Wed, Oct

Making the right noises

Could you be utilising your ‘call hold’ time to inform callers about what you can deliver? Mark Williamson, sales and marketing director at PHMG, explains how audio branding might just be worth your consideration.

A  71593229 MIf there’s one thing large-format PSPs don’t need convincing about it’s the importance of visuals in relation to effective promotion and branding. But what about audio messaging? Our sense of hearing is thought to be a more powerful emotional sense than our sight, the logical outcome being that audio branding is more effective at provoking emotional recall among potential customers and creating a lasting perception of an organisation. And the telephone offers an ideal opportunity for businesses to utilise this power.

Audio branding for the phone essentially involves the creation of tailored voice and music messages - using sounds designed to match an organisation’s brand values - played to callers whenever they are put on hold, are transferred or call outside of business hours. These messages can also be applied to interactive voice response (IVR) systems, where callers are asked to navigate an automated menu.

Modern audio branding attempts to move beyond irritating ‘please hold’ messages, generic music and poor-quality sound to turn perceptions of hold time on their head. And research suggests it has been successful in doing just that. 24% of businesses that use on-hold marketing say it generates real sales value according to a study of 1,555 businesses by the On Hold Messaging Association.

To be fair, the printing industry has been more forward-thinking than some others when it comes to utilising audio in the marketing mix. PHMG currently works with more than 500 print firms, helping them to establish an effective, brand congruent phone presence.

Research conducted by PHMG among 3,630 British businesses - ‘Call Handling Standards in British Business’ - found printers put people on hold for an average of 33.52 seconds per call, presenting a significant window in which to communicate with customers.

This opportunity is longer than a typical television advert so it is important to give careful consideration to the messages you want to communicate during this time. It is an ideal chance for cross-selling and up-selling or simply raising awareness of products, services and the business itself.

For example, messaging could inform customers about the full range of materials on which it is possible to print, whether traditional posters, exhibition stands, aluminium board or textiles.
Messages might also offer information on environmental credentials or 24-hour operations to meet tight deadlines, building a perception of professionalism and trust.

Just-Print.ie is one firm that has benefitted from this strategy. Managing Director Justin Byrne says: “On-hold is the perfect time to educate our customers about everything we can do. We’ve had so many callers tell us that our messages have informed them about aspects of our service they never knew we offered.”

But content is not the only consideration, and it is absolutely crucial to ensure all audio is designed to reflect the brand image of the organisation.

Using pre-existing audio or commercial music is a ‘square peg, round hole’ scenario, and there is the added consideration that popular music tracks will often come with emotional baggage for those hearing it.

When it comes to sound, attributes such as volume, pitch and tempo can all affect what kind of emotional response a track provokes so it is important to choose the right blend. For example, if your company’s visual brand is strong, perhaps using colours such as black and red, it would be appropriate to use major sounds that are bold and confident.

Think about the different elements of your brand and the image you want to communicate, then select appropriate sounds to match.

The same goes for voice. Currently, a feminine voice and conversational tone are most popular in the print industry, conveying a sense of welcoming, friendly service. But a masculine voice may be more appropriate for certain companies, as it is generally perceived to be authoritative and confident. Younger voices might communicate energy and enthusiasm, while older voices convey experience and professionalism.

For firms with a strong regional identity, it may also be appropriate to choose a voice with a strong regional accent. Not only does this help to make customers feel you are ‘talking their language’ but accents come with their own perceptions - the Mancunian accent, for example, is perceived as industrious and creative.

Whatever you opt for, messaging should effectively dovetail with visual marketing in order to create a coherent, positive image in the minds of customers.

Given the emotional power of sound, first impressions will be lasting ones. Instead of adding to traditional perceptions of ‘hold time’ as a consumer bugbear, see it as another opportunity to create a positive customer experience by engaging with callers in a way that plays to their desires.