Anyone that has ever used a phone is familiar with being placed on hold. Most of the time, you get to hear nice, soothing music while the person on the other end of the line tries to figure out something without either shouting into the phone or having a long period of uncomfortable silence. The hold button is usually the most worn-out button on the key systems that I replace. However, on the newer PBXs that I install, the hold button is quickly losing its usefulness. Hold work well when every line on your phone system is on every phone, like it is in a key system. Placing Line 1 on hold at the reception desk phone allows Line 1 to be picked up by the CEO at their phone. However, what happens in a PBX environment when the incoming lines don’t appear on every phone? The hold button will still place the caller on hold, but only on the phone where the call was initially held. In order to move that caller to another phone, you’ll need to transfer the caller or have the CEO come up to the reception desk. These may not be the most effective solutions for most people. What if there was another way?
My first experience with a “modern” PBX was with the call park feature. Rather than relying on the hold button and tying up the lines coming into the building, the park button takes a different approach. When a caller wants to speak to someone other than the person that they called, the receiver of the call can “park” the caller. Parking a call is like placing the call on hold, but on a phantom extension that can be accessed system-wide. Now, rather than having the CEO go to the reception desk to retrieve the call, the CEO can dial an extension and retrieve the parked call whenever it’s convenient. Call park is a great solution for places where not everyone has a phone or usually isn’t near their extension. Think of a warehouse or a retail sales floor. These users may not have ready access to a phone to take a call. It’s better for them to find an extension and take the call when possible. That’s where the genius of call park comes into play. Without a doubt, call park is the number one feature on my office phone system. If it stopped working for some reason, there might just be a riot. For users that don’t use it already, telling them about the feature when I’m doing the installation is like a ray of sunshine for them.
Configuring Call Park
I’m going to show you how to configure Call Park on Cisco equipment, seeing as that’s the one that I work on most of the time. Your mileage may vary on your flavor of system. If you’re using Cisco Unified Call Manager:
1. After logging into the system, head to Call Routing -> Call Park.
2. You’ll see a screen that looks like this:
The Call Park Number/Range field can accept either a single park number or a range (using the same X wildcard as a route pattern). I’d recommend a range to give yourself some flexibility. Be aware, though, that the limit for a single range of park slots is 100. If you need more than that, you’ll need to create a different pattern. I usually set aside 10 or so. The description field is pretty self-evident. The partition should be one that’s dialable from the phones that you want to access the park feature. I usually just put it in my cluster resources or internal DNs partition. The CUCM field gives you a bit of control over which cluster you assign the park slots.
3. Once you’ve created the park slots, be sure to check the Phone Button Template that the phones are using to ensure there is a Park softkey available for use by the users. I tend to move the key to the first row of softkeys to ensure that it gets used instead of the hold button. Just be aware that changing the softkey template will require you to restart the phones to make the settings take effect. When your users press the Park softkey, the system will pick the first open park slot ascending in the park pattern created and leave the call there. The screen will display the park slot that is holding the call for about ten seconds. You can tweak this timer under System -> Service Parameters -> Cisco CallManager
If you find yourself on a CUCME system, configuring a park slot is as easy as this:
ephone-dn 40 number 601 secondary 600 park-slot timeout 60 limit 10 no huntstop ! ! ephone-dn 41 number 602 secondary 600 park-slot timeout 60 limit 10 no huntstop ! ! ephone-dn 42 number 603 secondary 600 park-slot timeout 60 limit 10 no huntstop ! ! ephone-dn 43 number 604 secondary 600 park-slot timeout 60 limit 10 no huntstop
This will setup four park slots with their own number and a shortcut. One other quick note here. If you accidentally configure an ephone-dn as a park slot and later need to use it for a phone DN, you’re going to need to remove the whole DN and add it back in with the right configuration. For whatever reason, marking a DN as a park slot is one-way job until it’s been deleted.
Directed Call Park
As much as I love call park, it does have one downside. Once a call has been parked in a call park slot, there’s no real way to monitor it. The call park slot is basically a phantom extension with no way to watch what’s going on. While that may be fine for a small office with five or six slots, what happens when an enterprise with thirty slots needs a little more control? What if you want to ensure that you always park an executive’s calls on the same slot? You can’t do that with a regular call park slot. That’s where directed call park comes into play. Directed Call Park allows you to designate a range of park extensions that can be monitored via Busy Lamp Field (BLF) buttons. You can also use those same BLF buttons as a speed dial to rapidly park calls in the same slots every time. This makes a lot more sense for a large enterprise switchboard. The configuration is very similar, with only a couple of extra fields:
Most of it looks the same. The new fields include the reversion number and CSS. This is where the call will be sent if no one picks it up in a certain period of time. Normal call park sends the call back to the extension that parked it. With directed call park, you will usually want the call to go to a central switchboard or receptionist. If you leave these optional fields blank, it will behave just like the normal call park slot. You’ll also notice that the Retrieval Prefix is a required field. Directed Call Park requires you to prefix the park slot with a code for access. If you don’t include the prefix, the system does nothing, as it thinks you’re trying to park a non-existant call in an occupied park slot. If your call is parked on 601 and the retrieval prefix is 55, you will need to dial 55601 to pick up the call. When you want to park a call in a directed call park slot, you need to do a consultative transfer to that slot. In the above case, transfer the call to 601, then hit transfer again to send the caller to the park slot. The Park softkey doesn’t do anything here for directed call park and in fact will send the caller to a regular park slot if they are configured.
Call park is a make-or-break feature for me. I always talk about it in the phone system training that I give to people when first setting up their systems. I caution them against using hold any longer. The only time I use hold on my own phone is when I’m looking something up or I need to step away from the phone for a few seconds. I treat the hold button like a mute button with music. Call park is the new hold. Call park gives you everything that the hold button ever could and more. You can move calls where you need them to be without worrying about which phone has the call. When you add in directed call park to give your switchboard the flexibility to monitor calls and control where calls are parked people will being to wonder how they ever lived without it. You may even find that you can remove the Hold softkey from your phone button templates. And then your job really will be a walk in the park.