September 14, 2018

Getting in Tune with Customer Service

Perhaps one of the most notable quotes about music in recent years was Steven Pinker’s comment saying music is “auditory cheesecake”.

Pinker is a cognitive psychologist and linguist who moved into the collective consciousness through his best selling books. That includes The Better Angels of Our Nature, and more recently Enlightenment Now, which Microsoft founder Bill Gates says are the two best books he’s ever read.

In a 1997 keynote speech at MIT, Pinker famously uttered the cheesecake quote. And he wrote that music is “an exquisite confection crafted to tickle the sensitive spots of …our mental faculties.”

However, he added, our response to music is not an evolutionary adaptation. And that stirred quite a bit of debate.

For whatever reason, music has an effect on us as human beings.

Graham Collier in this Psychology Today article writes: “I have found that if the space in which you experience the sound of music is while sitting in the 1,000-year old ultrahigh vertical space of a great Gothic cathedral such as Bourges in central France…time and place are transcended, the watch on the wrist forgotten, worries are temporarily eased, and day-to-day consciousness surrenders its compulsive drives.”

I’m not sure why you’d want to escape from a Gothic cathedral in France. But I think the point is that music can act as a form of escapism.

And that can be a useful thing if a person is at the dentist, experiencing turbulence while flying, or even awaiting help in a call center queue.

Indeed, a recent test involving 30,000 callers demonstrated that people tend to stay on hold longer when they are presented with on-hold music, or music and a message. Interestingly, these individuals also tend to underestimate their hold times significantly when music is part of their on-hold experiences.


Edited by Maurice Nagle

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