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The History Of On-Hold Equipment

Manually Updated On-Hold Equipment:
In the past most On-Hold equipment required a cassette. When you placed a new cassette into the player it would play the entire production and an internal memory chip would record the live audio. The player would then loop the recorded audio from the memory chip to callers On-Hold.

The memory of these players was limited to about 2 to 8 minutes and required that the audio file be produced in a manner which would allow it to loop while On-Hold. In other words it had to be able to seamlessly repeat itself every time it reached the end of the audio. And because these players required a cassette to load an On-Hold production it meant you would have to wait for a new one to be mailed to you every time you required a change, an update, or wanted to talk about a new promotion, product, sale, event, etc.

As Compact Discs, CD’s, became more popular in the general public (i.e. in automobiles, home, portable CD players, etc.) it also became the next natural progression for most On-Hold companies and manufactures. Soon cassette based On-Hold equipment was being replaced by CD based systems. But nothing more than the medium changed.

Some CD based players also had internal memory chips with limited storage and required the CD to be played while loading into the memory, just as the cassette based systems did. Others were simply purchased from retailers and put on repeat until they broke. In either case, these solutions also required that you must wait for a new CD to be mailed to you whenever you wanted to update your On-Hold campaign. Because of the limited capabilities of these players they also played 2 to 8 minute audio files in a never ending loop to callers On-Hold.

Once again technology has changed and the most popular medium for audio and music files is now an Mp3 file. An Mp3 file is nothing more than a compressed audio file making it smaller in file size and easier to transfer across the Internet, think of the i-Pod Mp3 player or i-Tunes.

With the advent of this new technology, On-Hold companies and manufactures alike have developed and embraced a number of different On-Hold players that now play Mp3 files and do not require a cassette or CD (i.e. Nel-Tech Labs Messager USB, Premier Technologies USB 1100, Pro Digital USB60). But these new players do require a USB thumb drive to store the Mp3 file.

A USB thumb driver (AKA Stick Drive, Flash Drive) is a small mobile memory card that can be maintained on a computer by plugging it into the USB drive.

In the case of these USB based Mp3 On-Hold systems you are required to save an Mp3 file that you either received via email or downloaded to the USB drive and then move it from your computer to the On-Hold player. These players still require the audio to be looped to callers On-Hold and although they have larger memories than their predecessors did, the average On-Hold company still creates a 4 to 6 minute audio production.

Let’s take a look at how the process of loading an On-Hold campaign on a USB player goes:

• Your employee receives an email with the audio file
• Reviews the production on their computer
• Retrieves the USB thumb drive from the phone room
• Saves the production to the USB drive
• Returns the USB thumb drive
• And then, after returning to their desk, they call the office, place themselves On-Hold and insure everything is playing correctly

The average time it took an employee to update a cassette or CD based system was about 10-15 minutes but with a USB based system it actually takes an average of 20-25 minutes, assuming the employee does not socialize in the process. Now you are probably wondering why it takes your employee longer with this new technology. The answer is simple. The employee now must take multiple trips to the On-Hold player instead of just one and in most cases the employee will listen to the production before retrieving the USB drive. In the past the employee would only go to the phone room once when the CD or Cassette arrived and would listen to the production only once, while On-Hold.

Hands-Free On-Hold Equipment:
There are options available to you other than just the USB based systems. These players are commonly referred to as “Remote Downloading”. Remote Downloading means that your On-Hold production is loaded by the service provider from a remote location and requires no on site involvement from your employees.

In the mid 1990’s when Remote Downloading became prominent the players were loaded remotely utilizing a telephone line. A phone technician would come in to install your equipment and splice into a phone line or fax line already at your office and connect the Remote Player to the line. This line would then act as the “Access” line for your provider to load your On-Hold campaign. The memories of these players would allow 4-8 minutes of audio in a looped format, similar to the USB players. There are two major manufactures of this type of equipment:

1. Premier Technologies with the RUF2700
2. Nel-Tech Labs with the TLK700

But just as the Cassette and CD systems evolved so did the Remote Downloading Technology. Today the newest equipment utilizes the Internet to receive your On-Hold campaign from your provider. Depending on the type of equipment you receive you may have:

• A simple plug and play installation
• 1-3 Hours of memory
• Advanced Marketing Tools
• Seamless Updates

It is important to insure that your provider fully understands the new Internet equipment and how the new tools and features offered by this type of equipment can help your business.

As technology has evolved so has the medium and delivery method of your On-Hold production. It is important to select a provider who understands the newest On-Hold equipment and how it will be able to assist you and your company in creating an effective On-Hold campaign.

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