Travel agents’ call handling standards have come into question as the result of a major new study into telephone practice.

The research conducted by audio branding specialist PHMG, which audited 184 firms in the industry, discovered the large majority risk losing custom by subjecting customers to generic music and audio while on hold.

Typically, waiting on hold is seen as a major bugbear, yet 65% of travel agents still leave customers listening to nothing but generic music. A further 18% subject callers to beeps, while 8% leave them in silence and 5% force them to listen to ringing. Just 2% employ brand-consistent voice and music messaging - viewed as the best practice approach to handling calls – equal to the national average.

Mark Williamson, the company's sales and marketing director, said: “Call handling remains a critically undervalued element of customer service and marketing. A previous study of 1,000 UK consumers found 73% will not do business with a company again if their first call isn’t handled satisfactorily.

“Therefore, it is important companies do their utmost to improve the experience. The research shows there is still work to be done in providing an experience that keeps callers engaged and entertained. Generic music, beeps, ringing or silence convey a message that the customer is not valued, which will only serve to compound any annoyance felt as a result of being made to wait on hold.”

The research also found 91% of travel agents do not use auto attendant messaging to greet customers who call up outside of normal working hours. According to the survey, call handling standards have not significantly improved when compared to the results to a similar study conducted in 2013. The number of companies playing repetitive music has increased by 35% during that period.

Williamson said: “The trends over the past three years suggest travel agents believe generic music is enough to keep callers entertained but this can actually have the opposite effect. An existing, generic piece of music should not be repurposed to convey a message it was never intended to, as its characteristics may not match those of the company.

"Hearing is one of our most powerful emotional senses so the sounds customers hear when they call a business will create a long-lasting impression. Every element of a music track, whether tempo, pitch or instrumentation, will stir different emotions so traders should ensure they convey the appropriate brand image.”

Image Source: A and N photography via Shutterstock

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