Deep in the heart of Georgia, on the shores of the Ocmulgee River, stands the city of Macon, home of Wesleyan College, as well as the birthplace to the Allman Brothers Band, Otis Redding, and Little Richard. It’s also where former radio personality and advertising agency owner, Allen Gaughf started a small company to create commercials that played while callers were on hold. He called his new venture, Commercials-On Hold.
A Bit of On-Hold Commercial History
In the late 1970s, early 1980s, AT&T made changes to how telephones worked, making it possible to play audio when callers were put on hold. One of Allen’s customers, an automobile dealer, asked him to create custom messages to play for its on-hold customers. Gaughf thought it was a great idea. He used his experience with radio systems to piece together some of the first ‘on hold’ equipment. Soon after he had audio messaging working for that client, other businesses began asking for it. Commercials on Hold was born in 1982. It was the first company to take the on‐hold messaging concept to market.
In 1987, a Lennox territory manager from NJ heard messages playing while waiting on hold with a car dealership. That individual contacted Gaughf with the idea to make the service available to all the Lennox dealers in New Jersey. Two years later Lennox corporate endorsed the service nationwide, and it really took off on a national scale.
In the early 90s, Commercials on Hold was invited to the first HVAC Comfortech (now known as Contractor Leadership Live) show. In the mid-90s it was endorsed by ACCA (the Air Conditioning Contractors of America). Then in 2007 Carrier and Bryant also endorsed them. All these things, as well as endorsements from top industry consultants, helped the company gain much exposure in the industry.
Current State of the Company
Today, according to Drew Mercer, Commercials On Hold operations manager, Gaughf continues to run the company. Commercials on Hold works with more than 1,000 HVAC customers across the country, in all 50 states, and retains many endorsements. Mercer, who began working with the company in 2004, explains their mission is to help HVAC contractors take better advantage of the one-on-one phone time contractors have with their customers.
“The challenge is to help contractors understand the advantages to using customized on‐hold messages,” he says. In addition, Mercer explains since Lennox adopted their service, the HVAC industry has been the company’s number one vertical market.”
Why On-Hold Commercial Messaging?
“What surprises us most,” he explains, “is that most business owners don’t know what their callers hear when put on hold. They just know that they don’t like to place callers on hold. Even though there are legitimate reasons to place calls on hold, it’s just not something they spend a lot of time thinking about.
“Generally, to place a customer on hold, the business has several choices. They can have customers listening to silence, the radio, just music, or customized messages. The only way to really engage callers during hold time is if you have customized messaging.”
Mercer explains that on-hold clients don’t like hearing silence. It frustrates them and they often hang up after just a few seconds. Music playing from radio stations potentially exposes callers to competitive ads and possibly offensive music or talk radio. He also says music playing during on-hold moments misses the opportunity to engage callers with meaningful information about the company, its products, and its services.
“Most of our clients use hold time to inform callers on hold about the offerings which make their HVAC company different and help build loyalty. When we convey information on hold, we focus on items that differentiate the company and build value. These are the things that produce results and lead to more business,” Mercer says.
“If we can convey this type of information to callers while they are waiting, it can spark inquiries and additional business when someone returns to the call. At the very least, on‐hold messaging will raise awareness and keep the caller on the line.”
Commercials On Hold and NCI
Commercials on Hold became an NCI preferred vendor in 2009. Mercer says their objective was to work with the NCI membership and help them not only understand the benefits of on-hold messaging and the importance and value of that “one‐on‐one” time, which can add up fast over time. Commercials on Hold is a preferred vendor. NCI members who buy their services receive a 5% discount. Other advantages can be found on the Commercials On Hold vendor page on the NCI website.
NCI itself uses Commercial On Hold messaging. Every on-hold caller hears professionally recorded messages that highlight the latest special offers, membership benefits, training class news, and more.
“We work hard to make creating the messaging simple for HVAC contractors,” Mercer says. “We employ copy writers, all of whom have a journalism degree, who have been working with HVAC contractors for years. They bring a lot to the table.
“There is typically very little learning curve that needs to happen when we are working with a new HVAC customer because of the level of experience that we’ve been able to aggregate over the years.”
So, when your customers call and you need to put them on hold, think about Gregg Allman singing ‘Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More,’ and take advantage of on-hold messaging in your business.