A man sitting at a desk, using an office telephone.

Your virtual call center music can give callers an idea of what your company is like.

No one likes to be kept waiting. Sometimes it’s unavoidable, and most people understand that. In these situations, when a customer calls into your virtual call center, the right on-hold music can mean the difference between someone who’s patiently waiting and someone who’s ready to scream at your unsuspecting customer service rep. Making people wait in silence or bombarding them with redundant messaging is a bad way to start off the customer experience with your service team. That’s why it’s important to choose the right type of music for your customers.

What Your On-Hold Music Says About Your Company

When establishing a virtual call center, one feature that should never be overlooked is the selection of hold music. Whether it plays for 10 seconds or 10 minutes, the choice of music reflects your company, and you want to be sure it’s reflecting the right image.

Of course, choosing the right genre of music or creating a customized playlist can be challenging. For businesses with a niche customer base, the answer is often obvious. If you sell ranching equipment, country music is probably the way to go. If you make denture cream, opt for golden oldies. However, most large enterprises serve diverse customer bases with different demographics and vastly different tastes in music.

You can’t play every customer’s favorite song, but you can find music with a wide appeal that makes sense for your brand and target audience. Here are four common types of hold music and the associations listeners might make with your brand upon hearing them:

1. Easy Listening

Characterized by the smooth jazz sounds of Kenny G, Frank Sinatra’s “Girl from Ipanema,” and Celine Dion hits from the “Titanic” soundtrack, easy listening has long been a popular choice for hold music. It makes listeners feel like they’re stuck in an elevator in a fancy hotel in the ’90s, but it is, by definition, easy to listen to. Most people don’t love it, but they don’t exactly hate it, either. It’s familiar and comforting, but it’s also dated, clichéd, and a little boring.

That might work if you want your brand to come across as traditional and nostalgic. After all, ’90s pop culture has been making a comeback lately. But if you’re looking to project a more modern, hip, cutting-edge image, saxophones and Streisand won’t help you do it.

2. Classical

A popular choice for government organizations, banks, and universities, classical music evokes a sophistication and seriousness that works for some brands. Yet much like easy listening, it doesn’t scream innovative, nor does it give off a welcoming, approachable vibe.

If you use classical music, limit your playlist to upbeat or whimsical songs. Slower songs are likely to put your customers to sleep, while some of the more intense numbers might actually raise their anxiety levels, defeating the purpose of hold music altogether.

3. Top 40

Playing current hits — sans the inappropriate language — is a great way to appeal to the masses (at least those under 30). Of course, not everyone digs “what the kids are into these days.” If your target audience skews older, you run the risk of making them feel like they’re stuck in the car with their teenagers or making them feel old when they don’t recognize any of the songs.

Using chart toppers isn’t the most novel idea, so it might not make for a memorable or unexpected hold experience. However, it does project a more modern, approachable vibe than smooth jazz or orchestral music.

4. Instrumental Rock or Hip-Hop

It’s always a little strange to hear once-hardcore music turned into soft piano or orchestral numbers, but it’s also fun identifying them. (“Wait, is that “Under Pressure” or “Ice Ice Baby?”) Of course, Metallica and Kanye fans might not enjoy hearing distorted versions of their favorite songs, but without the lyrics, those songs are more digestible for wider audiences.

This is an interesting way to incorporate popular music that might otherwise be considered inappropriate for businesses to play. Aside from offending the purists, it could work for brands that want to seem hip but professional.

So, what does your hold music say about your brand? Or, more importantly, what do you want it to say? Consider what you know about your customers and how you want them to feel about your brand. Then, translate those insights into a great hold experience.

To learn more about setting up a virtual call center, speak to a Vonage Business consultant.

Taylor Mallory Holland

Taylor Mallory Holland is a professional writer with more than 11 years of experience writing about business, technology and health care for both media outlets and companies. Taylor understands how enterprise mobility and cloud technology can reshape industries and provide new opportunities to streamline workflows, improve employee collaboration and reimagine the customer experience. She is passionate about helping business leaders understand the impact that emerging technologies can have on communication, operations and sales and marketing.

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A woman using the telephone at her desk.

Call recording benefits your business because it can improve customer service training.

Ever wish you knew exactly what happened during a controversial customer service call? Hate trying to find a pencil to write down information when taking calls on-the-go? Call recording benefits your small business by providing a higher level of service to customers.

Here are four scenarios in which call recording benefits small businesses:

1. Training New Employees on Examples of Excellent Customer Service

There is no substitution for learning on the job when it comes to handling customers. By using company-wide recording, you can set rules around which extensions you record, such as all of your customer service phone lines. Recordings are usually captured in the cloud and are available for you to access online anytime. Not only can you send a recording out to a whole team if you hear a great example of stellar customer service, but you can play back recordings as you coach new employees on what they did right and what they could have done better during real-life calls. Plus, your workers will always be on their toes because they’ll know there is a good chance you’re listening.

2. Needing to Take a Customer Call On-the-Go

Say you are in the car and a potential customer you’ve been trying to track down for weeks finally calls you back. You pull over, and since you have call recording through a mobile app, you turn on the recorder and take the call. Then, when you get back to your desk, you can listen to the call with your user portal and transcribe all the important details about the customer’s needs. No more hunting for a pen on your floorboard, or ending up with chicken-scratch notes from writing against your steering wheel.

3. Handling an Upset Customer

Customers get upset. It happens. When on the phone, employees often know that irate customers are going to call their boss immediately after they hang up. When you have a recording option on your phone system, employees can simply hit the on-demand recording option during the call so their supervisor can hear exactly what happened. This way, they’ll know how to handle the upset customer with the he-said, she-said game taken off the table. Plus, if necessary, the employee can be coached for future calls.

4. Running Late for a Team Meeting

Say your team needs to have a gathering to figure out delivery dates for a big project and sets up a conference call. But, of course, someone is running late. Your team can simply record the conference call so the missing team member can listen later. You’re not spending extra time playing catch-up with the latecomer and everyone has the necessary information.

By using call recording throughout your business processes, it can make a big difference to both your employees and customers. When in doubt, just record the call.

Contact Vonage Business today for more information on call recording options.

About Jennifer Goforth Gregory

Jennifer Goforth Gregory is a technology freelance writer specializing in B2B and telecommunications topics. She has written for national brands including IBM, Samsung, ADTRAN, Adobe, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, Verizon, Costco and American Express. One of her superpowers is being able to translate technical speak from the experts that make products work into language everyone else can understand. Jennifer has a master’s degree in technical communication and lives in North Carolina with her husband and two kids.

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A woman using a smartphone.

A company using its own product is a sign of quality in business.

What would you think if your friends invited you over for dinner but didn’t eat the meal they served? It would be weird, right? If it’s not good enough for the chef, then why should you eat it? Is there something wrong with the meal? Unhealthy ingredients? Bread that broke the five-second rule? Milk flirting a bit too much with the expiration date?

Bottom line, it’s a flag redder than the undercooked meat you could be digging your knife into.

The same is true of companies – and employees – that don’t use their own products. If the product isn’t good enough for that business, why should you trust your own with it?

On the flip side, when you purchase products from a company that uses its own goods and services, you know the organization has faith and trust in the quality of its products. It’s such an important concept in the tech world that a few phrases have even been coined for companies that use their own products, such as “drinking your own champagne” and “eating your own dog food” — seriously, it’s really the term. And, of course, a politically correct and nowhere near as fun version has emerged in the term “self-hosting.”

Google employees use their products. And each time you call Vonage, your call is answered on the exact same cloud network, with the same quality of service and business telephone system that is sold to customers. Novell employees organize their own files using products on their shelf.

When you partner with a company that uses its own products, you’ll get the following tangible and intangible benefits:

Ability to Give Customers Insider Tricks

Yes, you can sit in on a training session. Sure, videos are great. But really knowing how to use a product comes from using it all day, every day. And, more importantly, your own career balances on how well you know it. Customer service reps who spend all day actually using the product you are calling about are much more likely to be familiar with common mistakes, shortcuts, and tricks — and are much more preferable to someone who has never used the product in the real world and spent the new employee orientation daydreaming about lunch.

Peace of Mind

Selecting a vendor is hard. You’re putting your business in someone else’s hands, and if they don’t live up to their promises, your own paycheck could be on the line. When a company trusts its own products enough to use them as part of its business model, you have the peace of mind that it’s dependable, reliable, and worth betting on.

More Engaged Customer Service

There’s something fun about running into someone who uses the same exact device as you do. It’s like you both know you were smart enough to use it and have a sense of pride in your choice. Companies whose employees use their own products have that same sense of pride, and everyone knows you do a much better job when you are engaged and proud of the products you represent.

Find Bugs Before Customers Do

Bugs happen. Quality control is great, but there are times when errors in a product are found only during real-life usage. That’s just the way it is — no way around it. When a company uses its own products, you can be assured employees will catch glitches first. And, since they can’t do their own jobs until the problem is corrected, you know fixes will be a high priority.

Remember, if the food isn’t good enough for the chef, you may want to think twice about eating it. And, if the products aren’t good enough for the vendor, you might want to rethink that, too.

Visit Vonage Business to learn more about business communication products.

About Jennifer Goforth Gregory

Jennifer Goforth Gregory is a technology freelance writer specializing in B2B and telecommunications topics. She has written for national brands including IBM, Samsung, ADTRAN, Adobe, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, Verizon, Costco and American Express. One of her superpowers is being able to translate technical speak from the experts that make products work into language everyone else can understand. Jennifer has a master’s degree in technical communication and lives in North Carolina with her husband and two kids.

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Men and women gather for a business meeting in an office.

Thanks to Web 2.0, brands can maintain constant communication with customers.

Remember Web 2.0? While it’s hardly a new concept by today’s standards — if anything, it’s just “the web” now — there was a time when it was a big deal. In an era when the internet was young, and static content was de rigueur, moving to a web filled with dynamic, user-generated words, art, and video was a bona fide cultural shift.

Not to say that things didn’t progress on the commercial side, too. While words like “revolutionize” get tossed around quite a bit in the tech industry, that’s exactly what Web 2.0 did for businesses as it built several brand-new ways to interact and transact with customers. Here is a look at the business-customer relationship before and after Web 2.0:

It Gave Businesses a Voice…

If you’re old enough to remember the days before widespread ‘net connectivity, you’ll remember how businesses were at the mercy of the news media when it came to non-advertising communication. That was true even in the Web 1.0 days, when physical-medium news was plainly slipping but still a leading form of information consumption. Whether an organization was refuting a claim, attempting to offer a public apology, or trying to say anything else that didn’t involve a new product or sale, it had to send out a press release, cross its fingers, and hope for the best.

Yes, that’s an oversimplification, but it highlights the vast differences between those days and today, when the web ensures businesses have a way to get the word out. Whatever you’re trying to say, to whomever you’re trying to say it, and to however large a crowd, social media and easy, web-based content management tools remove gates between content and the eyes it’s crafted for. Compared to the old days, that’s a huge difference.

…and a Face

By the same token, check out this tweet from AMC Theatres:

Oreo

The funny customer exchanges, surprisingly cool content (the Hamburger Helper® mixtape is an all-time, Mount Rushmore-level classic in this area), and normal promotional stuff that make a business’s overall brand image are all possible largely thanks to the new web, with companies climbing over each other to provide content that will be shared across social media networks.

The move also makes basic marketing efforts more viable than ever for smaller organizations. With location technology becoming a standard part of every web search, simply having an active social media account or company blog can put a local company’s name right alongside a national competitor’s when a customer searches for their industry.

It Permanently Opened Lines of Communication and Collaboration

Another major business benefit of Web 2.0’s philosophy is that the things that make customers happy also tend to help organizations. If the internet ushered in a golden age of customer service, new web technology took the idea to the extreme, putting a direct portal to every business imaginable right in their pockets. For businesses, this means a chance to do right by people (in public!) and generate goodwill and revenue with their master-level customer service skills.

That said, customer service is just part of the equation. The sheer number of companies running successful crowdfunding campaigns shows how much customers want to be part of the product creation process. Opening that door to them — with or without asking for a financial contribution — can result in a constant line of dialogue with the people buying your stuff.

Some companies make customer dialogue a core part of their creation process. For example, Microsoft’s Xbox®, already known for its mastery of social media customer interaction, made major changes to its then-yet-to-be-released Xbox One thanks to customer feedback, according to GeekWire. The company has also made feedback a major aspect of its efforts to refine the system’s software. The latter reflects a growing trend among new-web software developers wherein feedback from customers is solicited and implemented throughout a software’s lifecycle.

However, whether a company is soliciting feedback or the customer shares an experience of his or her own volition, the business world’s transition to Web 2.0 has made ripples that touch on every interaction. While the email and form boxes of Web 1.0 were a huge advancement on their own, the continual, multisource stream of talk seen today is all a product of the new web. And from game consoles to video service naming to social-voting platforms for coffee chains such as Starbucks, customers are proving just how “always right” they can be when given a big enough platform.

A Real Revolution

Unlike that “revolutionary” nose-hair trimmer you once saw in an in-flight catalog, the new web was, and continues to be, a true revolution for a revolutionary technology. If anything, the internet only reached its full potential for Web 1.0 when 2.0 finally took hold. Communication bridged the gap from “much easier” to “truly constant,” giving businesses an endless stream of new ways to both hear and be heard.

And, even without all the revolutionary things it did for businesses, you can’t say anything that resulted in the Hamburger Helper mixtape is a bad thing.

Let Vonage Business centralize and simplify your communications with a unified communications solution.

About Evan Wade

Evan Wade is an author and editor from Carmel, Indiana. As a veteran tech writer and lifelong tech enthusiast, he focuses his writing and research on communication, mobility and security. Alongside work with leading cloud technology providers and industry news sources, Evan has extensive sales and end-user marketing experience, giving him a unique view of the individual’s relationship with technology — and how organizations can realize huge benefits from it.

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A customer service representative.

Customer input can fuel your innovation strategy.

Customers. Aren’t they just wonderful? Besides indirectly paying your bills, they can be one of the most powerful product and service development tools at your disposal — if you do a good job harnessing the stream of valuable data they have to offer you, anyway.

Of course, soliciting and even begging for customer feedback is nothing new. It happens every time a cashier tells you about the survey at the bottom of your receipt right before you crumple it up and use it to store your used gum. But organizing the ways you solicit and respond to customer feedback can effect some serious, positive change in your business processes and the portfolio of products and/or services you offer. Here are a few ways that can happen:

Figuring Out the Why

The first step in your customer-courting, opinion-gathering journey is to eliminate the words “just because” from your motivations. All customer input is valuable, but companies that involve customers in their development or planning usually approach the process with specific needs, such as the following:

  1. They don’t know precisely what customers want.
  2. There’s internal friction regarding what customers want — a subtle but huge difference from the situation above.
  3. They’re promoting a limited number of concepts to develop from a larger pool and want some insight to give them a nudge.
  4. They want to know which, if any, additional features may be useful on a product currently in development.
  5. They feel they’ve lost sight of their customers’ needs and are developing products for themselves, instead. Essentially, they’re building things an insider, with an insider’s knowledge, would need.

These five options come from a list that’s effectively endless. If you have a legitimate reason to think a customer’s input might be useful somewhere, you’re off to a good start. “Just because” rarely works, especially when important decisions are being made.

Figuring Out the How

Here’s where things get a little more narrow in some ways and a lot more complex in others. In the digital era, customer input can be collected in a million ways, giving you endless options to choose from — and endless options to sift through.

Here, context can inform actions. Let’s say you manufacture networking components for B2B and consumer markets. One such line of components, which is due for a rework and relaunch, features quality-of-service (QoS) solutions. Your other data-backed initiatives indicate they aren’t being used as expected, but there’s a larger concern: You can’t tell whether it’s a marketing problem, a problem with the tools themselves, or some combination of the two.

Your existing customer base should be a part of your innovation strategy here. Depending on the specifics surrounding your industry and individual business, you may choose to invite existing customers to take a quick digital survey focusing on their use of QoS technologies. You could even offer some type of small perk as a thank-you for participating. Or, you could hold a small, informal focus group — something as simple as a social media post reading, “Hey, do you guys use our quality-of-service technologies? Why or why not?” could go a long way. You could even ask relationship management or sales representatives to tactfully inquire about it when interacting with existing customers.

Any or all of these customer engagement strategies could result in serious revisions to your product line. More, the changes you implement result from information you might not have otherwise sought out at all. That’s some good added value from people who already hand you cash.

Customers as Innovators

Not every business is lucky enough to have a clear-cut problem like QoS feature usage woes. Other companies have larger-scale trouble aligning what they make with what customers want. And, as before, the question isn’t what to ask so much as how.

Social media is one obvious outlet on which to base an innovation strategy, provided you have enough of a following to gather opinions. Think of it as jump-starting the other most important period of customer interaction (namely, the weeks after launch). Examine activity on your various digital fronts. Ask what people want to see. This gives you data to implement and lets people know you’re looking for input, the latter of which you’ll find many customers are happy to provide.

If you have a large enough customer base and the resources to implement it, a design-your-own approach can also yield tons of data. The slew of promotions offering customers a chance to build their own goods — whether they’re cars, video game controllers, shoes, or velociraptor containment units — opens customers up to new options and, perhaps more importantly, lets businesses know what they prefer from a given product. If many customers are picking this color or that feature, why not make it a permanent part of the line?

Other companies, especially those dealing with limited lines and high-ticket items, may also benefit from direct interaction with certain VIP customers. Inviting highly valued buyers to your facility to give input and see what you have in the works is an opportunity to learn from the people who frequent your business most. This can also be a great social media marketing and intel-gathering opportunity after the fact.

Engage, Involve, and Evolve

In some ways, the key to figuring out what customers want is as simple as asking. Sometimes, an errant social media post may be enough to help you revolutionize a product. Other times, it takes a directed, costly approach to get in a buyer’s head.

Still, the end result might be worth it. If you want to build products customers want, a customer-focused innovation strategy can help you do just that — and it doesn’t necessarily take a team of data scientists and big data number-crunching applications to figure out. An open ear and a genuine interest can accomplish a lot, if you let it happen.

Connect with a Vonage Business specialist to learn about our innovative business communications, so you can focus on your customers.

About Evan Wade

Evan Wade is an author and editor from Carmel, Indiana. As a veteran tech writer and lifelong tech enthusiast, he focuses his writing and research on communication, mobility and security. Alongside work with leading cloud technology providers and industry news sources, Evan has extensive sales and end-user marketing experience, giving him a unique view of the individual’s relationship with technology — and how organizations can realize huge benefits from it.

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