On-Hold Music Matters and Actually Can Be Fantastic


Smiling While On Hold

Have you ever heard of fan mail for on-hold music? You may be surprised at the people singing the praises of the composition Sixième Son created for USAA’s customer service line. You can hear it yourself, here.

Has on-hold music ever caused you to grab your guitar and jam along? Have you enjoyed it so much that you don’t want the call to be picked up? Have you ever been willing to take a 1% hike in your mortgage to be able to download it? (OK, that person may have exaggerated.)

On-hold music, when done right, can create first-rate customer experiences. Most companies use it to remind customers that they are in the queue. But a smart company can go much further. Hold music provides a delightful experience that can deepen brand connections.

Sixième Son partnered with the financial services company USAA to create a tailor-made sonic brand. After designing the core sonic logo and DNA, we created a long-form version with plenty of variations designed to both reduce the tedium of the call wait time and to brand the on-hold experience.

The resulting music was met with a very positive response. USAA’s customer panel found it to be “authentic, inspiring, and trustworthy.“ In 2021, a YouTuber posted the USAA’s on-hold music track to his YouTube account. The comments through the years have spoken for themselves. Some people liked how simple it was, some liked that it chanted the brand name, and others said they wouldn’t mind being on hold forever.

With over 47,000 views, 99% of the 159 comments were positive. They go into detail as to why and how much they enjoyed the music and the way that it made them feel.

Who Would Have Thought…

The responses to the YouTube upload varied widely, but the lion’s share agreed that the music was a success.

One user said that they used to work at USAA and a highlight of their day was calling interoffice and hearing the USAA on-hold music play. Another said he had to pull out his guitar and “jam with this jam.”

The most bonkers response had to be the listener who said, “I’d take a 1% hike on my mortgage just to be able to download this mp3.”

Whatever the sentiment may be, USAA’s on-hold music has proven to be an effective piece of brand personality.

Colleen Fahey

Keeping Customers Happy When Stressed

It’s no small task to bring peace and calm to an already stressful situation. Being on hold is never anyone’s first choice. That’s because the call is usually because of a problem that they wanted solved yesterday.

I’m sure we’ve all been there before.

How do you tightrope-walk emotions with an already agitated customer?

Colleen Fahey

The only way to match emotional situations is with an emotional approach; something music is brilliant at. As USAA had already defined its sonic identity through its sonic logo, having on-hold music based on that personality created an authentic experience that flowed well between audio touchpoints.

People could walk through the entire brand experience accompanied by a familiar sound. This user said it perfectly. “They must have figured out the perfect tune to keep the world’s most impatient people on hold and instead of being increasingly more angry, they actually calm down. Amazing. Hats off to USAA.”

Surround Your Brand With Its Own Sound

Sixième Son created an entire sonic ecosystem for USAA. Its on-hold music is just a tiny piece of the brand’s sound identity. It worked for the simple reason that the brand decided to care about what it sounded like.

Often, sound and music are seen as the icing on the cake, used as the last piece thrown on after all the other creative work is done. However, when this happens, the interpretation is seldom seen as authentic. It isn’t part of the branding; it distracts from the branding.

Strategic and branded sound matters and the customer will notice.

Colleen Fahey

This last comment is where we’ll leave it as the best reflection of a job well done. @Sarinleigh says, “I hope the creator makes more music.”

Indeed they have and indeed they will. Over 450 sonic identities strong, Sixième Son has no plans of slowing down anytime soon.

This article was written by our USA Managing Director, Colleen Fahey.

Photo credit: Freepik © Wayhomestudio