Electronic music is the best sound for hold music on customer service lines thanks to its origins on a computer, according to an investigation by Simon Tierney.
In the second episode of Newstalk’s three-part Thank You for Holding series on Moncrieff, Simon investigated the best and worst hold music customer service has to offer.
“I found that electronic music works the best,” he said. “A lot of electronic music is made on a computer, so that would transfer quite well to a telephone.
“One of the worst, but also one of the most widely used, is classical music - when you're crushing it down to that really low fidelity file, the quiet parts become really fuzzy, and the loud orchestral parts become distorted.”
The importance of hold music
Simon explained hold music was an important way for businesses to ensure callers would not hang up.
“The business is worried is if there’s silence, people will think that the line has gone dead,” he said.
A study on 20,000 callers did in fact find that callers on hold without music are nearly four times more likely to hang up the phone the callers listening to hold music.
When businesses discovered the efficacy of hold music, they then had to decide what kind of music their callers need – to varying degrees of success.
“The old Telecom Éireann - now Eircom – hold music was Whitney Houston and it was so infamous at the time because people used to be driven demented,” Simon said.
“Generally speaking, instrumental as opposed to lyrical music, tended to be preferred by customers.
“When you have singing in that low fidelity format, it doesn't tend to sound very good. It also draws too much attention to the fact that you're on hold.”
Simon said many people will know the iconic Aer Lingus hold music – but not many people know its origin.
“This was written by a woman called Harriet Goldman,” he said. “She's in her 60s, she lives in Boston, in the US, and she has never played a live music concert in her life.
“Her music is played probably more than any other artists in the world on a day-to-day basis.”
Ms Goldman’s hold music has been used by Delta Airlines, the Japanese Railway, the New York Times, Dartmouth Prison – and of course, Aer Lingus.
'Relaxing Music to Forget Problems'
Another Irish hold music that people might not be so fond of is the housing department of Dublin City Council.
Simon explained the music is a Spanish song that translates to ‘Relaxing Music to Forget Problems'.
“Remember, this is for the housing department of Dublin City Council,” Simon said.
Despite the prevailing popularity of classical music such as ‘The Four Seasons’ in the past, Simon said businesses now prefer electronic music to keep their customers patient.
“It works best on in this medium of listening to music on the telephone,” he said.
“There was one that is used by the Irish government departments - it's called the Skype song and it’s by an artist that goes by the name of ‘User 30’.”
Listen back to full episode here: