The desk phone has gone through many changes over the years, evolving from rotary dials to push buttons to touchscreens. But are business desk phones a communications relic or do they still have a role in your enterprise communications environment? The answer, as any good consultant would say, is it depends.
Research has tracked endpoint adoption trends for the last several years. The company’s 2018 unified communications (UC) and collaboration study gathered data from more than 600 organizations with endpoint deployments ranging from 15 to more than 50,000 devices. The results are clear: The desktop phone is under assault, but it’s not dead yet.
For example, 27% of organizations plan to increase desk phone deployments by the end of 2020, compared to 24% that plan to reduce them. The percentage of organizations increasing desk phone deployments is smaller than those increasing softphones and mobile UC client deployments, but it’s still significant. For many organizations, the reality is business desk phones still represent an integral part of their UC and collaboration environments. Let your specific requirements, and not market hype, guide your decision-making as you make your future phone plans.
While the handset is not dead, its role is certainly changing. Participants in the research noted several different ways they are now using or plan to use business desk phones.
- Adjunct to a mobile UC client. Some organizations are deploying business desk phones that connect to a PC via USB, with the PC running its own instance of a UC client or a phone that is Ethernet-based and controlled by the desktop UC client. The desk phone functions primarily as a speakerphone to enable users to join meetings or dial from corporate directories with one click.
- Open-area deployments. Desk phones in open areas support guest access and security in locations including college dormitories, office hallways, and reception or break rooms.
- Vertical applications. These applications include desk phones in hotel rooms, nurse stations, or other environments that require the delivery of dedicated applications. For example, a hotel could provision a desk phone with a touchscreen to enable a guest to order room service or make reservations. The hotel could customize the phone’s screen based on the guest’s status and past purchase behavior.
- Simple communication needs. Let’s face it, not everyone requires a team collaboration app, multi-line instance, or the option to join meetings with one click from their phone. Retail branches and small offices may only need voice communication. As such, the plain old desk phone may still be the ideal user interface.
Should you plan for a future without desk phones? Possibly. Is the desk phone dead? Definitely not.
Successful deployment strategies are always based on providing user experiences that align with user needs. You should not force individuals to use a tool they do not want, a tool that does not align with their work style or a tool that complicates their ability to communicate.
For a large and growing segment of the workforce, the desk phone does indeed represent a relic of a different time. But, for many others, the desk phone still meets the need for simplicity, quality, and ease of use. Let your specific requirements, and not market hype, guide your decision-making as you make your future phone plans.
Today, organizations of all sizes are adopting cloud-based PBX systems. In fact, Research predicts the number of seats for hosted business VoIP and unified communications services is on track to more than double between 2012 and 2016. There are many benefits to a hosted system over a premise-based system, and companies are more educated on these features than they were when the technology first started to reach wide-acceptance.
However, there are still some common misconceptions that we service providers encounter when speaking with prospective customers.
As part of our ongoing educational efforts, we have rounded up explanations of five of the misconceptions we most commonly encounter:
1. You don’t have as much control over your PBX when it is hosted as you do when it is on premise.
It’s understandable that many people have the misconception that you lose administrative control of your PBX when it is not physically hosted in your own building. However, the reality is with an enterprise-grade PBX that is delivered from the cloud, you have remarkable control and greater flexibility. For example, if you want to make changes such as re-setting a voicemail password, or turning on your holiday schedule, you can do it with the click of a mouse.With a cloud-based IP phone system, customers enjoy unmatched control and point-and-click configuration over all services. Through the exclusive, award-winning web-based OSSmosis Portal, Evolve IP’s customers can control telephony features, moves/adds/ changes, conferencing, security, and email, plus they can get insight into network status, performance updates, and account/billing detail.
2. Sound quality is poor on hosted phone systems.
This is completely untrue. When properly architected, hosted voice for business on an enterprise-grade platform – such as the Broadsoft platform – has incredible quality. In fact, Evolve IP guarantees its SLAs. Through constant monitoring customers’ Mean Opinion Scores (MOS), Evolve IP is able to correct any potential issues before quality could ever be compromised. A decade ago poorly executed consumer-grade VoIP likely started this misconception.
3. Cloud is just a fad.That couldn’t be further from the truth.
In fact, according to a recent study, the desire to share content and to access it on multiple devices will motivate consumers to start storing a third of their digital content in the cloud by 2016. In a recent Microsoft surveys of businesses, 30 percent are already using paid cloud services and another 48 percent plans to move to the cloud model within the next 2-3 years.Although the term cloud is relatively new, the technology has been around and constantly advancing for many years, and more businesses adopt it each day.
4. Moving to the cloud means IT staff loses job security.
One fear that IT Directors have when moving to the cloud is that it will jeopardize their job security. In reality all companies will need professionals that understand evolving cloud and IaaS technologies. The best part of the equation is that the menial tasks that tie up too much of your time are eliminated and will allow you to engage in more strategic projects that provide opportunities to improve the business.
5. The cloud only benefits small businesses, not Enterprises.
Because of the per-user monthly fee and absence of expensive upfront equipment cost, cloud solutions have mistakenly been thought of as intended only for small business. It’s true that small businesses tend to adopt new technologies before Enterprises. But, cloud adoption is expanding rapidly across the Enterprise landscape, as Enterprises have begun to understand that the benefits are the same for organizations of all sizes
In the first week of March, Facebook, Twitter, and Amazon began encouraging employees to work from home for their own health and safety
As far as big tech is concerned, business operations haven’t really changed much. In fact, companies like Apple and Microsoft continue to hire throughout the pandemic.
Most organizations in the country, however, don’t share the same luck. A survey found that only 12% of organizations were ready to manage disruptions caused by COVID-19. Many simply didn’t have the infrastructure, training, or experience to support prolonged remote work, resorting to panic buying and implementing technologies left and right with unprecedented urgency. Businesses simply weren’t prepared for a crisis like this, and they’re paying the price.
As the initial shock wears off and businesses stabilize, leaders have started to re-evaluate their remote work and business continuity plans to avoid future periods of disruption. A survey by PwC found that finance leaders are planning to pivot toward measures that improve business resilience and agility, with 68% of respondents putting work flexibility as their number one priority.
Remote work drives business operations through tough times
Remote work growth increased 159% between 2005 and 2017, with a 78% increase in job listings posted on LinkedIn within two years that offered flexible work perks. The reality on the ground was much different, however. Only 7% of workers had the luxury of regularly working from home, and 94% wanted more flexible work options.
When COVID-19 struck, however, remote work transformed from an employee privilege to business necessity overnight. Employees everywhere suddenly had their traditional in-office work schedules turned upside down.
To many experts’ surprise, the shift to remote work has actually exceeded expectations. Organizations have been able to continue business operations despite being distributed. According to a Deloitte survey, 75% of CFOs say their companies are operating at 80% capacity or higher. While it’s no stretch that businesses are struggling during the crisis, findings show that the mass remote work situation isn’t as bad as leaders anticipated. In fact, leaders are now the true value of remote work, going so far as to announce permanent work from anywhere flexibility.
From the employee perspective, working from home isn’t so bad either. A CNBC survey found that 38% of employees are happier with their jobs now than they were in previous months. Employees with flexible work schedules show less stress and burnout while being happier, more engaged, and more productive. Organizations with highly-engaged employees have 59% less turnover and achieve 21% greater profitability than their competitors.
The intersection between remote work and business continuity
As shelter-at-home restrictions ease across the world, the return to work won’t be sudden. Organizations will have to enact safety measures to prioritize employee health or have employees continue working from home. In many cases, the latter might be a better option. Cubicles and open offices cram as many employees into small spaces as possible, and it’s simply not feasible with the virus still floating around.
Business leaders have realized that, in order to continue operations, remote work is essential to their business continuity plans. A survey on 317 CFOs revealed that 74% of companies plan to permanently shift to more remote work post-COVID-19, with nearly a quarter planning to move 20% of their on-site employees to permanent remote positions.
The shelter-at-home orders gave managers and executives a first-hand look at the advantages of remote work. Seeing operations continue and employees productive, leaders became much more receptive to work flexibility. In fact, forward-thinking organizations such as Facebook and Twitter announced that employees can work from home until the end of 2020—a monumental step toward the future of work.
Unified communications are vital to the future of employee collaboration
As companies geared up for remote work, demand for cloud communications tools reached a critical mass. Business app downloads increased by 90% in March compared to the previous year, with video conferencing and team messaging tools taking the spotlight. Organizations realized that these tools are essential for employees to effectively collaborate with their teams from home.
The issue, however, is that most organizations were forced to cobble together temporary technology solutions that aren’t optimized to work synergistically or match with long-term IT goals. These disparate solutions might have been solid short-term Band-Aids to survive the pandemic, but don’t make sound solutions down the road.
One of the biggest concerns is the overabundance of technology. Having an app for each mode of communication—team messaging, video conferencing, and cloud phone—means employees need to manage several different apps at the same time. Studies show that 68% of employees toggle between 10 apps in a single hour, with some even juggling up to 15. Workplace technologies are ripping employees’ attention spans apart, leading to lower productivity, fatigue, and stress.
At the same time, disparate apps can cause major long-term headaches for IT teams. Organizational needs are constantly changing, and scaling several solutions to match one another can be a technical nightmare. IT teams would also have to work with several service providers whose products might not cooperate.
That’s where unified communications come in. Unified communications solutions allow employees to effortlessly switch between team messaging, video conferencing, and cloud phone with a single click—never having to leave the app. With everything under one roof, IT teams can easily manage compatibility, scalability, and support issues with a single provider.
Businesses with unified communications thrive in the future of work
As organizations look toward recovery and continuity plans, a major priority for leaders is to ensure the continued productivity of their remote workforce. COVID-19 proved that employees can deliver results and drive positive business outcomes even amidst a national health crisis and enforced office shutdowns. Returning to normal will require workers to stay remote and productive, and organizations must do what they can to support them.
As businesses adapt to remote-only environments, they are learning very quickly the importance of Unified Communications
Businesses today, due to the work from the home environment we are in, are finding they need Unified Communications. While some haven’t made the purchase yet, others are just discovering Unified Communications for the first time. Some businesses have found they indeed have Unified Communications (UC) or some elements of it but didn’t know. In this article, we dive into the four must-haves of Unified Communications solutions.
Perhaps the most critical feature of a UCaaS system these days is mobility. The mobility feature is non-negotiable and is a must-have. Furthermore, this feature should be free. In this context, mobility is the ability of your office phone number to ring on your laptop or smartphone. This is accomplished using a soft client installed on your laptop or as an app on your smartphone.
Since the communication is on IP, it can be via LTE or Wi-Fi, which means you can be connected remotely relatively easily. This enables your employees to work from anywhere, even if anywhere is home. The business can keep running smoothly since you can still talk to customers, using the same phone numbers you have always used. Predictions indicate, even when we are all past this, various forms of working remote will continue. With an expected 628 Million public Wi-Fi hotspots by 2023, (up from 169 Million in 2018), and with 5G coming, the ability to be connected from just about anywhere will increase by orders of magnitude, so this trend will continue for sure.
2. Presence Service
This brings me to the second point. I mentioned the soft client above, but the soft client should not just be a way to make a phone call. It needs to be able to handle presence as well. As we all work remotely, knowing the person you need to communicate with us online and available is a productivity enhancer. You can get an answer right away, even if that person is on a conference call, or you can set up a call at a later available time.
3. Video Collaboration
The third important feature is video collaboration. We have all heard of Zoom by now and in fact, it is turning into a verb. But a UC system needs to have the ability to handle large video conference and collaboration. Just seeing other employees and customers, and sharing documents, is becoming woven into the fabric of how we conduct business now, and it will surely continue into the future, as one of the ways meetings and discussions will be held. There are many options available for this and it does not have to be Zoom. But this is a critical feature of a UC system these days, and your UC supplier should be able to offer this to you.
4. Contact Center features
Finally, as an “office” became more of a place you used to go, many businesses found that answering the call and just looking for the right person does not work anymore. Businesses are finding that having a basic contact center would enable so much better customer service and are asking to add multimodal contact center features to the UC system. Why have another specific expensive contact center unit (either on-prem or another monthly cloud expense) if the UC system can handle the basic contact center features that would help a small business? Because why not – the UC system already includes multimodal communication potential.
Some basic contact center features include music on hold, IVR, and call queues. Call queues allow companies to provide top-notch customer service with features like queue callback, allowing callers to maintain their position in line without waiting on hold. Built-in queue priority ensures that customers are put in contact with an agent as quickly as possible by assigning specific callers to designated, prioritized queues that take into account arrival time. Callers can also take advantage of callback features, allowing your team to schedule calls and allowing recipients to confirm, cancel, or reschedule. These all-important call center or contact center features enable better customer service and make small businesses look larger to the outside world. These features, allow you to handle customer calls remotely, routed to your business phone number via your desk phone, smartphone, or laptop.
When you look for a UCaaS system, make sure these features are included at a simple to predictable price. If there are a bunch of “well..I’ll have to check on that” sort of things going on, that is a red flag.