Do you usually get on hold phone hang ups from your customers? Or, are you receiving customer complaints about your phone system? You might not even be aware of this, but your callers could be hearing the same on hold message over and over (and if there is one way to frustrate a caller, this is it).

Why are your callers hearing the same message over and over? Because your phone system is running music and/or messages on hold from a single Internal MP3 or WAV file that is re-started every time your on hold, call park or transfer facility is used. Contrary to what your phone tech may be telling you, your callers don’t have to hear the same on hold message every time – this can be fixed.

Although repetitive on hold messages are a major problem for businesses and their customers, driving them make on hold phone hang ups. This issue is going largely unreported because consumers don’t know any better and are overwhelmed by new technology.

Also, most telcos/technicians don’t seem to care or appreciate the importance of having an on hold system that is easily updatable and in a constant state of play or rotation. Read on to discover more, including:

  • How you can install a Smart IP Audio Box that can fix this problem on many cloud-based or hosted phone systems
  • How you can make a simple change now to stop the same on hold content playing over & over even without a Smart IP Audio Box
  • The many low to no cost options you have to fix this annoying problem PLUS how you can choose to time and date your content so it works seamlessly in line with your other promotions, new products, services, brands or annual events such as Christmas.

A Simple Little Thing Call An LIU

line isolation unit


Almost all traditional phone systems (including most new IP systems) have or can have something called a Line Isolation Unit (LIU) and/or a 3.5 mm headset jack, which is basically a cord that connects your on hold player device to your telephone system. An LIU is connected to the phone system and then, via a common 3.5 mm headphone jack at the other end of the LIU, almost any audio player (such as a radio, MP3 player, CD player or a Smart IP Audio Box) can be connected to your phone system.

The audio equipment plays your on hold content on a constant play or loop, so whenever a customer calls your business, they are diverted via the LIU to your on hold player and hear whatever message is currently playing (meaning they are unlikely to hear the same message twice).

What’s Wrong With Internal WAV/MP3 Files?

People spend an average of 45-50 seconds on hold at any one exposure time. Even though you might have up to 10 minutes of quality content recorded, with most internal files, callers only ever hear the first 45-50 seconds of your on hold messages as internal WAV/MP3 files play on hold messages (or music) from the beginning of the file every time.

This means regardless of how much content you have recorded, when people call, they will always hear the first part of the recording first. Why is this an issue? Let’s look at some examples:

Say somebody calls a real estate agency to speak to their property manager, Jane. Jane isn’t available because she is on the phone, so the receptionist places the caller on hold.

After 1 minute, the receptionist takes the caller off hold to thank them for holding, inform them that Jane is keen to take the call and let them know that Jane should be available in another minute or 2, then places the caller on hold again. The caller will hear the exact same message each time they are put back on hold – and trust us, this experience gets old very quickly and leads to pretty unhappy callers.

Let’s look at another example. Say a solicitor has the same client call multiple times per day, week or month. With an LIU, the caller would most likely hear different on hold content each time they call (they would hear whatever content the on hold player was currently playing) and because the content is so easy to change, the messages on hold are more likely to be current & up to date. With an internal WAV/MP3 file, the caller would hear the exact same message every time they call, because the digital file always starts from the beginning.

Why Is An LIU & Or 3.5 mm Headset Jack Better?

It should only cost about 8-12 dollars to buy an LIU or 3.5 mm headset jack cord for your on hold system. This ensures you have full control to easily change or update your own content, allow a 3rd party to do it for you (Smart On Hold can remotely update via a Smart IP Audio Box) or even just connect your 3.5 mm headset jack to a radio or similar device without paying your phone tech to do it for you.

Because an LIU is simply listening to whatever it is connected to, your callers will hear different on hold content each time they call. LIUs also prevent noise, hum and interference in audio, video and computer systems.

Because telephone companies and install technicians don’t really care about on hold messages (unless they can profit from them) and see an Internal MP3 or WAV files as an easily-controlled, set-and-forget system that can earn them more money (as they can charge a fee to upload a simple file if you request a change), most technicians are now forgoing LIUs on new installs.

Instead, they are switching everyone to digital WAV or MP3 files. Technicians are doing this even when they don’t need to, or when better network capable options such as a Smart IP Audio Box is available.

With the rise of IP & cloud-based telecommunications, largely due to the NBN that is resulting  in rapid loss in traditional line rental revenue for telcos, it is easy to see that the telecommunication industry is in a state of rapid change. Telephone companies and technicians are looking for new ways to recapture control, create new revenue streams and sell new phone systems at a rate like never seen before.

What Is Smart IP Audio Box?

A Smart IP Audio Box is an intelligent on hold player device developed by Smart On Hold that can connect to almost all phone systems, either via a local or online network connection or via a traditional LIU or 3.5 mm headset jack.

A Smart IP Audio Box always runs in a constant state of play, is remotely updatable, is pre-programmable for future events and is capable of playing different messages on hold or music at different times of the day, week, month and year.

Another huge advantage of this clever little Smart IP Audio Box is that IP, cloud-based or hosted systems that can not have a traditional LIU or 3.5 mm headset jack can usually connect to a Smart IP Audio Box through a local or online network as either an “On Hold Server” or as an “On Hold Extension” of the phone system.

This network connectivity is key in solving the on hold problems facing many businesses and phone companies using new cloud and hosted telecommunication systems.

The bad news is that most telephone technicians do not understand that this new technology can work perfectly on their new systems, techs may be resistant to it and may need some explanations from the team at Smart On hold.

Read more about the Smart IP Audio Box

Can My Phone System Have an LIU or 3.5mm headset jack?

The vast majority of phone systems (including most new IP systems) are compatible with an LIU or a 3.5 mm headset jack. There are also excellent alternatives and ways to improve on using a single Internal WAV/MP3 file for hosted or cloud-based systems that are not able to have an LIU.

Many phone system providers & technicians don’t mention LIUs to their customers, because they want them to choose digital Internal WAV/MP3 files, which they view as simpler to install and less fuss (with no real regard for the customer experience).

However, If your phone system is a quality product such as a Panasonic, NEC, Samsung or even an LG, Ericsson, Aria, Avaya, Alcatel, Commander and so many other well-known brands, it is highly likely to be compatible with having an LIU & or a 3.5 mm headset jack.

As far as costs are concerned, an LIU costs about $10, but a telephone technician will probably charge around $25 plus $120 or so for installation.

Although you will probably have to push back, argue with the technician and insist on having them install an LIU, it is definitely worth it. If you are purchasing a brand new phone system, you can probably request to have an LIU installed for no additional cost at the initial installation.

What If I Can’t Have An LIU Or Connect To Smart IP Audio Box?

An LIU or a 3.5 mm headset jack can’t really work with a cloud phone systems. If you’re running with Yealink, Cisco or other non-proprietary handsets or if you access your phone system controls through a web browser and you do not have a physical phone system at your location, it’s likely you run a fully hosted or cloud-based system.

These types of phone systems are becoming more common, have numerous benefits and provide a lot of choice for the on hold space and prevent on hold phone hang ups, including the option to keep your existing handsets, take your business elsewhere and change host if your current host is being ignorant.

Although it’s unfortunate that cloud-based systems can’t have an LIU or a headset jack, many fully hosted and cloud-based providers have realised the faults of the single Internal WAV/MP3 file on hold messaging system, and now (if asked) provide other digital options that can mimic the randomised message playback of LIUs.

Some of these systems can be set to run an external “On Hold Server” or an “On Hold Extension,” which is when you can simply use a Smart IP Audio Boxfrom Smart On Hold or, if this is not possible, some internal WAV/MP3 file systems can be set to play as a continuous loop. Some of these systems have the capacity for multiple files and can play a different file whenever the on hold, call park or transfer facility is used.

When a caller is placed on hold, callers hear the first file, then the second, then the third and so on. Some systems can also be randomised or set to play from last play point, so the real estate example we gave (where a caller hears the same message numerous times in the same call) would not happen. It can help prevent on hold phone hang ups.

The bad news? Certain hosted providers are not willing (or don’t know how) to provide the option for multiple digital files, continuous loop files or the ability to connect a Smart IP Audio Box as an  “On Hold Server” or as an “On Hold Extension” of the phone system. In this case, the best cause of action is simply to keep your existing handsets, take your business elsewhere and change host.

Two cloud phone system providers that definitely do provide good options are Maxo and ECN – or, you can purchase a hosted system directly through Smart On Hold. More than 50% of cloud-based & hosted systems can now provide better options than a single Internal WAV/MP3 file, and this percentage is growing, so make sure to check in with your provider if you want this option.

You may be met with reluctance and resistance, but this is likely due to lack of understanding. If your provider is unsure of the benefits of these messaging alternatives, we are happy to get in touch with them and share our knowledge.

Contact Smart On Hold

If there is one way to reduce on hold phone hang ups and customer complaints, it is ensuring that your on hold messaging system is effective. We know you want your customers to have the best on hold experience possible, and we can help you provide it. If you have any questions about LIUs and their alternatives, don’t hesitate to contact us for on hold phone hang ups solution! We can help improve your messages on hold to keep your customers happy while on hold.