Waiting for Elsa: How Sound & Music Can Enhance the Waiting Experience for your Customers

Last weekend, I found myself standing in line in front of a retail store that I hadn’t been to since I was 8 years old. It was 8am on a Saturday morning, and the doors to the Manhattan Disney Store were about to open for a long line comprised mostly of little girls and their parents waiting for the limited amount of Frozen merchandise to arrive.

I would have been sleeping in bed if not for the impending birthday of my nearly 4-year old niece, who “plays” Queen Elsa so much that her pre-school teachers have banned Frozen-related behavior from her classroom. So my wife and I queued up along with all the other little Elsas, waiting for the authentic Elsa dress that apparently is selling on Ebay for nearly three times the retail value. I should have told Starbucks to write “Uncle of the Year” on my to-go cup.

As the chipper Disney employees whisked us into the store, where the majority of the waiting would occur, I heard some familiar sounds that transported me back to another time and place. First, a whistle from Mickey Mouse which I immediately placed as the song from the famed 1928 “Steamboat Willie” episode. Next, a pop-ballad love song that my wife informed me was from Tangled. Lanterns, which play a role in the film, were placed up and down the walls and ceiling surrounding the escalator to enhance the experience. The Elsas squealed with delight.

The line snaked around the Disney store as audio and visual stimuli filled various corners of the room. I enjoyed clips of Fantasia and The Little Mermaid, songs from The Lion King, and yes, even “Let It Go” from Frozen. By the time we reached the front of the line, an hour and a half had passed. We got the dress for our little Elsa, and both my wife and I looked at each other at the same time and said, “that wasn’t so bad.”

Disney has good reason to ensure that their customers have an enjoyable experience, no matter how long they wait. A study conducted in early 2013 by Oracle Global Research found that “brands could lose up to 20% of revenue due to poor customer experiences,” and that “many struggle to develop successful strategies.”

Whether your customers are waiting in a physical or virtual line, there’s no doubt that the right sounds played at the right time can turn around what could otherwise be an unpleasant customer experience. To that end, we offer the following tips:

1. Understand Your Customers

One thing brands are not short of these days is customer data. Modern marketing tools ensure that once an email address is obtained, all sorts of telling information – like age, location, and behavior – can be collected immediately. Defining the audience can often dictate the direction of the Sonic Strategy and help brands to develop a Sonic Identity. To help you understand your customers, we bring both an artistic and scientific approach.

2. Keep Your Customers Entertained

For companies like UPS and FedEx, where a large amount of business and customer service is done over the phone, wait times are often long and irksome. Playing the same 60 second loop over and over again could make anyone go insane, and it’s surprising how many companies who rely on customer service do just that. Do a YouTube search for “the worst on-hold music” and be prepared to hear how many big name brands don’t make the grade. Based on client work with help desks and call centers that has included original compositions and engagements with our music supervision team to find you the right tracks, our research has proven that the right music and voice, and unexpected sonic cues at the right moments, will increase the time customers are willing to wait.

3. Focus on The Customer “Experience”

When Man Made Music engages with a client, we don’t focus on the sounds or songs that will play while your customers wait – we focus on the experience. A client who manages a group of hospitals and doctor’s offices might look for music that will put their waiting customers at ease, while ticket holders waiting to get into a stadium would respond best to music and sound that will pump them up for the game. Starbucks, for example, has stores with various layouts and sizes, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a combination of art and science behind how they get you from waiting on line to holding your coffee cup without feeling frustrated.

Learn how your brand’s customer experience can be transformed by visiting manmademusic.comDon’t wait.