What Is a Softphone and How Can It Help Your Business?

There's no question that voice over internet protocol (VoIP) technology has big savings and other benefits for businesses. However, with the future of work becoming increasingly mobile, some business administrators are wondering if they are making the most of not only VoIP but other modern technologies, such as video calling, analytics, and collaboration tools. This is where the softphone comes in.

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What Is a Softphone?

It's not a traditional phone at all but a software app installed to 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 a softphone. 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 on your desk phone. You're essentially taking your office phone with you when you use a softphone.

What Are the Employee Benefits of a Softphone?

For employees, the biggest advantage of a softphone is flexibility. Because the phone number used is web-based, you can make and receive calls from the same number whether you're using your smartphone, computer, or desk phone.

Likewise, applications can be built or integrated into the tools your people already rely on. Consider a mobile app with a "Help Me" section that rings directly to dedicated customer support agents. Those calls can dial directly into your dedicated contact center. It allows customers to connect with the right people every time, which keeps satisfaction rates and other key performance indicators (KPIs) high.

A softphone does all this without the need for dedicated phone equipment, offering essential calling features like three-way calling, call waiting, voicemail, and dozens more anywhere there's a network connection. That level of flexibility and integration makes VoIP a great choice for practically any business with communications needs.

What Are the Business Advantages of a Softphone?

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 your current private branch exchange (PBX) systems or go all-digital, more VoIP means less need to use costly, cumbersome analog technology for communications.

  • Long-distance savings: VoIP is substantially cheaper to operate monthly than business phone systems. That's especially true for businesses that make international and long-distance calls — the very use cases VoIP was designed for.

  • Easier footprint rollout: A softphone's flexibility makes it perfect to add to your near-future communications plans. If your company is looking into next-level tools like unified communications, it's worth diving into VoIP now to help future-proof your business and remove legacy communications tools.

The faster you move forward, the faster you can grow your business's ability to work and stay connected.

What Do You Need to Get Started?

Not a lot. You'll need an internet connection and a choice of service providers. From there, your employees or IT team can install softphones themselves. A small business installing softphones on bring-your-own devices and an enterprise doing a full-scale rollout will obviously have different objectives, but the idea's the same no matter what level you're at.

One note: An increased use of softphones can create substantial network traffic and competition for network bandwidth. To combat this issue, many enterprise-level organizations install network tools such as multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) or a software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) that can optimize bandwidth and prioritize traffic. In turn, this maintains the quality of service for communication across the entire business.

What's the Future of Enterprise Communications?

To recap, softphones give more flexibility and greater access to on-the-go workforces. In a very real way, the technology is the backbone of the future of communications. Let's go over a few more advantages softphones can offer your business:

  • Online messaging: Softphones aren't hardware-based and include features like online messaging. Why call when a quick SMS or chat will do?

  • Presence indication: User availability displays show if they are away, available, or busy, so employees don't waste time calling colleagues who aren't reachable.

  • Call recording: You can easily record calls for employee monitoring and quality assurance purposes.

  • Ease of migration: Where do your employees want to work? How much time do they want to spend fighting with phone technology? For most companies, the answers are "everywhere" and "as little as possible." Softphones provide the best of both worlds: Employees can take their numbers with them wherever they go and on whatever devices they choose, and they don't have to worry about complicated setup or deployment.

  • UCaaS and IoT: Unified communications as a service (UCaaS)and the internet of things (IoT) are the next steps of enterprise interaction. Softphones support these by providing a simple, lightweight communications platform across multiple devices and offering many of the features companies demand from UCaaS deployments. 

Bottom line: Softphones are on the front lines of changing how staff members work and connect with each other every day.

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