Traditional travel firms could be using on hold music and voiceovers to promote offers or reinforce brands to customers while they’re waiting on the phone.
That is the opinion of Dan Lafferty, head of voice and music at audio branding agency PHMG, who thinks the travel trade is losing business to OTAs by failing to keep callers entertained.
Simple changes, he says, can make a big difference and even make some “warm” customers “hot”.
“People are not taking care of their on hold because they are not really aware of the problem,” says Lafferty. “How many times is the owner of the business on hold? A lot of people have never really experienced their own customer journey on the telephone. If they knew how bad it was, it wouldn’t continue.
“The voiceover is there for better reinforcement,” he continued. “Buying a holiday is one of the most expensive things you do so the music is there to reinforce your business is registered with Abta or how many years you’ve been in business.”
PHMG research suggests 60% of people on hold are sat in front of a computer, so Lafferty suggests agents try and direct them to their own websites – even if the direction is subconscious.
“Everyone has a physical and emotional reaction to sound,” he explained. “As long as you are on hold you never close your ears. You might not be actively listening but the sound is always going in.”
And he believes that human interaction still has a draw over online for many customers who “like to know someone is on the other end of the phone”.
Each agent should have a unique message and stick to it, Lafferty added. “It’s about looking at your brand; what makes that brand tick or unique to the competition and how they position themselves in the market place. The higher-end you go, the less cliché. The very high-end bespoke holidays you want to get across more of a luxury feel rather than fun.”
But there’s nothing wrong with fun, added Lafferty. “You can play the same music on a cello and a kazoo and one will sound different to another,” he added. “There’s a big difference between 18-30 and someone like Saga Holidays and even Sandals or Kuoni.
“By definition they are probably more tailored to an older audience because they are looking at that more affluent client base.
“If you are a luxury brand, especially in holidays, you look towards a more mature voice; someone who comes across as a discerning customer. Much in the same way as if you run an agency and want to tailor to a more discerning customer, you would probably get staff in the same area. It’s the same principle with a voiceover.”
PHMG offers to make a profile for each company it works with to understand their brand before creating music and voiceovers for them, with the intention of reducing hang-ups and increasing sales. They can update these packages up to once a week but, typically, savvy call-handling companies change hold music quarterly.
The firm makes its own music rather than using chart songs or anything from the canon of pop history, because: “they come with their own baggage,” Lafferty says. “Some good, some bad, but it’s out of control of the people using the music.
“It’s not necessarily fair on the music, it just happened to be on when an event occurred. Like England going out of the World Cup or someone going through a break-up.”
So what should a travel agent go for? “From a travel point of view, do you look at the different holiday seasons? Are you a global agency?,” says Lafferty. “It’s multi-faceted.”
But he’s adamant getting this area of business right fine tunes any business. “It’s a prime opportunity,” he continued. “Someone calls in saying they want to get away but they don’t know where. They are looking for advice, give it to them.
“Anybody who calls in is already a warm lead. You can make them into a hot lead by offering them offers.
“You can give them offers or up-sell to them while they are on hold. If someone is undecided, mention a special offer. Then you’ve already opened a line of conversation for the agent to follow.”
Malcolm Brace, hotel director at Giltar Hotel in Tenby said: “On-hold marketing offers us the chance to inform callers about our other services and amenities, improving awareness and creating a golden opportunity for up-selling and cross-selling. It’s helped us boost sales
“We refresh our on-hold content every quarter to ensure callers are always kept up-to-date with what’s going on. It really helps to improve awareness.”
Brace says the hotel uses both male and female voices and that customers have left positive comments.
“Before implementing on-hold marketing, we had nothing in place so essentially we were wasting a valuable time to communicate directly with customers.”