On-Hold Advertising? HUMBUG!

The Holiday Season is a time of reflection. It is a time of Christmas greetings, NFL football in the snow, multiple feasts (for some), and promises of weight loss in the New Year (see previously mentioned ‘some’).  It also brings about many renditions of the Charles Dickens classic, ‘A Christmas Carol.’  From community theatre groups to the Muppets, audiences cannot wait to hear Ebenezer Scrooge utter the famous phrase, ‘Bah, HUMBUG!’


We have seen Scrooge portrayed by actors like George C. Scott, Jim Carrey, Michael Caine, Patrick Stewart, and Mr. Magoo.  So many renditions, so many years; so many times we have heard, ‘Humbug!’ uttered throughout the Christmas season. We have heard it so often that it barely registers anymore.  ‘Humbug’ has been associated with all that is grumpy about the holidays.  In actuality, ‘humbug’ means quite a bit more.

Oxford Dictionary defines humbug as a deception, trickery, or a hoax. Armed with this knowledge, hearing Scrooge shout, ‘Humbug’ means more than he is angry about the season. It shows his position that Christmas is a sham; nothing more than a deceptive hoax promising joy but delivering sorrow. Even more interesting is the end of the story when Scrooge utters the sentence, ‘I will honour Christmas in my heart.’ It shows more than a change of heart.  It shows that he has moved from skepticism to belief.

In light of this insight, it raises the question, ‘Is your on-hold advertising a humbug?’

Before you get your knickers in a twist about deceptive advertising practices, take a moment and think about this phrase, “Your call is important to us.  Please continue to hold.”  Now picture your customer. They are waiting on hold.  They hear that phrase so many times that it no longer registers. They hear the message again, and again.  A two minute wait becomes five minutes; then stretches to seven minutes, and then ten.  They soon begin to wonder, ‘If my call is so important – why don’t you pick up?’  Sound familiar?  If so, your on-hold advertising is a humbug.

Now think of your own life. Those items you deem important ALWAYS get your attention.  You always answer the important calls, make the important meetings, and never miss Monday Night Football.  Here is a fun test to see what is important to you.  Look in your check register.  If your health is important to you, yet spend more on Papa Murphy’s pizza in a month than you do on your health club membership annually, it is clear what is more important to you. 

Translate that simple exercise into your business budget. You say callers are important to you. Does your budget reflect that importance? Would an audit of your books confirm what you say?  Examine your allocation of resources for on-hold advertising, staffing levels, and product.  Is the investment in your caller’s experience enough to move them from skepticism to belief?  Or will they hang up the phone disappointed in the experience, passionately uttering the word ‘Humbug!’?

Come to think of it, this time of year is a perfect time for reflection indeed.

Tom McTee, Super-Genius

Tom McTee