Observation/idea: I had to wait on a customer support line today for quite a while. I’m sure you’ve had to do this too at some point.
The company in question had selected some modern pop standards and AOR (Robbie Bloody Williams, Norah Bloody Jones, Dido Bloody Dido etc) to play while I waited, punctuated with cheery automated estimates of my wait time.
I’m sure they got sold a hold music package that was focus-grouped by some unfortunates and tailored to their brand image at quite a premium. It was nethertheless, obviously, supremely irritating. Not only to me, but because I work in a shared office, to my co-workers who caught the second-hand smog of musak through the speaker of my cellphone.
This lead me to think about designing musak.
I was trying to multitask during the dead-time of waiting on the line, which meant working at my computer keyboard while half-listening to the hold music in case the customer-support person answered. Because they were playing pop music – it had to be held in focus to differentiate between the vocals of Williams et al, and the dulcet tones of the support guy. I had to listen all the time.
So first suggestion – use ambient music that makes for a clearer distinction between the wait mode, the announcements of how long you have to wait, and the voice of the person you’re waiting for – allowing me to multitask between the call on hold and my work that little bit more easily
Second suggestion – go further with this and create generative ambient music which would be unique and pleasant to listen to – and could also act as a preattentive aural information channel.
It could use rhythm and melody to keep you aware of you place in the queue, a recurring theme might build anticipation… an allegro con brio indicating you’re drawing near to the answer… a crescendo of attention building to the sweet moment your call gets answered.
Of course it’s an opportunity for sonic branding for the company also… getting their customers happily whistling their hold tune throughout the day…