What does the future of business telephony look like?

Ever since the invention of the telephone by Alexander Graham Bell in 1876, the humble telephone has been a mainstay in business life. 

For the majority of us in the business world, telephony is the default way to engage with clients, reach colleagues and network with other professionals in the industry. For years, our desks were kitted out with work phones – and there was never any need for a less convenient form of communication. 

But, times are changing. The COVID-19 pandemic switched out our work offices for our bedrooms or kitchen tables as many of us began to work from home. Gone was the desk phone, and in its place came video conferencing solutions like Teams and VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) software solutions. 

Now, many industry professionals are calling us to ditch the work phone altogether – in favour of a more internet-friendly software alternative – the softphone. 

What is the current state of business telephony? What does the future hold for the humble work phone? 

In this article, we’ll discuss this important question: What is the future of Business Telephony?

The Current State of Business Telephony

The way that people communicate in the business world has changed. The COVID-19 pandemic ushered in remote working and WFH. This made video communication (in the hope to be a replacement for face-to-face contact) the number one way that colleagues connected with each and collaborated. 

Now, post-COVID, businesses have realised the benefit of remote working and transitioned hybrid working models. In the hybrid world, colleagues simply cannot rely on desk phones and telephony to get in touch with each other. 

Increasingly, internal communication is achieved over email or using a unified communications platform like Microsoft Teams. 

What are unified communications (UC)?

This commonly refers to the bridging together of multiple communication means such as video, voice, instant messaging etc. to handle seamless communication. UC software is widely adopted internally, however, external communications (in both B2B and B2C) are lagging behind in adopting digital comms. 

To many industry analysts, this slow move away from telephony is perplexing. Almost 26% of UK households have already ditched landlines, with many more rarely ever using it. Despite this, many businesses still use their landline as their main contact point to field incoming calls and manage external communications.

Businesses may soon have their hand forced, however. Openreach’s ISDN switch-off plan means traditional landline networks will be switched off in 2025. Many organisations are therefore exploring digital communication solutions and VoIP services in anticipation.

The Future of Business Telephony

It can be argued that internal communication has already ditched business telephony. The future of the communication medium will therefore be dictated by the trends of external communications. Here are some of our predictions.

The Death of the Desk Phone

The crux of this prediction has already happened. As the hybrid work model stays and as more businesses abandon personal desks, so too will the desk phone be discarded for a less expensive option. 

However, the writing on the wall for the desk phone has been evident for years. In 2017, Gartner predicted that 66% of enterprises will provide their employees with softphones by the end of 2018. 

Indeed, Gartner was right about the transition away from desk phones. We expect this abandonment to continue. It simply costs too much for businesses to maintain landline telephony infrastructure. 

The rise of hot desking has made personal desks themselves redundant. Desk phones are no longer a reliable way to reach specific staff members. Organisations are instead kitting their employees out with softphones using VoIP technology or ditching the telephone entirely and communicating solely through Unified Communications.

What are softphones?

This refers to a software solution that lets you make telephone calls over the internet. This exists a multitude of softphone applications available – with Microsoft even adding the feature as an optional add-on to Teams.

Continued Rise of Unified Communications

We’ve already seen how unified communications platforms like Microsoft Teams have transformed internal communications. We expect these software solutions to play a key role in powering external comms in the near future. 

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Microsoft Teams already supports VoIP calls with contacts outside of your organisation. Soon, we expect UC software to be the main method industry professionals like supplier contacts, B2B customers, recruiters etc. will contact people within an organisation like yours. 

How fast will businesses adopt unified communications platforms? Metrigy forecasts that 70% of organisations will use unified-communications-as-a-service (UCaaS) solutions by 2023. 

Smarter Use of Cloud Telephony Features

Currently, cloud telephony is used to directly replace what is possible with traditional telephony systems. However, cloud telephony platforms offer a wide host of features above traditional systems. 

  • Automated call reporting and recording will become more widely used. 
  • More organisations will use automated interactive voice response systems to improve the user experience and reduce strain on customer support agents.
  • Cloud telephony solutions will integrate more seamlessly with unified communications platforms. For instance, we expect to see the ability of customer service agents to continue conversations over video calls or instant messaging. 
  • Smart call forwarding systems may at some point remove the need for receptionists and call handlers entirely.

Growing Importance of Telephony Security

As with any form of communication, IP telephony comes with its own unique security risks. Softphone telephone calls may be intercepted, and recordings may be accessed through a network data breach. 

Secondly, as login credentials are all that an attacker needs to make calls with an employee’s identity, there is a greater risk of identity theft and spoofing. 

Luckily, the steps to counteract these security risks broadly follow general cyber awareness. Ensuring your business has a strong network security infrastructure and that your employees know their cyber security best practices will go a long way in staying safe. 

Looking to upgrade your telephony solution?

Modern businesses need adaptable, modern telephony solutions. Traditional telephony systems are by contrast too outdated and rigid. Want to explore how you can bring your communications – both internal and external – into the digital era?

Get in touch with us today to explore how best to upgrade your telephony solutions. We can also discuss how to adopt a unified communications platform like Teams and guide you in getting the most out of your software solutions!

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