Don’t let bad music ruin the experience


Despite the widespread availability of syndicated music services like Muzak, a lot of restaurants, hair salons, and other service businesses are still playing music from the radio. Whether it’s traditional radio, satellite, or Internet broadcast, the use of radio content introduces the element of choice. Generally, choice is a good thing. But from what I’ve seen, letting venues choose their own music tends to hurt the customer experience.

While Muzak and other music services are controlled at the corporate level by people who (hopefully) have the brand experience in mind, venues that play a radio station typically put the store manager in charge of choosing one. If the manager had a mandate from the corporate office like “find a great jazz station”, this might work fine. But it seems like the selection is totally subject to the whims of the person on duty at a given time.

Case in point: a restaurant I used to dine at every few weeks likes to play 90s-era pop music. A couple of times, they had an excellent mix of 80s music instead. I made a point of telling the server how much better it was, and they told the manager on duty. But as soon as I returned again, it was back to the boring 90s station. What changed? The other manager was back on duty.

Does music really affect revenues? Well, I stopped going to the restaurant above, largely because the music was so bad. I suspect others behave this way too. My advice to venues is simple: If you’re giving each store or restaurant control over what they play, even from a limited set of options, make sure they poll the customers about what people like the most. Then, codify that choice so that all the shifts and managers know it’s what customers want. Get the music right, and you’re light years ahead of companies that are still leaving this key part of the customer experience to chance.