CISCO Messaging On Hold
Cisco's Unified Communications Manager solution provides significant flexibility with respect to the various methods available to house On Hold Messaging, Information on Hold or On Hold Marketing content (MOH). Cisco's approach to Message On Hold was either a very well thought out feature by Cisco, or a lucky break for the marketing folks at their customer sites and the On Hold providers that support them. A Cisco Unified Communications Manager (formerly Call Manager) can support a 3rd party player via a direct connection to a physical port, or via a wav file that can be loaded directly onto the server (eliminating need for the 3rd party player). Each solution has its merits. Please also note that the Cisco UC320 IP PBX only allows for a 3rd party player in the event a customized Message On Hold program is needed.
The advantages of using the wav file as a solution are:
- Eliminates purchase of 3rd party player hardware.
- Unified Communications Manager can support 50 unique audio files. This means that different departments can offer different message programs to the caller in queue or on hold, resulting in the creation of programs with a direct focus on the type of caller. This is a remarkably high level of flexibility for providing highly focused, targeted marketing and information within one system.
- Some 3rd party players require a 'visit' to the player to update it via CD, cartridge, chip, USB upload or even cassette. Perhaps this is not appealing if the Cisco Unified Communications Manager is located in a secure data room (but certainly, the player could be located outside of the data room).
The advantages of using 3rd party player equipment are:
- The Cisco On Hold Messaging content can be easily managed and updated by end-users as opposed to having to rely on trained Unified Communications programming personnel to install and manage updating the file from time to time.
- In some situations, the audio quality of a 3rd party player can be superior a wav file that requires a level of voice compression that may alter the intended sound of the program.
Cisco MOH is also an advanced solution for branch office sites that may be served by a 'router only' solution. The SRST router can support a wav file within the router itself. This makes Cisco MOH a truly unique solution in that these branch locations can have their own customized On Hold Messaging programs and not have to simply stream a bandwidth eating solution from Unified Communications (though it certainly can). The router can also alternatively support a 3rd party player via a connection to an E&M or FXO port on the router. It is important to note that often times, the voice personnel that are granted programming access to Unified Communications Manager are not typically given access to program the routers.
When preparing for an installation of Cisco MOH, it is extremely important to understand how Cisco MOH plays wav files. In a network configured for UNICAST, the Cisco MOH wav file plays from the beginning each and every time a phone presses the HOLD button. The HOLD button makes a request for an audio file. Playing from the beginning of the file works well for Recorded Announcements and Automated Attendant Greetings, but not for general On Hold Messaging. A network configured for MULTICAST works a bit better in that the file can be accessed by multiple stations and callers hear the content from wherever that file is playing at that point in time. This is optimal for nearly all On Hold Messaging and Information On Hold applications. Nearly all Cisco deployments are set up as UNICAST by default.
In 2011, Cisco introduced the UC320 IP PBX, initially designed to support up to 24 stations. In terms of how Cisco products handle Music or Messaging on Hold, this product offered a bit of a departure from how it was handled on other products. Though the UC320 comes equipped with Cisco music files, it does not allow for other audio files (messaging or music) to be uploaded directly to the UC320. However, it does come equipped with a standard MOH interface that allows for easy connection of 3rd party player.
It is important to note that all Cisco Unified Communications Manager products come equipped with properly licensed music files already in place. The music genres and styles are somewhat limited but are essentially free. Regardless, the flexibility of the Cisco MOH solution makes Messaging On Hold, Information on Hold, or Marketing On Hold an inexpensive and effective marketing tool for the customer.
For more information on how to leverage the Cisco MOH capability, please call On Hold Marketing at 800-342-0098.
This information is based on OHM experiences with new and ongoing installations. OHM cannot attest to its complete accuracy or be responsible for design changes made by Cisco or any other platform providers.