What Is a Softphone?
A softphone is not a traditional phone at all but a software app installed on a device — like your smartphone or laptop — that allows you to make internet-based calls. When you call someone from your computer instead of your desk phone, the app you're using is part of a softphone system. It's what facilitates device-based communications over the internet in contact centers and other business settings.
Business VoIP service typically includes a softphone client or application. This allows you to use your office phone system from your computer or mobile device just as you would your desk phone. You're essentially taking your office phone with you when you use a softphone.
How Does a Softphone System Work?
Softphones are considered "soft" because they do not require dedicated hardware to make and receive calls and messages. It all works via an app on a computer, tablet, or smartphone.
Once you have that device and a network connection (which carries your voice and messaging data over the internet instead of a dedicated phone infrastructure), you're ready to make calls from anywhere. The app carries your voice and the messages you send and receive over the network, all via your computer, no matter where you are.
What Are the Employee Benefits of Softphone Systems?
Employees get greater communication flexibility when they use a softphone, which can lead to less wasted time and greater productivity. For example, a softphone allows them to carry their number from device to device. Plus, a softphone app can be installed on essentially any hardware they carry with them daily.
Unlike the desk phones of old, a softphone works anywhere there's a network connection and a compatible device. An employee can work remotely without needing to advise customers and coworkers to reach them at a different number. It removes a lot of friction from the remote working process.
The days of juggling different phones for different functions are long gone. Employees can manage multiple phone numbers — for example, a desk line and a customer service escalation number — from a single device. And it doesn't even need to be a phone: Softphone systems work just fine with laptops, desktops, and tablets.
What Are the Business Advantages of Softphone Systems?
The same flexibility that makes softphones so useful in the field directly translates to the business setting, where your business can realize a number of efficiencies and savings.
Less Reliance on Legacy Hardware
Whether you roll VoIP into a private branch exchange (PBX) systems or go all-digital, more VoIP means less need to use costly, cumbersome analog technology for communications. Added up over multiple communications points in your business (e.g., all of your branch offices), this can create productivity and financial efficiencies that add up quickly.
When used as either part of a unified communications system or as a standalone product, VoIP — the technology that powers softphone systems — is substantially cheaper to operate monthly compared with other business phone systems. This is particularly important to note for enterprises that need to make frequent long-distance or international calls, which is one of the primary use cases VoIP was designed for.
Easier Footprint Rollout and Business Scalability
Virtual communication solutions make it easier to evolve a business in the direction it wishes to go, both in terms of size and digital planning. Used alongside technologies such as software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) and scalable broadband, a VoIP system can grow to keep pace with demand.
What Features Do You Need for a Softphone?
Whether it's part of a larger communications system or used as a standalone tool, your softphone should offer all the functionality of a standard phone system — and more. You can expect features like these:
Multiple lines and active-call line-switching
Caller ID pop-up
Hold and mute
Online messaging integration
Unified communications integration
Those are just some of the softphone capabilities businesses typically seek. Modern cloud phone systems can use softphone integration in a number of advanced and highly productive ways. For instance, a business with a large or otherwise complex customer support division could use the softphone integration within a larger contact center tool and tie phone capability to its customer relationship management system, email, social support accounts, and more.
What Do You Need to Set Up and Get Started?
Not a whole lot. An internet connection is necessary since that's what facilitates the data transfer. You'll also need to know which softphone provider you want to go with. A small business that's installing softphones on employee-owned devices versus an enterprise doing a full-scale system and hardware rollout will obviously have different objectives, but the basics are the same no matter what level you're at.
On a larger scale, increased softphone use can create substantial competition for network bandwidth and increased traffic. To accommodate this, many companies have turned to tools like SD-WAN, which allows them to optimize their bandwidth and prioritize traffic. In that way, businesses can maintain a high quality of service for communication across the entire distributed organization.
Take the Next Steps Toward Softphone Integration
Softphones grant businesses a lot of flexibility and can offer on-the-go workforces less friction — and more connection — in their day-to-day lives. The technology is undemanding, and so are the networking and hardware requirements. The tools available are infinitely flexible, with integration options that go to the core of the business's processes and needs. The efficiencies and savings the technology creates can be truly transformative.
The next step is finding a vendor worth partnering with. Look for someone with deep knowledge of the communication world's past, present, and future, with tools that make softphones part of a larger set of productivity and communication solutions.
Ready to take the next steps toward softphone integration? Contact a Vonage Business consultant today.