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Disappearing Phones

The business phone on your desk is likely an endangered species. Sometimes hundreds or more are being eliminated at once. At other locations one by one the traditional desk phone is no more. Soon it will likely be extinct as we know it.
The makers of business desk phones like Cisco, Mitel, Avaya are seeing their market share shrink at the top end of the market and at the bottom. For a couple years now there have been rumblings of how products like TalkDesk eliminate the need for call centers to have ANY phones and ANY phone hardware at customer locations. We have heard how incumbent manufacturers who are used to 6 figure, even 7 figure deals in this space no longer have a client when the customer realizes software can replace everything they were doing with hardware. Not only is the desk phone now being replaced by a cloud application the entire communication infrastructure is being moved to the cloud. If your top line revenue starts to go down so does R&D and company focus.
Just yesterday Microsoft announced major improvements to their Skype for Business Cloud PBX offering. Included were features like Auto Attendant, multiple routing options, Music on hold, overflow options and more. Seemingly everything we were used to doing on the business phone can now be done with software.
Personally I love the new Cisco BE6000 system at our office and the Cisco colour desk phones. They are modern, easy to use and more. Yet I have also watched staff do everything I do on my phone with the Cisco Jabber software on their desktop. One user who prefers Jabber is Henry. He happens to also wear a headset more than the rest of us. When asked why he prefers Jabber he says it is convenience. He is already at the keyboard, already focused on the monitors so for him the desk phone is a distraction. That is important as time is valuable and no one wants to be using a device that would actually slow them down. The traditional desk phone is doing that in many cases. To own the most up to date communication hardware and watch it sit unused because software does the same thing better and faster shows where the market is heading.
So the next logical thought is who needs a desk phone? The answer is likely not very many.
If I owned and managed hotels I’d no longer supply a phone in the room. Instead I’d put that cost into an app and a powerful Wi-fi infrastructure. Users could then receive and make calls on the free app just like a desk phone but the app would do a lot more. In fact, the loyalty based apps many chains provide to track points could add Twilio to the app. After as little as one afternoon in development anyone with the app on a hotel chain premise could receive calls and more all with their loyalty app.
If I was starting a business every new staff member would be issued a laptop but no desk phone. The new computing device would come with some amazing softphone software. Calls would then either be routed to the staff’s computer or their mobile device. With this setup there is very little to no need for desktop phones. That is a savings of a few hundred per user. Even more important it is an enabler to help them do their job easier.

The software would also provide some really helpful dashboards like how many calls are coming in, the length of the calls, and who is taking the most call volume. The software would also be integrated with any special business software so that caller’s history would be very close by as they were being served.

For some this future may be when it is time to refresh their hardware. For others the productivity benefits of people being able to work and move at different locations all with a single number aren’t worth waiting for. Add in the lower communication costs of SIP trunking versus PRI lines and traditional phone communication systems are on their way out. Extinction is a distinct possibility. An endangered species is almost certain.

Anyone wanting to prepare their organization for this future we’d look forward to a productive conversion. We don’t have a crystal ball but we do try to keep our ‘ear to the ground’ so to speak. In this case you can almost hear the sound of change happening.

7 Comments

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