Short Shrift

Short Shrift.jpg

No, I’m not writing with a lateral lisp.  I stumbled across this term while researching the birth of an industry.  We’re all familiar with the term short-order (service provided quickly) or short-changed (how Seattle Mariner fans feel after the M’s let a 17 game lead evaporate over the last three months of the season, forcing us into another year devoid of post-season play).  

But, short-shrift?!?  Never heard of it.

You might not have heard the term, but in this current business climate of sub-par customer service, you definitely have experienced it.  Short shrift is a term used to describe a rapid and unsympathetic dismissal or curt treatment.  Sound familiar?

When trying to describe to the US Patent office a scenario where his invention would be utilized, Alfred wrote these words in his application to explain exactly why someone would need to be put, ‘on hold.’

“Exasperation many times is heightened by a switchboard operator who, if harassed by a great number of incoming calls, gives short shrift to any particular caller before transferring the caller to a holding circuit.”

The story of how music on hold was discovered happened quite by accident.  Alfred Levy owned a factory in New York that was experiencing trouble with their phone system.  There was a loose wire from the phone system touching a steel girder from the building which acted like an antenna and picked up the audio from a local radio station. The wire relayed the audio to anyone who was placed on hold.

Before this ‘accident’ occurred, callers would experience a short, terse and unsympathetic, ‘Please hold’ before being thrust into the abyss known as silence on hold.  Turns out callers to Alfred’s warehouse were pleased by the distraction of hearing music rather than just silence while they waited. So, he developed a button that would attach to a business telephone system to create a new on hold concept. One that took advantage of the broadcasted audio signal and purposefully played it to callers placed on hold.  He submitted the patent in 1962 which was approved four years later and the on hold music and advertising industry was born.

Here we are, more than 50 years later and businesses still subject callers to voice prompts that are the digital equivalent of ‘short-shrift’ followed by an ocean of silence on hold. That’s no way to treat a customer after they have responded to your external marketing campaign and decided to call you. 

The short repetitive music or little beeps, squeaks, and alien tones provided by the phone system aren’t much better.

At Woodstock Media Group we specialize in creating phone system greetings and interactive voice response (IVR) prompts that are welcoming, warm, and friendly. We also provide music on hold designed to reinforce your image while callers wait and advertising messages that will keep them engaged, educated, and entertained until you return to their call. 

Thanks to Alfred Levy and On-Hold Concepts from Woodstock Media Group, your callers will receive clear direction from a friendly voice followed by music and advertising on hold that will help them learn something new about your business and remind them why they called you in the first place.

Save the short shrift for the Seattle Mariners as they slip closer to last place in the division.

On-Hold Concepts.  Put US on hold!

Tom McTee, Super-Genius

Tom McTee