Inside the young science of keeping callers on the line.

Wow…”Of all the depressing statistics about a lifetime of consumer existence, this may be the most distressing: each of us is destined to spend roughly 1.2 years on hold.” This article is on the psychology of music employed by corporations  to keep us waiting for customer service.  Talk about being  “nudged”.

Introduction (Via Newsweek)

(continued from above…..) Yes, you read that correctly. More than a year of your life will be spent on the phone listening to Muzak stations like Aura (“Taking the primarily instrumental musical form to experimental and inspirational places”), Moodscapes (“Airy and relaxing”), and Tropical Breezes (“Those carefree days of sun, fun, and frozen cocktails”) while being serially apologized to by robotic voices better calibrated to taunt than sympathize.

Additional Excerpts (Via Newsweek)

“When shoppers are exposed to music in a store, sales resistance decreases,” he says via e-mail. Our brains have a finite bandwidth for taking in and processing information, and clogging that bandwidth with music is sometimes enough to prevent us from making rational purchasing decisions, or worrying about the time.

Modern corporations, with the help of psychologists, have actually made a science out of keeping you on the line, using harmonic soporifics in an effort to subdue your rage. They want you to enjoy the experience—or at least hate it less—in the hope that you will buy what they are selling when you finally get the chance. But where did the idea that music could be a tonic to calm angry consumers come from? What makes us happier: silence, music, or estimated wait times? And does the practice of interrupting hold music every 30 seconds with a message apologizing for, well, keeping you on hold, make the situation any better?

Anat Rafaeli, a professor at the Israel Institute of Technology, and her former graduate students Nina Munichor and Liad Weiss have looked specifically into what keeps us on the line—and happy—when we’re on hold. In a paper Munichor and Rafaeli published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, the two compared hold music, estimated wait times, and recorded apologies for their effectiveness. In the first of two experiments, Munichor and Rafaeli found that callers who were given information about their place in line reported more positive experiences—and hung up less frequently—than those who were played background music. And as for recorded apologies? They can make the situation worse, said Rafaeli. Given that apologies often interrupt background music without providing any useful information, she suggested it is possible that “you sort of drift into the music, and go with the flow, and forget that you’re really waiting, or wasting your time. But then this apology awakens you to this unpleasant effect that, hey, I’m waiting!”

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18. August 2009 by Miguel Barbosa
Categories: Curated Readings, Psychology & Sociology | Leave a comment

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