What is a softphone and is it right for your small business?

Husain Sumra profile image November 19, 2020 | 4 min read

If you’re in the process of choosing a new business phone system and considering switching from your current phones to cloud-based phones, you’re probably going to hear about softphones.

Moreover, are softphones a good fit for your business?

Your business phone needs are specific to your type of business. So, let’s look at what a softphone is exactly, how softphones work, and the benefits of switching to a virtual phone.

What is a softphone?

By definition, a softphone or soft IP phone is a software that allows the user to make telephone calls using the internet.

Unlike a desk phone with a base, handset, and buttons, the softphone is an application that you access on an internet-connected device (such as a desktop computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone).

How does a softphone work?

A softphone is a VoIP phone service feature. Once you know how many business phone lines you need, you’ll also decide who needs softphone access and how they’ll use it (e.g., desktop application, mobile app, or both).

For example, your remote-working customer-service teams will benefit from desktop softphones. They can plug their headset into their device, open the app, log in, and start making and receiving calls.

Service agents can integrate their softphone and customer relationship management (CRM) software for more advanced business communications. With the two systems working together, support personnel will see the customer’s buying history in real-time as they assist the customer on the phone.

System requirements for a softphone.

Getting your system software set up requires two key components.

  1. An internet-connected device

    As far as devices go, as long as you can connect to the internet and access the phone app, you can start making and receiving calls. For instance, using the softphone app on your mobile phone makes sense if you’re often away from your desk. However, your office manager, who’s working from home, might prefer to use the virtual telephone on her laptop.

  2. A good internet connection

    A reliable internet connection will ensure excellent call quality. Your provider can advise you on internet speed and bandwidth.

Softphone Benefits

Let’s move to the advantages of switching to business softphones and some of the key features.

  1. Install a new phone system in minutes.

    Unlike on-premises phones that require hardware installation, such as cabling and network architecture, with a softphone, your provider unlocks access to the softphone software remotely. Then, all you need to do is download the app, log in, and start making calls.

  2. Eliminate the cost of hardware maintenance.

    If you have an on-premises IP-PBX, you’re probably familiar with ‘managing your phones.’ Business owners can find the upkeep of these legacy systems time-consuming and expensive.

    Also, during updates and upgrades, the on-prem system has to go offline. With your cloud-based phone, your provider will take care of the updates with no additional charges or interruptions to your business phone activities.

  3. Make upgrades with a few clicks.

    As your business changes and grows, your phone system needs to grow with you. Whether you need to add new lines for new hires or add enterprise-level features, you can make the changes either from your system dashboard or by calling your provider.

  4. Never miss a call.

    In this super-connected, always-on world, customers and business partners expect to contact you or get information with little effort. Being locked to a desk phone to make and receive calls is no longer an option. With a softphone, you can duck out for lunch and still keep your business open.

  5. Save money on your phone bill.

    It’s fairly well known that a VoIP system saves businesses money. Some companies notice up to a 50% reduction in phone expenses when they switch to softphones.

We need to be able to take calls from customers, vendors, partners, suppliers, and wanted everyone on one platform even when geographically diverse. The value of Ooma is the cost savings, and time as well; no managing multiple carriers and providers” – Chuck Stutes, VP Communications.

Softphone Features

Because the softphone is part of a cloud phone system, there are many features! Here are some of the key features you’ll most likely get with your business phone app.

  • Extension dialing
  • Call forwarding (including during device outages)
  • Voicemail audio email attachments
  • Simultaneous ring
  • Call logs
  • Audio conferencing
  • SMS messaging

Is a softphone the right choice?

As you research your business phone options, consider how you and your staff use the phones. You can survey your employees to understand any limitations they experience with the existing phones and how the softphone features might make their work more productive.

You possibly have some type of ‘hard phone’ in your business, such as a landline in the service area or an IP desk phone in reception.

If you feel you need actual desk phones, here’s an article to help you weigh your options: Should You Buy Business Softphones, Desk Phones, or Do a Hybrid?

Above all, talk to your phone system provider. They will work with you to customize a phone system to fit your business needs.

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