Great Moments In Customer Service History brings you for the first time ever, the epic story of the world’s first hold music.
It was the early 1900’s, and both the telephone and mail ordered consumerism were in full swing in ‘Murica. With them came the need for people to be able to call companies and complain about anything and everything. The companies responded by setting up call centers filled with poorly paid operators to take any call, no matter how ridiculous. Those operators needed to be able to put a call on hold to complain to co-workers about how horribly they were being treated or laugh hysterically at callers’ predicaments. Businesses soon realized if they didn’t want their staff to go insane they had to give employees occasional breaks during calls. Thus, the hold button was invented. Knowing they couldn’t just have dead air, it was decided music should be playing while customers were holding. The rest, as they say, is history.
They called themselves The Next Available Operators. Today some still say they were the most dedicated musicians to ever pick up instruments. No one before or since had displayed their level of endurance and commitment to the music. About 25 in number, they played relentlessly, 24 hours a day, subbing in and out as each musician reached total exhaustion. One guy would fall off his chair and another guy with the same instrument would just jump in his spot and continue right where he left off. The music was wistful, pleasant and wonderfully soothing. At the appropriate times of year they played holiday tunes or patriotic numbers. They arranged themselves in a circle around a large microphone placed in the center of the room. At first, callers could hear the sound of bodies falling to the floor occasionally while on hold. This problem was solved by placing carpet and pillows on the floor to mute the musicians’ collapses.
Upon calling, customers would hear “Please hold for The Next Available Operators” then be patched into a line dedicated to the group’s nonstop performance. It was the first hold music in history. Eventually they pressed a phonograph record called “Operators Are Standing By.” It was the best selling and longest hold music record of all time. They quickly became so successful they could be heard everywhere. Shops, elevators and even train stations. Virtually every business began piping the glorious hold music into customers’ ears. Thus began many years of subliminally keeping customers calm and optimistic despite constant disappointment at the poor service they routinely receive.
This has been another Great Moment in Customer Service History. Join us next time as we explore the origins of the Customer Service Desk and how it revolutionized retail shopping in ‘Murica.
It’s a story as American as instant mashed potatoes. In the late 1800’s two brothers were born in Henryville, Indiana who were destined to have a greater impact on America and the world than they could ever realize. Unfortunately, they were diametrically opposed in every way possible. One was to become the most famous symbol of peace, joy and compassion. The other was to become a symbol of corporate greed and commercialism.
The younger of the two by 7 years, Harland was not given the same amount of love and attention from the boys’ parents. He dropped out of school at age 16 entered the workforce, somehow transforming himself into a shrewd business man, trying his hand at several failed money making schemes. He joined the Army and fought bravely in WW1, rising to the rank of Colonel. A hip injury from shrapnel ended his tour of duty, leaving him with a new surname and a permanent limp requiring him to walk with a cane. Although a bit rattled from his battlefield experience, he was even more motivated to succeed in business like any good red-blooded American patriot. Upon his return home he made a fortune in the mass produced fried chicken business. He never cared for his brother’s “love your neighbor” idealism. It was shameful to him that Chris didn’t go to fight in the war, a fact that only deepened the rift between them.
Chris was the older brother, always a little chubbier than Harland, and always the most giving and friendly, peace loving and caring person. He never had a problem with anyone in life except for Harland. Chris was a tried and true hippie before there was a name for such a thing. It saddened him to see his brother become a cold and calculating processed meat tycoon. So much so in fact, he changed his last name to Cringle to avoid being associated with his brother. The name Cringle is derived from “Chris” and the word “jingle”, on account of his obsession with wearing bells on his boots that made a jingling sound when he walked. Due to his overly generous nature he never made a lot of money. He was content to travel around spreading joy from town to town. He held several temporary jobs and communal living situations in his youth. He eventually found a wife and moved to the North pole to get away from a society he never felt shared his values. He was an animal rights activist and kept a herd of reindeer he rescued from a meat processing plant under dubious circumstances.
Chris represents the ultimate bleeding heart liberal, and Harland represents the die-hard conservative corporate baron. No wonder they never quite saw eye to eye. This mockumentary would contain interviews with old friends sharing memories of Chris and Harland from many years ago. There would be dramatic reenactments of their lives, and their bitter rivalries. All of it would be sensationalized by a syrupy, smug narrator.