Keeping on-hold callers holding on
Audio marketing helps engage with and retain listeners
Instead of having on-hold callers listen to a single repetitious message or the sound of silence, a U.K. dealership has found a way to put the time to good use.
Toomey Southend Motor Village, in Southend-on-Sea, in Essex, England, about an hour east of London, sells Dacia, Nissan, Peugeot, Renault and Vauxhall vehicles. In 2015, the dealership teamed with audio branding specialist PH Media Group to better engage with, and retain, callers.
For Henry Howell, Web and marketing coordinator at Toomey, the dealership’s audio branding was part of a comprehensive strategy. “You’ve got Google, social media, email, direct mail,” says Howell. “But you can’t forget about the final stage when they’re on hold with you.”
The dealership had more than 5,000 calls coming in every month when the initiative began. Howell says the need to project a polished image to those callers was crucial. “I think if they get put on hold to silence, it damages their impression of the company,” he says.
PH Media helped to create that image. “Our role,” says Dan Lafferty, director of music and voice at PH Media, “is to find brand-appropriate music and voice, and the opportunities dealerships have for the things they’d like to talk about.”
Lafferty recommends music composed specifically for the phones and a variety of male and female voices tailored to the feel of the dealership to communicate the messages.
Filling up what had been dead air also offered a chance to give callers a better understanding of the dealership’s offerings. “It doesn’t just give you a professional feel,” says Howell. “It allows for cross-marketing.”
Some dealerships, conscious of the need for on-hold branding, stop at one repeating message. But Toomey includes an array of messages -- no fewer than seven, no more than about 14 at any given time -- to minimize repetition. A single repetitive message, says Lafferty, is often tuned out.
The dealership also changes messages monthly to promote new marketing pushes, remind callers of ancillary services and prevent the on-hold audio from becoming stale -- another pitfall, Lafferty warns.
Calls for service
The messages include information about the brands Toomey sells, company history, parts and service, new-vehicle offers and new initiatives or events.
The messages are loosely targeted, but Howell estimates that more than half of all calls are related to service, setting up opportunities for repeat business.
Toomey offers a Smart Repair program encompassing such services as paintless dent repair and other small repairs that might not warrant booking a vehicle in to a body shop. The program is regularly presented in the on-hold messaging.
“A customer is unlikely to say, ‘I called in for sales but I want to take you up on your small-to-medium repair offer,’” Howell says. But the suggestion made on hold is designed to get callers thinking about returning to fix a scuff or a dent.
PH Media says it works with 853 dealerships in the U.K. and 148 in the U.S. Each client is assigned a dedicated account manager who ensures that the audio messages happen.
That single point of contact relays the scripts, written for Toomey often by Howell and sometimes by PH Media, to the voice talent, techs and sound engineers, and returns a finished product to the dealership, often within 48 to 72 hours. The services cost Toomey £524 (about $645) per quarter.
Toomey’s callers are listening. As call volume increased during 2016, on-hold times fell slightly. But those who were placed on hold stayed on longer -- hearing more of the message.
Maximum hold-to-hangup times increased by 8.8 seconds on average, to 33.2 seconds, since the dealership adopted the audio messaging.
Answered calls that result in transactions are the goal of the business, and the on-hold messaging is distinctly secondary, but for Toomey, the results are a twofold gain beyond simply sounding more professional.
While not a controlled trial, Howell suggests that the increasing volume of calls that connect with staff may be because callers are more engaged, and therefore willing to hold longer. The longer they hold, the more likely their call will connect. In the meantime, a larger amount of branded messaging is delivered.
Howell and Lafferty acknowledge that it can be difficult to gauge the returns of the audio marketing. “By the time they’re calling you, the lead has already been generated,” Howell says.
“But even if you get only a couple of extra services out of it, it repays the cost.”
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