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South African consumers spend 31 full days of their lives listening to on-hold music

The average South African consumer spends around 15 hours each month speaking to a call centre for personal admin that adds up to 31 days over their lifetime. This is according to a survey* by digital insurance platform, Naked, which explores how much time South African consumers spend listening to elevator music and “your call is important to us” messages while holding for a call centre agent.

These numbers show how many South African companies and industries have been slow to catch up with the needs of digital consumers who prefer to go online to order anything from a pizza to a new television, and run their day-to-day lives from their smartphones.

Says Ernest North, co-founder of Naked Insurance: ‘Consumers increasingly prefer the control and convenience of managing their lives using online platforms. Yet it’s impossible for them to avoid phoning a call centre at least once or twice a month, whether that’s to follow up on a tax query, update their details with their bank or to buy insurance.

‘People of all ages are tired of listening to call centre hold music, but younger generations are especially impatient with call centres. Companies were relatively quick to transition from in-person service to call centres in the 1980s and 1990s. But many industries are struggling to transition to the next wave — the move away from phone calls to complete self-service via apps and online platforms.’

Naked’s survey of almost 2 000 consumers found that:

– The average consumer in South Africa spends 888 minutes per year speaking to a call centre to get personal admin done.

– The industries that people spend the most time on the phone with are insurance, telecommunications and banking, with calls to insurance companies and medical aids taking up the most time.

– While many said they were occasionally exposed to calls in excess of 30 minutes, the average call time was reported at 16.8 minutes.

– Over 10% of respondents reported doodling to fill the time, while almost 40% carried on with other chores while leaving the phone on speaker. Other popular activities include humming to the tune and continuing with work.

Goodbye on-hold music

To emphasise how bizarre this feels in this day and age, Naked recently launched a new series of fun video clips and social posts to #StopHoldMusic and as a tribute to what will soon become a lost art — the hold music pan flute solo. The campaign, live on Naked’s social media channels, imagines an alternative universe where hold music is the new rock and roll and fans get excited about:

– “HOLD FEST” – The world’s only music festival where the DJs only play call centre hold music.

– “NOW THAT’S WHAT I CALL HOLD MUSIC” – A 200 disc box set of call centre hold music hits.

– “HOLD FM” – The only radio station playing call centre hold music all day, every day.

‘This campaign will resonate if you’ve held on for an agent for hours while listening to the same song on loop,’ says North. ‘The good news is that efficient digital channels are rapidly becoming the norm.

‘Similar to what Naked has created for insurance, many industries are transforming to offer an online customer experience that is quick, easy and hassle-free, without the need for any phone calls, and without hold music,’ he concludes.

*Survey results based on responses from 1 992 people on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and 2 independent sources.

– Average time per call: 16.8 minutes

– Average number of calls per month: 4.4

– Over an average of 50 years of being economically active, that’s 44 352 minutes in total, which translates into 30.8 full (24 hour) days.

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