Meet the Man Whose Job Is to Put You on Hold

PHOTO: A man on the phone appears frustrated in this undated file photo.Getty Images
A man on the phone appears frustrated in this undated file photo.

Almost everyone has experienced being put on hold on the phone. Between the music selection and the automated voice that thanks you for calling, many encounters can be frustrating and seemingly endless.

Meet Aaron Kleinhandler, whose job it is to keep you on the line.

“Nobody wants to be on hold,” Kleinhandler, who essentially makes a living out of it, told ABC News.

Kleinhandler is a founder and CEO of Spectrio, a Florida-based company that produces more than 4,000 custom hold messages for companies each month, making him an on-hold guru of sorts for companies looking to keep customers engaged for as long as possible.

Seemingly random music and a voice asking you to “please hold for the next available representative” may seem simple enough, but the science of being put on hold can be surprisingly complex.

“People stay on the line less than 30 to 45 seconds,” said Kleinhandler, noting that his messages have a very short time to convince callers to stay engaged in the call before hanging up.

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First, “we profile a client and figure out what his brand voice is,” said Kleinhandler. “We find the image that the client wants to portray.”

“The hardest part is trying to get businesses to think like their client being put on hold,” he explained. “You have no idea how many companies will say ‘We don’t put our people on hold.’”

“Then, our creative team will write a script,” said Kleinhandler. The automated voice on the other end of the line isn’t just feeding you any old excuse for putting you on hold, a careful script is specifically written for each business based on the personalities of their clientele.

Phase three: finding the perfect voice.

Suzette is “young, relatable, inviting and polished.” Beverly is “adaptable, pleasant, authentic and relatable.” Walt is “adaptable and friendly with a positive vibe.”

Based on descriptions that sound like dating website profiles, Kleinhandler helps companies to pick from 29 female and 18 male voices, all with distinct "personalities." Looking for a voice that’s approachable and friendly, with a guy next door sound? John R. is the answer.

“Women’s voices always seem to be more popular,” said Kleinhandler. “People find them more calming. If you’re going to be taking the customer’s time away, you don’t want to sound like a car salesman.”

After finding the right soothing voice to keep your customers calm, it’s time to choose the music that will keep callers tapping along while they wait.

“What is the overall vibe or tone that you would like to convey at your place of business?” is just one example of the questions that go into choosing the right tune. “Calm and serene? Energetic and lively? Hip and modern?”

From serene smooth jazz and classical music choices to the more upbeat Caribbean and world beat options, there are eleven genres for companies to choose from.

“[On hold] music now tends to be more of a contemporary drive,” said Kleinhandler, “Ten to 15 years ago it was more classical.”

Regardless of the genre, all selections are purely instrumental.

“You don’t want to have music that has words in it,” said Kleinhandler, who explains that bombarding customers with too many messages is overwhelming.

When the thorough research and selection process has been completed, businesses are sent on their way, hopefully with less frustrated clients waiting to speak to a representative.

Perhaps the biggerst irony is that Kleinhandler admits that being on hold is downright annoying.

“I hate being on hold,” said Kleinhandler. “But now I have a better appreciation of it.”