An effective on-hold message will add value to the time a caller waits on hold, instead of making them feel that you owe them for their time.

Time is one of our most precious commodities these days. We live in a fast-paced world where everyone is trying to squeeze just a little bit more out of every minute. To many people, there really is no time to waste.

So the question posed by Christopher Meyer in the Harvard Business Review recently should stop you in your tracks: What would happen if your customers charged you for the time they wait on hold?

His answer, as he explains in the article, is that your company would change for the better to reduce “non-value-added time” for your customers.

Let’s face it, putting callers on hold is inevitable. A recent survey showed that 57 percent of callers are put on hold. So if you cannot eliminate making callers wait, the question becomes how can you add value to their wait time.The answer is a strategic on-hold message.

On-hold marketing is extremely effective at adding value to both your caller’s wait time and your bottom line. But you cannot put just anything in your on-hold message and expect it to be effective. Here are some things you can do to add value with your on-hold message:

Don’t just sell: Callers are a captive audience, as long as they stay on hold. It can be very tempting to fire a barrage of advertising messages at them. But too much can cause callers to tune out. We’re talking about adding value, so include value statements that educate and inform you callers.

Be entertaining: This is where you can follow Disney’s example for treating guests as they wait in lines. Thousands of Disney team members dress in costumes and parade through the parks to amuse folks as they wait for their favorite rides. The result is that the perceived wait time is shorter. No, you don’t need Mickey Mouse reading your on-hold message, but you do need to find your own ways to add in some fun. Your callers will appreciate it, and they won’t feel inconvenienced by having to wait.

Pay attention to the presentation: You have a lot to offer callers, but if you try to cram it all into a few long paragraphs in your on-hold message, they might not get to all of it before tuning you out. Several short paragraphs with lots of “oomph” will get your message across more effectively. Blend that script with the perfect background music and voice talent to reflect your brand, and you have turned your telephone into an extension of your brand. Then keep your on-hold message fresh by updating it frequently with new value-added content.

The right on-hold message will convert more callers into customers, instead of making them feel that you are wasting their time.