How To Add Music On Hold To My Phone System?

by Marc Lyman on September 18, 2009

If there is one question we have heard a lot of, it’s “How do I know if my phone system is compatible with music on hold?” Most people hear music on hold all the time, but few people know how it typically works. If you’ve every had music on hold content before on your current phone system setup, then you can be assured your system is music on hold compatible. Being compatible just means that you likely have an audio input or connection on your phone system that enables you to connect any standard music on hold player like the ProDigital USB60 or OHP 8000 to your system. There are four ways music on hold is implemented, and we’ll detail them all here.

1) Business Phone System (PBX / KSU) Music On Hold
This method accounts for over 95% of the music on hold you hear when calling businesses and organizations. The key ingredient here is an actual business phone system, also commonly referred to as a PBX or KSU phone system. These phone systems are not something you can walk into an office supply store and buy. Instead, they are typically sold online or via the local dealers, with installers needed to install, setup and program the system. Central to a business phone system like this is a “box” (often located in a closet or utility area). This “box” is the brains of the phone system. It serves as the hub of the entire phone system, and all the various proprietary office phones are then connected directly to the unit, as is the music on hold player. In most cases a music on hold player plugs right into the system, however on some systems the player needs to be punched down to a wiring block. Some systems also require some minor programming to “turn on” the music on hold feature. If either the wiring block or programming scenarios apply to you, it’s often worth a quick service call to have your phone tech come out and install the player. However, on the vast majority of systems with music on hold inputs, setup is very easy and can be done by just about anyone (it’s comparable to plugging in a component on a home stereo).

2) On Hold Adapter With Standard Phones Music On Hold
In this scenario, standard phones are used in conjunction with a music on hold adapter to provide a music on hold capability. Just about any phone that you buy from Office Depot, Staples, etc. will not have a music on hold input. However, several companies such as Invotel and Skutch make adapters to enable you to connect a standard on hold player to your regular phones. Unfortunately, this option is often the least reliable, most complicated to install, and most expensive on hold option (when compared with method 1 above). Usually, an on hold adapter will be a small device that connects to one or more standard phone lines (usually via a splitter at the wall jack). The devices work with anywhere from one to four phone lines and typically have a RCA audio input jack on them, to which you connect any standard on hold player. Some devices automatically activate hold content just by hitting the phone’s hold button, while other require one or two key presses to put a call on hold (such as “star, star”). The devices that use the existing hold button only work on specific phones. The on hold adapters that use key presses have the disadvantage of callers actually hearing the loud beeps which can sound unprofessional. Lastly, certain standard or small office phones have a built in beeping that callers here on on hold. For those particular phones, music on hold (even with an on hold adapter) won’t make much sense since the beeping cannot be disabled. If you are limited to just one or two standard phones and do not want to upgrade to a business phone system with a music on hold input, then an on hold adapter can be a useful option, if you do your homework on compatibility. Prices for the on hold adapters range widely from about $80 to $300 (plus you’ll need an on hold player as well).

3) VOIP and IP Phone System Music On Hold
These final two options currently represent a small but rapidly growing segment of the music on hold market. It’s easy to confuse these options, however IP and Virtual PBX are implemented a little differently, and have some subtle differences to be aware of. IP Phone Systems often serve multiple branch offices from a single physical location. For most of these systems, there are typically two ways to play music on hold content. The first is to upload the music on hold mp3 (or sometimes another audio format) directly into the system. With this option, the music on hold file is stored in the IP system and separately streamed to each caller when they are placed on hold. While this may seem like an advantage since no on hold player is needed, it can in fact be problematic. Because the content starts from the beginning each time a caller is put on hold, repeat callers are likely to hear the same intro portion of the music on hold content every single time they call in. Even if the music on hold content is five minutes long, most callers will only hear the first 30 seconds or less. . . making the on hold content repetitive and annoying. Luckily, most IP systems also have an external input that allows for a standard music on hold player to be connected. Since standard on hold players play continuously, callers won’t be subjected to the same on hold content each time. If you have the option for a player, we suggest using it, even if you don’t buy the on hold player from us! For more information on VOIP systems, check out VOIP-Info.org.

4) Virtual PBX Music On Hold
Virtual PBX refers to a relatively new class of service that brings the power of very high-end telephony to people and companies often using standard phones and cell phones. Probably the best known and most established Virtual PBX is RingCentral.com
. We have direct experience with RingCentral, and if you are considering Virtual PBX options, we highly recommend them. A virtual pbx enables you to have a central 800 number (you can even port over your local or existing toll free number to many of the services). The Virtual PBX then handles all your calls. These services typically have an online control panel you log into, where you can set rules, control notification options (such as voicemail delivery via email), and generally determine how all your calls are handled. Most also feature the ability to upload either prerecorded music on hold mp3 content, or your own professionally produced custom messages and music on hold production. From a music on hold standpoint, the downside is that with most of these services, there is no seamless way to provide music on hold once the call is actually routed to your home, office or cell phone. In other words, you can enable music on hold while the service locates you, but once you pick-up the call, you will need to be on a phone system that has it’s own music on hold capability. Despite its on hold limitations, virtual pbx services like RingCentral are fantastic for handling calls, and they give you the ability to setup and upload very professional sounding voicemail greetings.

Flashpoint Studios specializes in providing music on hold services and on hold equipment. If you would like your organization to sound as professional as possible while leveraging the power of on hold messaging, let us assist you with over 10 years of music on hold expertise. For details about our products and services, please visit the following links: Music On Hold (for custom on hold messaging), Music On Hold Mp3s (for prerecorded music on hold with “thank you for holding” messages), and our On Hold Player page (for details about our music on hold player options). Or feel free to contact us at 1-877-FLASHPT (1-877-352-7478).

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