The days of renting a rotary phone from Ma Bell are thankfully long over. (So are the days of 10-foot-long phone cords, operators, and telephone pole climbers.) In fact, the world of telecommunication products has evolved so quickly that many business pros have yet to understand all the options out there, including the advantages of using a softphone.
What is a softphone? Put quite simply, a softphone is a voice-over-Internet – or VoIP – that allows users to make and receive phone calls using an Internet-connected device. Instead of using a standard phone with a base, buttons, and handset, a softphone is a virtual phone – an application that runs on a laptop, desktop, or mobile device. When using a computer, the call often is placed using any standard browser including Firefox, Chrome, and Safari.
What does a softphone look like? Its interface appears like a traditional phone dial pad. But it also usually offers additional information about the contact’s identity, history as a client, and more. And in addition to just calling functions, a softphone usually includes useful features such as video conferencing, team messaging systems, call holding, and more.
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Here are just a few useful features that are common when using a softphone system:
- Employee available detection
- Real-time text conversation
- Group audio conferencing
- Screen sharing
- Call waiting, forwarding, and recording
- Caller ID
- Contact list sharing
- Live notifications
Softphone cost savings
Perhaps the biggest advantage of a softphone for a small business is the cost savings. Because a softphone is software-based, minimal equipment is required – usually just a headset. Depending on the number of softphone users, industry experts estimate a small business can save between 50 and 75 percent in telecommunication costs.
How are those savings achieved? Here are just a few of the ways a system can save small business money:
- Simplified training thanks to an intuitive interface
- Integration with existing hardware
- Multi-device compatibility
- Easy-to-upgrade software
- CRM software integration
- Quick setup process
- Increased phone number privacy
- Streamlined customer service
Few hardware upgrades
Eliminating the need for constant hardware upgrades also is a big advantage of a softphone system. Instead of replacing dozens of physical phone units, a software upgrade system-wide usually takes care of this core.
Portable phone number
What is a softphone compared with a smartphone? Essentially a softphone is just as mobile, but the number stays with the business – not the individual, meaning there’s no need to constantly update contact numbers as personnel change. That greatly lessens the chance a customer loses contact with the business.
A softphone needs a reliable, high-speed Internet connection to work. Power outages and Internet disruptions are the biggest hindrances. Audio quality can also be negatively affected when Internet service is spotty.
How to choose a softphone provider
Researching a new phone system can be a tiresome process, but take comfort in knowing that voice-over-Internet has been an option decades in the making. If you’ve ever made a Facetime or Skype call, you’ve used VoIP already.
Survey your employees and staff first to determine their comfort level using softphones. Then talk to your current Internet provider first to see what options are available.
The bottom line
Flexibility and the willingness to embrace the quickly evolving connection between technology and business has long been acknowledged as one of the biggest keys to success with small business. “Adapt or die” is perhaps the shorter version of that theorem. A softphone system – while it might appearing to be trendy or cumbersome to some executives – actually is quite the opposite. A softphone is easy to use, a cost-saving program that makes staff members more nimble and reactive. Click for more info about softphones and their benefits.
Read more: Fall Savings Tips For Your Small Business