Although Germany's telecommunications sector has been hard hit by the recent economic downturn, Beyertone, a mid-size company near Düsseldorf, has survived and flourished by keeping customers on the line.
Don't hang up!
When the times are tough, profits go down, jobs are cut and companies invest less in new technology. Not so the case with the creator of "Musiphone." Beyertone, with its 26 employees in Hilden near Düsseldorf, not only improved its domestic market position during the past two years of slow economic growth, but it doubled its exports and managed to turn its product into a household name -- or at least an internationally-recognized phrase.
"Please hold the line."
Whether in German, English, French, Spanish or numerous other languages, the Musiphone is there to keep telephone customers waiting while a friendly computerized voice assures them: "Your call is important to us. You will be connected at the next possible moment."
Beyertone's logo for Musiphone
From Singapore to Leipzig, international companies employ the Musiphone to remind customers that they have not been forgotten and that a person will answer their call as soon as one is available. In the age of large international call centers, such a service is in high demand.
Your call is important to us
Hendrik Beyer, chief executive officer for Beyertone, told Deutsche Welle that the company's product helped to revolutionize the way telephone customers are served. "The Musiphone is a device, which enables a company to insert a welcoming statement before an operator can attend to a customer or call waiting music is played," he explained.
... as soon as the next available operator can take your call.
"In other words, when someone calls a company and the line is busy, the pre-recorded statement automatically begins to play and the caller hears something like: 'Welcome to Beyertone AG in Hilden. Our operators are all busy at the moment. You will be connected as soon as one becomes available. Thank you.' Then after the statement call-waiting music is played until an operator or someone else at the company can take the call."
Beyer said the technology has two advantages: the customer knows he or she has dialed the correct number and that someone is at the other end to answer the call.
Please wait for the next available operator
Although the success story is a German one, the idea behind the Musiphone is ultimately an American one: Hendrik Beyer's father Wolfgang first heard busy-signal music when he was in the United States. In 1984 he imported the idea to Germany, where call-waiting music was still a novelty.
After he had convinced himself that the idea could be profitable, Beyer senior set out to develop the technology for a digital device to play back music to telephone customers when the line was busy. From there, the company continued to develop its product line to eventually include the pre-recorded message.
Someone will be with you shortly.
Some 20 years later, Beyertone exports its Musiphone to 38 countries. It is the only company worldwide to provide its customers with both the hardware and the software for the automatic message service -- each device comes with its own customized message and music. For Beyertone, creation of the voice and sound in the company's in-house studio requires the real creativity and finesse.
Music to pass the time "The most difficult customers are always hospitals," Hendrik Beyer explained. "From births to deaths, they have to be prepared for any type of caller, and of course that means the tone has to be appropriate."
"Don't worry be happy," would therefore not be the best choice for a call-waiting service at a hospital, Beyer said. Instead, the company puts together something more classical. Not everything is so traditional, though, the CEO recalled: "A bakery in Berlin actually requested 'patty cakes' as their call-waiting music, and an auto mechanic asked for motor sounds in the background."
The company has around 50,000 different music titles to choose from, including jingles for some of the world's largest corporations, such as Telekom, one of Beyertone's regular clients.
Practicing patience in several languages
Beyertone relies on 14 professional speakers who can voice call-waiting messages in most major languages. In addition to the company's native German, it can offer services in English, French, Spanish, Dutch, Portuguese, Russian and Chinese. Of course, it's also willing to offer any language a customer requests. And when the workload gets to be too much, even Hendrik Beyer picks up the mike to record a message.
Please don't hang up.
From the airport in Singapore to the Rhine-Ruhr Airport in Düsseldorf, Beyertone offers "please hold the line" around the world. Some of its biggest customers are multinational corporations such as BMW, Mercedes and Coca-Cola. But the company also offers its product to small and mid-size companies.
Beyertone is not directly involved in the sale and distribution of Musiphone. That's done by big telecommunications providers like Siemens and Telekom. Although it offers the service and language worldwide, the Hilden-based company is too small to handle all the orders and actually install the device.
And since Beyertone's 26 employees can't be everywhere at one time, the company offers its customers a unique Internet feature called musiw@b, which allows for a quick download from the Web whenever a company needs to change or update "please hold the line."