/ Technology

‘Press one to hang up on hold music’

Can there be anything more irritating than being left waiting on hold when calling a customer service line? Yes. Being left on hold while listening to Justin Bieber on repeat. For 30 minutes.

This was the fresh hell that awaited me last week when I called my broadband provider, and one that has prompted me to ask – do we really need hold music?

It was at around minute 20 of Justin Bieber’s ‘Boyfriend’, that the cynic in me wondered whether the company was deliberately picking awful music in the hope that its customers would give up on the call (so as to retain their sanity). It certainly crossed my mind, but it had become a battle of wills, and I was determined to win this one-sided audio tug of war with Bieber.

I did win in the end, but frankly I came away an empty, soulless husk of a man. Albeit a soulless husk of a man that knew every single word to Justin Bieber’s ‘Boyfriend’.

Don’t get me wrong. I do appreciate that Justin Bieber has his fans but, as they are mostly children, I can’t see many of them calling their broadband supplier as the main account holder to resolve a fault with their router.

Is it time to put a hold on hold music?

Advancements, I’m told, are being made in the world of hold music. Some companies let you select which song or genre of music you would prefer to listen via the keypad. So it could be option ‘one’ for Justin Bieber, or option ‘two’ for the sound of, say, a metal chair being pushed across the world’s biggest dining hall.

Given these two options, my number ‘two’ button would be worn to a nub.

I’ve been told that some people actually enjoy hold music, if you can believe such a thing. Which? Convo’s very own Patrick Steen, has told me that he enjoys calling a company simply because its hold music is the ‘Mahna Mahna’ song from The Muppets. It’s no small coincidence that since he told me this I have stopped acknowledging him in the corridor.

So what’s the solution? Personally, nothing would make me happier than no more hold music, ever. Or at least give me the option to not hear it. Are the companies genuinely fearful that if they don’t pipe out some pop, I might forget what I’m doing and wander off mid-call?

Do you think hold music is a necessary evil that needs to be done away with? And what are your own stories of horrific hold music? Can you beat my Bieber hell?

Hold music or no hold music? That is the question:

No hold music - please save my ears (46%, 161 Votes)

It depends on the music (anything but Justin Bieber) (46%, 161 Votes)

Hold music - I like a tune on customer service lines (7%, 25 Votes)

Total Voters: 355

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linda says:
18 July 2012

I think if you were given a choice of music, it would alert you to the fact you could be in for a long wait! They’ve also moved away from classical music, haven’t they, which I think was meant to keep you calm, which they’ve gone passed worrying about nowadays…

Indeed it did make me suspect a long wait when I heard “Press 1 for pop, 2 for jazz, 3 for classical.” On another occasion, the classical music that one company chose for their hold music was Holst’s “Mars, the bringer of war” when I had just rang them to make a complaint!

I don’t like the ‘hold’ music played nowadays. I like the music they used to play on the television when the test card was showing [some of it was really rather good]. It’s a pity they can’t revive some of those old tapes. Alternatively, they should play that touching melody “All our advisers are busy” from the second act of the great opera The Thieving Gas Co. . . .Oh yes, . . . they already do that.

I’m not a Bieber fan either, but I wouldn’t blame him – the same problem would occur with any song played repeatedly. Even one of my favourites would start to grate after a third or fourth play while I’m hanging on the phone. I’ve been trying to sort something out with my bank recently, which has required a lot of hold time, and the music that I initially thought was quite nice (soothing, not too irritating, quite generic, etc) has now become the noise that I have nightmares about because it signifies an agonising wait for a customer service advisor.

The best alternative to hold music, in my opinion, is a callback service. That way you can hang up, turn the radio to yoru favourite station, and listen to whatever *you* like while you’re waiting for an operator to call you back.

Chris hargreaves says:
18 July 2012

Ok I started a game on Twitter but lost with 10,000 green bottles on a wall, 9,999 green bottles on a wall counting down whilst on hold and you get cut off when it reaches 1 (Which? tweet), I Know a song that will get on your nerves, get on your nerves and Forever in a day – Hang Up, Try Again.

Any better or worse songs you could have whilst on hold?

Phil says:
18 July 2012

Thirty minutes of Justin Bieber sounds like cruel and unusual punishment.

I’d take it up with the ECHR if I were you.

You can have the alternative of some message offering you other products and services sold by the company. Just what you want if you are waiting patiently to make a complaint.

Daz says:
18 July 2012

It would be nice if you could choose which radio station you wanted while-u-wait. However going through them all to pick which u like would be another problem whilst providing a possible solution?

While on hold, feel free to select your own music:
Press 1 for Counrty & Western
Press 2 for Heavy Metal
Press 3 for Jazz
Press 4 for Classical
Press 5 for Northern Soul
Press 6 for Punk
Press 7 for current Chart music

Hi, since Jack is officially not talking to me at the moment for liking one instance of hold music (most of it is infuriating) all I have to say is – Mahna Mahna, do doo be-do-do. Mahna Mahna, do do-do do. Mahna Mahna, do doo be-do-do be-do-do be-do-do be-do-do-doodle do do do-doo do!

rebecca says:
18 July 2012

I prefer that there is some sort of noise that lets me know the “customer service” rep hasn’t hung up on me. For the most part, I can tune out the specific music but I HATE when the volume is cranked up so high that you have to turn down your phone volume. My cable company does that and I’ve actually missed the operator coming back on twice because I had to turn the volume down so low.

Graham says:
20 July 2012

I agree with Rebecca – I spent the best part of an hour on the phone to O2 this morning (no, it wasn’t about them cutting me off last week!) and every time the guy put me on hold I had to place the phone about a yard away to avoid being deafened.

To be honest – It is the broken contact that irritates me the most – rather than a particular tune. Thames Water cut off my water for some reason (which could have caused serious damage to my heating system) – the initial help line contact was fine – but I was connected to Tech Inquiries – that kept me hanging on – then the phone went dead. I called again and they promised to call me back – I’m still waiting five months later!.

mynnzer says:
19 July 2012

1) It would be better if a human being answered straight away.
2)Who is Justin Bieber?

what i hate even more than the music, is the automated, and often very badly recorded voices informing me that everyone is busy and they can’t answer my call at the moment. Firstly i had already used my Sherlock Holmes level of deduction to work that out for myself after the fifteenth minute and fifteenth time she had told me and secondly it always triggers the “is that the message again or has someone bothered to pick up the phone ?”, response and i start saying “yes… hello….its about the ….”. Then by that time the music has started again.

That happens to me too. And I hate the recorded message that some companies have, starting with “Your call is important to us.” Surely if it’s important, they would answer it.

Peter Ford says:
27 July 2012

It hasn’t been spelled out here yet: Presumably, hold music was invented to help people know that their call is still ongoing. But actually the silence only needs to be punctuated by an occasional but distinctive beep, to achieve the same goal. And I am sure I’ve been on a holding system like that at least once. Unfortunately I can’t remember who that was; they are worthy of praise. It should be the default.

I am currently being subjected to the same hold music every working day while I wait for conference calls to start using the “Meeting Place” system. Does anyone know whether I can turn the music off?

yes but…. I was put on hold for 10 mins the other day and there was no music, no nothing, just silence – and i have to admit it was quite unsettling… have they forgotten about me? Have I being put on hold at all? Have I been cut off? It was really strange. I would have welcomed anything really even Justin bumfluff.

I like the idea of choosing your hold music.

jane says:
22 March 2013

The problem with the hold music doesn’t always end for me when the call is finished. Having listened to it for what seems like an eternity my brain seems to think I must like that particular piece of music and so it continues in my head for ages afterwards. It is like having musical tinnitus, but without the availability of being able to hang up on it to get rid of it.