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Editor at Large

'Your call wait time is less than two hours'

“Hello. I have to put you on hold. Sorry.”

“Hello. Please listen carefully to the following 32 options, as our extensions have changed for the 33rd time.”

“Hello. Your call is important to us, yet we are now about to put you into automated-phone-system hell.”

Fewer than a third of Americans are satisfied with the way businesses handle their phone calls, according to a study last year by PH Media Group, a London-based international audio branding company.

Audio branding, according to the Audio Branding Academy, “aims at building solidly a brand sound that represents the identity and values of a brand in a distinctive manner. The audio logo, branded functional sounds, brand music or the brand voice are characteristic elements of audio branding.”

Also, of course, audio branding includes the customer experience when he or she calls your business.

In the PH Media Group survey of 2,234 consumers, only 32 percent of respondents were pleased with companies’ phone manner.

Older people were especially dissatisfied, with only 28 percent of people 45-64 saying they are happy with how their calls are handled. That could be because they remember when most calls to businesses began with a polite hello by someone, not with an automated recording on the other end.

“Poor call handling is a common complaint for American consumers. ... This research suggests businesses are still not doing enough to improve standards,” said Mark Williamson of PH Media Group.

He said that businesses seem to have lost touch with older customers, which is important because they are less inclined than younger folks to seek information online. In other words, their initial interaction with your business often is with a phone call.

Williamson said companies should respond quicker to calls and establish a set practice for answering the phone, and that’s just a start. On-hold marketing, such as voice and music messages, also is critical to making customers happy.

Obviously, the days of the company switchboard operator are gone for many businesses.

But think how nice it is when, as a consumer, your call is answered by a pleasant voice, someone who engages you in a very brief conversation before transferring you to the correct destination.

That, folks, gives you a warm feeling about the company. And it's a great start to doing business with it.

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