How not to serenade your clients

  • Julie Ahadi

We think it’s time to introduce the concept of conference call hold music etiquette to consulting firms. It’s not that we aren’t amused by some of the choices we have been subjected to of late– indeed, we’ve enjoyed singing along to a veritable smorgasbord of 90s hip-hop classics and contemporary favourites, jam-packed with innuendo and funky beats. What we struggle with, however, is listening to Britney Spears one minute, and the Global Marketing Director of a strategy firm and 15 partners the next. As anyone in their right mind would know, it’s virtually impossible not to finish off the lyrics: “When I’m not with you I lose my mind–Give me a sign…”, so when Dave from firm X suddenly interjects as you’re singing “Hit me baby one more time” it makes for a slightly awkward start to a conference call. More worryingly, we suspect consulting firms may not discriminate between who gets played what when on hold, awaiting to join a conference call (I can’t imagine Source has been given “special” treatment). Clients, who are humans too*, may enjoy the choice of song on offer just as we often do, and even go on to download the entire Justin Bieber album on iTunes. But the obvious problem here is the impression it sends out. Though there’s a chance you’ll get lucky with your choice, it’s not a very safe bet, is it?

How such a faux pas has slipped through the net of many polished, wonderfully professional consulting firms is slightly astonishing, but we’ve been on enough calls to know that we’d better say something. Call it a helpful plea. So for our collective sakes, if you haven’t already done so, please vet your conference call playlist, otherwise it’s only a matter of time before Lionel Ritchie pops up with “Hello, is it me you’re looking for?” Dave comes on to say “Hello, this is Dave”, we reply “Ah, we were looking for you, Dave” and the whole thing descends into farce.

*We ran a survey to confirm this.