Why is music on hold so bad

Yawn manipulation

This is what limbo should sound like. Dudel-dü-düdü, dudel-dü-düdü. Again and again. Just these few notes. Endless. It was inevitable, I had to call the city administration, the clerk responsible was not at the desk, I ended up on hold. In the city of Munich there is the Schäfflertanz (the song of the famous carillon on Marienplatz), but in a version that sounds like a defective home computer from 1982. Thin beeps that drive you completely crazy after just a minute. I had to wait ten. Makes about 40 runs. Dudel-dü-düdü. After that I could have used a little schnapps.

Computer beeping, cotton-wool-soft elevator jazz, oily lounge sounds - music on hold can be the plague. It should be good for us, somehow. It should bridge the time that we have to wait if we want to be put through, in the switchboard, on the hotline, in the call center. Unfortunately, most companies completely underestimate this aspect of customer care. A few technicians install the telephone system, set hold melody 7b - and for the next twenty years waiting callers despair of the acoustic equivalent to hiccups. Always. The. Same.

The music we hear while waiting can shape our image of a company just as much as advertising or service. Anyone who has to do with Deutsche Bank more often and hears the sounds of the spheres in an endless loop will at some point get the feeling that everyone there has their head in the clouds. If you call the Ministry of Family Affairs and let yourself be irritated by the pathetic music that is on the soundtrack of Chariots of Fire remembers, wonders whether the state may see the approval of a parental allowance application as a heroic act.

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Does the tootling even have to be? Michael Oehler, President of the German Society for Music Psychology, says: »The music structures the waiting time. You judge the elapsed minutes differently if something happens acoustically. ”Basically the same as when we wait for the bus: half as bad if there is at least something to see at the bus stop. Unfortunately, taste in music is something very individual. The noise of the saxophone drives me crazy, but while waiting in the DB customer center I could easily listen to the type of heavy metal that the CIA uses during interrogations. Other customers, on the other hand, would not even get to the ticket center. Perhaps one would have to equip telephone systems with a dialing system based on on-board entertainment in aircraft: As soon as the waiting loop begins, a friendly voice says: »Now choose between key 1 - Schlager, key 2 - rock, key 3 - classic, key 4 - Jazz. "

Stefan Ladage could tackle that. He is the queue king of Germany. Small company in Herford, 35 employees, many thousands of inquiries per year. Ladage says 80 percent of all queues in German telephone systems are from him. »We have to catch the target group with our music. Does a company have customers who take it easy? Or do you get a lot of business people calling, for whom a serious appearance is important? We adjust to that with our music. «Every day Ladage sits in the executive offices of German companies, and when the managing director talks about the company profile, a little melody immediately comes to mind. “But music is difficult to describe in words. That's why I always have a keyboard in the trunk. Then I'll just play the queue at the conference table. "

Ladage explains the ideal recipe for a queue as follows: »We prevent dozing off by usually adding a brisk disco beat. But there are also real instruments. This way, Lieschen Müller doesn't get a heart attack, and the 18-year-old disco visitor doesn't run away screaming. But let's be honest - nobody gets stuck and wants to hear it in front of the fireplace in the evening. ”The only exception: Ladage once composed an entire song on hold for Air Berlin, with singing and all the pipapo - it even made it to the regional Charts with this refrain: »Airplanes in our stomach / in our blood kerosene / no storm can stop them / our Air Berlin«.

Ultimately, the decisive factor is how clearly the caller feels the passage of time. "You want to experience progress," says the music psychologist Oehler. That is why the waiting loops have proven to be particularly customer-friendly in recent years, with a voice now and then announcing how long the caller has to wait.

Wouldn't it be best if you could just listen to your favorite songs? No, of all things that doesn't work at all: “With very well-known hits, you know what's next,” says Oehler, “and if nothing new happens, time passes more slowly.” Only the familiar “Please wait” is even less helpful «, The Chinese drop torture among the on-hold announcements. Because the music psychologist and the music producer agree: nothing makes us as insane while waiting as the constant proof that we are not making any progress.

Illustration: Jordy van den Nieuwendijk