January 28, 2010

Setting the Stage


The other day, I got so annoyed with my phone bill that I called AT&T customer service. After pushing all the buttons to get me to the right department I was surprised to find myself listening to the world’s most perfect hold music: Enya. (For those of you too young or too old to know who Enya is: She took the world by storm in the late 1980’s with her Celtic/Irish/New Age sound featuring dreamy, multilayered vocal tracks, misty synthesizers and seemingly nonsensical lyrics.)

As I sat there on hold I could feel my frustration… well… sail away, sail away, sail away…
By the time the customer service rep came on the line I was chipper and friendly as I explained my billing problem.

When I mentioned this experience on my Facebook page, I got some interesting responses: “They’re messing with you, Chuck” and “they’re trying to get you to give up and hang up.”

But are they?

It’s not like they made me forget why I was calling. The music just made the long hold time a pleasant experience AND it primed me to be calm and receptive when I spoke to the customer service rep. I could even argue that the music made me more effective in achieving my call’s objective. If I’d been irate and belligerent, the rep might not have been so willing to find me discounts on my services.

It’s AT&T’s hold music. They can play whatever they want. So why not play something that sets the stage for a friendly, productive conversation? Get the angry customers to imagine themselves walking the tranquil, green moors of the Irish countryside.

In terms of setting the mood, it’s a world away from Rage Against the Machine.