Alex Cornell meant it as a joke. But his song, "I'm on Hold," is often used as background music by call centers queuing up customers. It's appropriate because Cornell is the co-founder of a conference call service, so he knows the industry very well. Good hold music is something that that industry takes seriously, as NPR reports. When properly designed, hold music encourages patience and calmness:
David Green is the board chair of the Experience Marketing Association, and has been focused on hold music for more than two decades. (Formerly called the On Hold Messaging Association, the group gives out awards each year for the best on-hold experiences.) Green enumerated some things that can lead to a hold gone wrong: "Small loops of music that repeat over and over at short intervals might subliminally or consciously make you count the intervals, and make you aggravated that you've heard it three or four or five times," he says. Jingles on repeat are understandably irritating, as are some advertising messages. Auto dealers, he says, often play their radio ads over the phone, which is a mistake, because most customers call for repairs rather than sales. "Can you listen in your mind for a minute and imagine the typical car commercial on the radio?" he says. "Now imagine listening to that when you're placed on hold, not particularly happy that your car will cost $500 to repair."
-via Nag on the Lake