Superior audio services since 1986

Your Phone System and Music On Hold Capability

Advancements in modern business phone systems now include some pretty amazing technology, allowing users to perform tasks from access control when the doorbell rings to connecting callers with extensions around the globe as if they were in the same local office.  So it’s only natural to assume that with the purchase of any new business phones comes Messages-on-Hold capability.  Even though the vast majority of business phones do have some sort of switching box – PBX or KSU – don’t make the mistake of assuming that number’s 100%!  You could be the one who ends up holding on…and left in silence with your on-hold callers.

Smaller operations with limited staff should note this, especially if considering more economical phones available at the big box stores.  Even brand name phones may not offer Music On Hold (MOH) “plug-n-play” capability, even if advertised as “MOH ready.”  This could be code for “sure, your new phones are MOH compatible…IF you have the right adapter.”  Don’t be surprised if your low cost new big box phones need some type of adapter that will likely not be included with your purchase. Furthermore, not all phones can be made Music On Hold ready, even with an adapter.

Whether shopping online or in person at these retail operations, you’ll notice that phone specs tell which features new phones either have or don’t have…like call waiting, caller ID, voice mail, call forwarding, etc.  Since Messages-on-Hold are not part of the phone’s internal features like those just listed, it’s easy to overlook the capabilities, or lack thereof.

Of course, there are many compatible phones that will accommodate Messages-on-Hold just fine with the addition of an adapter, fine for a 1 to 4 line set-up in particular.  Panasonic and AT&T provide low cost options that fit this category.  Please don’t hesitate to contact us at IAP if we can help BEFORE your phone purchase.  And if you’ve ever been on hold and heard nothing but periodic and annoying beeping sounds?  Those are inherent in RCA systems…we strongly recommend you run away quickly from those, ESPECIALLY if you have plans for your messages-on-hold productions.

At the more advanced end with VOiP systems, some now play files in “sequenced” form… that is, the Messages-on-hold audio starts from the beginning every time as opposed to the traditional loop.  The benefit of the loop format that gets left behind in this instance is that callers get equal exposure to every portion of your MOH production.  In a sequenced format, messages toward the end of your script/production may rarely if ever get heard.  If your hold-time averages consistently under 4 minutes, for example, those messages at the end will NOT get through to callers the way they will in a loop.

That said, technical specifications change with phones at any price level and if your friends here at IAP can be of assistance in determining what’s best for you, just ask.  We’re glad to help and as you may have noticed if you’ve visited us before, our website has gotten a makeover and we’re now easier to access than ever.  If you have phone system questions – especially related to MOH compatibility – we might be able to do a live chat and get you some answers!

Music On Hold quality when listening from a cell phone!

Nothing has changed the way we live and work more than the cell phone.  Remember those clunky walkie-talkie phones from the 80’s?  Hard to believe there were once considered status symbols, reserved only for the well-to-do.  Now, almost everyone has one, regardless of age or income level.  And the power inside our little communication devices has also grown exponentially: today’s more advanced cell phones hold more computing power than was possessed in early Apollo space flights!

Of course, no matter what kind of phone you’re using at any given time of day, hold time is still inevitable when you’re calling a business that places your call on hold.  Conveying important information and entertaining music while on hold will always be a necessity as long as phone traffic exists.  But if there’s one drawback to our old friend the cell phone, hit-and-miss audio quality can be a concern.  Signals are not always at peak strength, and that can be reflected in audio quality.  It happens in conversation.  It CAN happen when you’re on hold.  Fortunately, regardless of signal strength, cellular voice quality today is pretty exceptional – whether in conversation OR listening while be placed on hold.  Background music on hold can sometimes be another story, which we’ll address in a moment.

In between the days of those clunky walkie-talkie phones and today’s cell phones that are virtually personal assistants, we began to notice just how big a difference cellular audio’s perceived as compared to traditional land lines in business phone systems.  In traditional office environments, nearly all incoming phone traffic is typically from customers, prospects, and vendors/associates.  Rarely would a worker be placed on-hold at their own place of business, right?  Our cell phone culture has changed that in recent years to a certain degree…not that employees, salespeople, executives, and outside workers weren’t there before; now they’re just much better connected via cell phones.

Messages-on-Hold Tech Support learned this better than anyone.  Because incoming phone traffic was increasing in volume from XYZ’s Company’s own staff, suddenly many more employees became aware of their own businesses’ message on-hold advertising.  It’s all thanks to cell phone connectivity.  The downside?  Cell phone signals are essentially radio waves, subject to the same “drops” and signal interruptions as a favorite radio station.  So suddenly Tech Support began hearing a similar refrain from Message On Hold customers saying their audio recording had “drops” – a couple seconds of dead air – or poor playback quality in general.  To quickly resolve such issues, we always listen first to the “Master” production in our digital studio, and in cases like these, monitor the sound quality over land lines while on-hold with the customer in question.  It didn’t take long to determine that such caller concerns about their Message On Hold were actually rooted in cell phone usage, not the Messages-on-Hold recordings themselves.  We don’t get many of these tech support calls anymore…everybody learns.

There is a concern that Illinois Audio Productions does address in our studio work when fine tuning clear crisp audio.  Because so much of today’s commerce is conducted via the cell phone, it’s important that we dial-in to the right bandwidth.  Extensive knowledge of phone systems has always helped Illinois Audio Productions deliver audio using attributes best suited to that system.  Some systems have very tight variances in the configurations of “.wav” files, for example, and there are combinations that can make the difference between a perfect sounding production and sheer noise.  There’s no room for guesswork…you’d better know what you’re doing – not only at the studio mixing board, but also when consulting with business and IT staffs.

Cell phones signals are primarily optimized for the voice, as we mentioned earlier.  That certainly applies to the voicing you hear while be placed on-hold through your cell phone…clear and crisp.  However, the music in a messages-on-hold recording can tend to get a little lost or muddled.  You can hear the exact same “loop” from an office extension and get the full range of voice-and-music perfectly, but cell phone bandwidth is a little different.  Always innovating in the studio, Illinois Audio Productions has recently begun shortening music intervals between messages to under ten seconds, largely to accommodate the fact that a large number of callers placed on-hold will be on – you guessed it – cell phones.

We’ve often recommended short music intervals anyway for operations with a short average hold time in order to “get the word out” in a small amount of time.  For companies with longer hold time, and call centers that by nature have extremely lengthy hold times, we USUALLY consider it better to spread your messages out and give callers a break to absorb the messages they do hear and not become annoyed with what they might consider a bombardment of advertising…sensory overload.  But the fact remains: more and more of today’s on-hold audience is tuning in via the cell phone, and Illinois Audio Productions is ever-vigilant of that fine line where the music interval is concerned.

If you have questions or thoughts about the approach to your next messages-on-hold recording or would like to recruit Illinois Audio Productions for any type of audio recording, we’re always glad to consult with you.  Please don’t hesitate to contact us through our newly updated website or give us a call.  And don’t worry.  We’ll take those cell phones into consideration before we answer!