’s up to you to make sure they have a tolerable wait, and ultimately stay on the line until they are helped. So picking the right waiting music is essential. It turns out that the most effective way to keep a customer on the line is to mix music with recorded messages. Assure the customer that their time is valuable or give them extra info or tips about your service.

Waiting Rooms & Lobbies

Lobbies and waiting rooms have a bit more flexibility when it comes to the listening experience of waiting music. Customers are physically in a place, usually waiting for an appointment. So the likelihood of them leaving is much lower than someone on hold over the phone. But if you want the patient or customer to have a pleasant interaction, you still need to think about the music that’s playing.

Doctor’s offices or hospital waiting rooms can be pretty stressful environments. So it can be useful to play music that aids in relaxation and de-stressing. In fact, just having music playing in these sort of waiting rooms help decrease stress levels. Whereas silence increases stress levels. But even something as mundane as standing in line at the bank can be enhanced by music choice.

What Kind of Waiting Music is Best

Music affects interpersonal behavior - how we interact with each other - including decision making that can affect your business. So choosing the best music for your company is important for your employees and customers.

The lyrics in a song can affect the decision making of the listener. Obvious conclusions can be drawn such as violent lyrics equate more hostile behavior. But there are other subtle ways to effect the listener. Prosocial lyrics, meaning lyrics about helping people, positively affect how the listener interacts with others. Keep this in mind when if you want to play music with lyrics. But it seems that pop music with neutral lyrics is the best way to go.  Since certain genres are associated with waiting, some waiting music can make a customer feel aggravated before anything has even happened. But when you play something a customer is surprised to hear, their interaction with employees will be much more satisfying. Which is why a pleasant pop song puts your customers in a good mood.

Keeping up variety in a waiting music mix is essential too. What’s more frustrating than waiting for over 10 minutes? Hearing the same song more than once during that time.

And of course, make sure your music is high quality. Most on hold systems require transcoding of a track to be compatible. But within the transcoding, a track gets compressed, taking out data that gives quality to the sound. Make sure your system allows for high bitrates so your waiting customers don’t get even more annoyed. If you’re going to play music for them, make sure they can enjoy it!

Happy Customers Means Happy Employees

Making a change to your waiting music  is not only beneficial to your customers, but your employees as well. Less aggravated customers means less exhausted employees. And ask anyone who’s worked in a bank lobby or similar waiting areas, they’ll tell you how annoying and boring repetitive music can be. Remember how your music choices reflects your brand identity. Stick to these guidelines but remember who your audience is. The type of waiting music you choose will form an association of what kind of business you are. Which is why a massage studio will be playing meditative tracks while a trendy clothing store will be playing high tempo pop remixes. No one likes to wait. But if you put in the effort to make the waiting process a little less dreadful, you’ll get great results.

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