ideas observations

Making Hold Less Maddening

I have had occasion recently to be put on hold. Who doesn’t in this day of telephone menus, answering services, and spotty customer service?

I hate being on hold.

In order to avoid being put on hold, I will do whatever I can to figure out answers prior to picking up a phone. Usually, this involves extensive search on an organization’s website. If I can’t find answers, I begrudgingly dial a number, making sure I have plenty of time for “Hold Hell.”

Waiting on hold wouldn’t be so bad if those who set up the service would change the experience a bit. I’m not talking anything big, like hiring enough people so that a real person answers the phone right away (although that’s my preference), but a couple of little things.

The State of Minnesota is notorious for making people wait on hold, particularly MinnesotaCare. This state-subsidized health insurance program for low income people is very difficult to reach by phone. Either you’re stuck on hold for upwards of 15-20 minutes or more or you’re given a message that the call volume is so high that you need to hang up and try again later. (Do they not realize that working families can’t sit on the phone all day waiting to speak to someone because we have to work? Naturally, state offices aren’t open on weekends or evenings, so we can’t call outside of a regular work day.)

If you’re “lucky” enough to be put on hold with MinnesotaCare, you are treated to music I can only describe as very poor quality Kenny G. Even worse, the music loops frequently and is regularly interrupted by a message telling you you’re on hold and thanks for your patience. Listening to continually interrupted crappy easy-jazzy music is maddening in more ways than one. I’m already impatient from having to wait to talk to someone; don’t make me angry with this lousy music that I can’t ignore because you keep interrupting it. It’s enough to make me want to snap at whoever eventually answers the phone.

I thought this music was only a MinnesotaCare thing, but I had to call the Minnesota Department of Revenue one day and ended up with the same track, so it has to be a state thing. Here’s my suggestion for the state: Pick more relaxing music, please. And stop interrupting it so frequently. If you can’t find better hold music, I’d be happy with silence because it would allow me to do other things while waiting to speak to someone.

The state is not the only one with rotten hold technology. I called a local clinic recently and discovered that its hold system interrupted the music every 5 seconds. EVERY 5 SECONDS! Good heavens, do you think I’m so cognitively challenged that I won’t remember I’m on hold? How about lengthening that to every minute or two?

Surely, someone has figured out how to create an effective hold experience. Why aren’t we using it?