Streaming MOH For Asterisk: New Custom Streams Available

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Asterisk VOIPThe move to VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) for business phones has increased the number of ways phone systems play music on hold (MOH). While currently most hosted VOIP providers play an uploaded audio file as the hold queue audio, new options are opening up for Asterisk-based hosted VOIP systems. Easy On Hold has developed a groundbreaking solution that will provide Asterisk users an opportunity for more robust marketing on hold programming.


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Programming Needs in The MOH Environment

For some companies, the presence of hold music is a mere placeholder; a way to indicate to the caller that they have not dropped the call. Others opt for information on hold as a way of better holding the attention and interest of the caller. Marketing-savvy businesses take the MOH concept a step further, using on hold messaging as a marketing tool to deliver timely call-to-action messages to a captive audience. Such marketing on hold messages have proven to be effective, often prompting a caller to inquire further about something they heard while waiting.

Challenges Of Off-Site VOIP

Producers of phone on hold messages, such as Easy On Hold, have traditionally provided an audio player (external MOH device) that feeds a continuous sound signal into a PBX. VOIP phone systems that are hosted on-site still often provide a sound card input to allow use of an external MOH player. Hosted VOIP phone systems, on the other hand, are “virtual” or entirely “in the cloud”. Since there is no entrance point for an external MOH player in a virtual environment, a single, self-contained audio file has been the norm for MOH playback. Often, these uploaded MOH files play from the start of the file each time the hold button is depressed. This architecture limits the variety of information businesses can convey during customer on-hold time. Further complicating the process is that a qualified administrator is often required to manage on hold audio files.

Hosted VOIP Market Growing

As of the date of this writing, Vonage had just completed their purchase of Vocalocity, one of the fastest growing providers in the SMB hosted VoIP market. A Vonage news release stated:

During the first half of 2013, Vocalocity had revenue of $28 million and growing, implying an annual run rate of greater than $56 million. First half 2013 revenues were 39% higher than the same period in the prior year.

Michael Storella, COO at snomTechnology Inc., the German manuafacturer of IP phones, recently stated that the demand for hosted and cloud-based VoIP systems is also growing, especially among in the small to medium business (SMB) market sector.

One reason VOIP is growing may be that it requires less hardware, which means less energy use. It also offers workers the opportunity to telecommute easily, as noted in a recent Infonetics VoIP and UC Services and Subscribers report.

MOH Industry Response to Hosted VOIP

As an increasing number of businesses opt for off-site or virtual phone systems, the music on hold industry has been slow to respond. On hold equipment providers continue to offer devices that connect via on-site audio inputs, while production companies have been content to offer audio files for upload. The result: hosted VOIP end-users are missing out on the marketing potential of timely messages on hold. Easy On Hold clients using Asterisk-based systems, however, now have access to a full range of hold messaging features via a never-before offered solution.

Streaming MOH For Asterisk

The Asterisk phone system is an open-source software solution that is very popular among I.T. providers such as internet technology integrators. The Asterisk website says:

Asterisk is an open source framework for building communications applications. Asterisk turns an ordinary computer into a communications server. Asterisk powers IP PBX systems, VoIP gateways, conference servers and other custom solutions.

Many Asterisk phone systems are being set up to play a single audio file on hold, but all have vast programming capabilities, including the ability to use an http stream (streaming URL feed) for music on hold.

A New Solution: Custom MOH Streams

Easy On Hold V.P. Tim Brown says his technical team has developed a music and message on hold solution that automatically changes content based on a planned schedule, rotates content to provide a unique caller experience, and makes changing and updating content easy—without the aid of equipment or technicians.

We devised a unique programming technique that encodes playback instructions into each of a series of custom-scripted topical announcements. Then we set a sequence of rules to manage message repetition and customer preferences. A weighting system controls message frequency, so the most important announcements play more often.

 

Examples of the programming in action might be:

  • A restaurant has lunch specials that callers hear about in the morning, and dinner specials in the afternoon.
  • A credit union with a limited-time interest rate that gets more “ear time” than other announcements in the rotation.
  • An automobile dealer promotes weekend hours to callers on Friday.
  • A doctor’s office that uses “good morning” and “good afternoon” phrases to make patients feel welcome.

Modifications to the message rotation are easily and quickly made, with the results being heard immediately.

“Since it is a live stream, customers never have to wait for changes to kick in. There’s no media to handle, no file to transfer. Streams can be monitored live via the customer portal at easyonhold.com,” Brown said.

Techs Respond To Easy On Hold Streaming Option

A call center manager who switched to streaming MOH from Easy On Hold recently remarked at how simple the set up was. The 128k .mp3 stream is a light load on bandwidth, which is already busy streaming video, Pandora personal internet radio, overhead music or other content at many businesses.

IP telephony techs from New York to Honolulu participated in the streaming service rollout, quickly arriving at the same conclusion: The stream is a piece of cake.

Mack Hendricks, Asterisk Support Manager at dOpenSource says,

I like the way the streaming solution is solving the MOH problem.  This year we are focused on partnering with companies that provide complimentary services and Easy On Hold looks like it fits the bill.  80% of our business consists of supporting Asterisk based systems.  So, we can definitely promote the product to our customers.

Specifics About How Streaming Music On Hold Works

Here are some specifics about how Streaming MOH improves the on hold experience for callers on hosted VOIP systems such as Asterisk:

  • Audio content is organized into specific topics businesses want callers to hear. Each topic is treated as an individual “spot”. Typically, a company will have between 6 and 10 topics or paragraphs playing at any time.
  • A variety of music backgrounds (30 seconds and 60 seconds) are used. It’s a welcome departure from the old “voice-over-4-minute-music-track” approach.
  • A topic can be quickly deleted, paused or added to the rotation without disturbing other content.
  • Since the stream is live, all changes are noticed immediately.
  • The frequency, days of the week and times of the day can all be programmed into each 30 to 60-second announcement. Callers are likely to have a fresh, unique listening experience with each call.
  • Each spot can be assigned a priority rating, allowing select messages to play with greater frequency than others in the live group.
  • All content is legal and licensed through our agreement with BMG Music, a publisher in the music business for 178 years.
  • Additional custom streams can be added in a matter of minutes, for extra locations, various company departments or extensions, etc.

 

 

 

Easy On Hold, http://www.easyonhold.com, created in 1997, provides professional telephone recordings, music and on hold message productions, auto attendant, IVR, voice mail greetings, and web audio to companies around the world.

Easy On Hold Releases 1st Annual List Of Banished Message On Hold Phrases

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hear-no-evilGot an ax handy? You’ll want one for your own message on hold script after you read Easy On Hold’s 1st Annual Banished Message On Hold Phrases List, in which we chop out all those cliches, syrupy apologies, cheesy phrases and the corporate speak from on hold marketing.

Our list was created in the spirit of Lake Superior State University’s annual banished words list published every New Year’s Day, featuring words and phrases, collected from all over the world, that are overused and tired, like ‘YOLO’ and ‘kick the can.’

We’re having some of our own fun with message on hold annoyances like “we’ll be with you momentarily” (c’mon, who says that?!). Read on and see if you’ve heard these phrases while you’ve been holding–or, egads, requested them in your own scripts (if so, stop it!). Enjoy…and please share!

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1. “Your call is important to us.”
Want to make your callers feel unimportant? Use this phrase. “If my call is so important, why am I still on hold?” goes the joke, yet so many on hold message writers — or their clients — want to drop in this one every few paragraphs to sound sincere. We believe their hearts are in the right place, but most callers don’t buy it. So instead, use the time to talk about how your products and services make your caller’s life better. After all, what they really want to know is, “what have you done for me lately?”

2. “We’re busy helping other callers. Please hold.”
What your callers really hear: “We’re too busy to help you. You’ll have to wait your turn.” Using this phrase is indeed truthful, but not the best relationship-builder, especially if your call center is handling angry customers who want to be heard, and heard now. So make hold time about your caller, not you, by taking the advice of A North American Telecommunications Association study which found that callers who heard information while holding remained on hold up to three minutes longer. Hearing current and up-to-date information helps smaller companies seem bigger, and bigger companies sound more personal.

3. “We invite you to … (visit our website…stop by our office).”
Good to have website followers. Good to have people come to your office. But if you were on the phone with a customer in person and you wanted them to go to the website, you wouldn’t say, “I invite you to visit our website.” It sounds overly polite and formal, which is why on hold messages have a bad rap as being cheesy. Instead, just say, “You’ll find great information online at www.yourwebsite.com.” Or, “We’re located at 1234 Anyplace Street in Anytown.” If they want to stop by, they won’t wait for an invitation.

4. “We’ll be with you momentarily.”
This one is so obvious it needs no explanation. So promise you will never, ever, ever use this in your on hold scripts. Or ask for it to be used in your scripts. It’s just plain bad.

5. “We apologize for the delay.”
Point #1: It seems that everyone, from Paula Deen to Charlie Sheen, is offering an apology of some sort these days. Politicians and celebrities, sports figures and even the IRS have bent over backwards to say they’re sorry. Apologies have lost their power. Point #2: This phrase was first dreamed up by a well-intentioned soul who imagined their callers hold on into infinity and who thought that, by apologizing every four sentences, the insult of being placed on hold would be diminished. But since many callers will hear this phrase just seconds after being put on hold, you’re apologizing for a delay that could be non-existent. So we’re back to the polite but fake on hold message all over again. Point #3: Don’t go negative, go positive. Provide information the caller will find interesting. The time will pass quickly and before you know it, you’re back on the line and they forgot they were ever on hold.

6. “Like us on Facebook!”
We’ve all asked for likes on our Facebook pages and followers on Twitter. But do we really expect our callers to stop what they’re doing to rush to our social media pages to help us out? If your brand is well-loved, they just might. But if you’re still working on building that kind of following, try this tact instead: Give your callers the benefits of connecting with you socially, whether that’s on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or your website, such as Facebook-only contests. The likes, and the love, will follow. Plus, the better we all get at creatively and uniquely using our social pages, followers will find us any way.

7. Phone numbers.
It’s an honest mistake clients make all the time: “Put our phone number in the script!” What they forget is that the caller already has the phone number. After all, that’s how they got on hold in the first place. Phone numbers in a phone on hold script–if it’s the one your caller just dialed, you’ll sound clueless.

We hope you enjoyed our 1st Annual Banished Message On Hold Phrases List. We’ll be on the lookout for new additions next year.

 

Easy On Hold Named Frontrunner Networks Partner

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Easy On Hold is now a featured partner with Frontrunner Network Systems, a single-source provider of business communication equipment and multimedia integration services for voice, data, video and advanced applications, serving enterprise and SME customers across the Northeast and Midwest.

Easy On Hold provides messaging on hold content for businesses of every size, working directly with Frontrunner Networks for flawless implementation and operation of on hold message equipment. Business already taking advantage of Frontrunner’s end-to-end network-support solutions will now have seamless on hold content setup and operation via Easy On Hold.

Among the offerings will be a multi-site network of on hold messaging devices that update over a web connection to the Easy On Hold studio, allowing businesses to provide constantly updated and relevant information to callers on hold.

Other Frontrunner partners are: Avaya, a global leader in business communications systems providing unified communications, contact centers, data solutions and related services, Benbria, a leading provider of intelligent notification solutions, Enterasys, a Siemens Enterprise Communications Company and premier global provider of wired and wireless network infrastructure and security solutions, Meru Networks, creators of an innovative self-monitoring wireless network that allows an all-wireless enterprise,  Mitel, a global provider of business communications and collaboration software and services for voice, video operating in over 90 countries, Polycom, an industry leader in unified collaboration solutions, including video and telepresence, Siemens, the global leader in unified communications solutions in more than 100 countries, and Telecom Brokerage, Inc. (TBI),  a consultancy that works on behalf of leading carriers in Voice, Data and Internet to negotiate the most competitive rates available on the market today.

About Frontrunner Network Systems

Frontrunner Network Systems is headquartered in Rochester, with offices in Buffalo, Syracuse, Latham, Plattsburgh and Highland, New York; and Chicago, Illinois. The company was founded in 1978 as ROTELCOM, a subsidiary of Rochester Telephone Co. As of February 19, 2008, Frontrunner Network Systems Corporation now operates as a subsidiary of Williams Telecommunications Corp.

Frontrunner has enjoyed over 30 years as a Nortel distributor and maintenance provider and we continue that relationship with Avaya. We work with several other telecommunications manufacturers, including Mitel, Siemens and AllWorx; and although telecommunication remains a large percentage of our core business, we have expanded our product and services offerings in recent years.

 

Easy On Hold is not responsible for the performance, installation or operation of equipment we do not sell. Articles about equipment are for educational purposes only and do not constitute an endorsement of any make or brand. Easy On Hold makes no claims or warranties regarding telephone equipment of any kind.

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