Here's How to Make Being on Hold Less Infuriating

Companies should play pop tunes, not elevator music: study
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 5, 2015 8:10 AM CDT
Here's How to Make Being on Hold Less Infuriating
Companies should play pop music rather than elevator music when customers are on hold, a study finds.   (AP Photo/Pat Wellenbach, File)

No one likes being on hold, and the elevator music that typically plays while you cool your heels doesn't enhance the experience. Fortunately, a new study is suggesting a solution, Time reports: Just change the music. We're already conditioned to find elevator music annoying, researcher Karen Niven says. "You learn to associate that kind of background music with waiting or complaining—those things that normally happen when you call a call center." Her work finds that playing the hits might be a better bet. "When you have some pop music that you wouldn’t expect to hear, it doesn’t prime those same negative thoughts." Niven used a real-life situation to learn more about callers' reactions. After talking to customers, operators at a call center noted just how annoyed these customers seemed.

Some had heard elevator music; another group heard "prosocial" pop songs with lyrics about helping others, like Michael Jackson's "Heal the World" or the Beatles' "Help"; and a third group heard pop music with what Niven terms "neutral" words. The second kind, or prosocial music, Niven notes in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, has been "shown to reduce aggression in the laboratory," but it seems this isn't true on the phone. The prosocial group was just as frustrated as the elevator music group, Time reports, whereas the neutral pop music group fared the best. So companies might want to opt for pop in the future. The only problem is the licensing fees involved, Niven notes. (Now if she could just find a solution for unending robocalls.)

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