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Stay flexible – how to benefit from the rise of the softphone

Softphones are popular, when the channel can get customers to adopt them, and Paul Clarke, channel manager, 3CX, has some advice on how to improve the odds of that happening

The move to Unified Communications by businesses around the world is unstoppable, according to an April 2016 study by Credence Research. Workers are increasingly demanding packaged mobile solutions, and that demand will grow steadily through 2022. For the channel, this means ignoring the opportunities this market presents is no longer possible.

Workers are your friend:

For instance, the softphone, that desktop or smartphone app that enables calling direct from the computer, is becoming an increasingly favoured choice for workers. The fastest-growing segment of that demand is for softphone-like apps usable on by far the most preferred device for most users, the smartphone. According to a survey taken by the Business VoIP reviews company Software Advice at the end of 2015, “Generally, mobile apps and softphones offer far more call routing, messaging and communications functionality than a traditional cellphone does. The evolution of the smartphone as a PBX extension seems to have taken the place of the cellphone in business communications.” In the Software Advice Survey, a majority of respondents (54 percent) say they’re comfortable using softphones to communicate, and they use softphones on a daily basis.

For the channel, these end users are pointing the way forward. The more end users ask for unified communications, the more they will demand tools such as softphones; and the more the channel can help by giving businesses what their workers want at the highest possible quality.

What do IT departments want?

IT departments also like softphones, which have significantly lower costs than hardware IP phones to both buy and to maintain. A big advantage of softphones is that they cost very little to purchase, and as we have seen can even be integrated with workers’ own devices. They can also be used anywhere in the world that has a decent internet connection. A softphone requires no maintenance, and only goes down if your computer or other device crashes, after which you just switch to another device. From the point of view of the channel, the lower costs and increased peace of mind this presents can make any investment well worth it.

However, the sensible reseller will also cite other advantages of softphone use: such as ease of integrating other applications, click-to-dial functionality, ease of using voicemail, and ease of upgrading. Softphones usually include the ability to use virtual numbers, to park calls, and to easily transfer calls. These represent not only additional attractions for customers, but also ways to offer further value-added services on top of the softphone itself.

Making the switch

So, end users like softphones. IT departments using them like softphones. The main challenge for the channel is then how to persuade customers to make the switch and deal with any objections.

One of the main objections for any technology switch is whether workers will adapt; and whether the business can afford the training costs and disruption that could accompany a switch. However, according to Software Advice analyst Daniel Harris, the findings so far suggest that even if employees haven’t dealt with smartphones before, most will be able to adapt fairly quickly. The benefits workers enjoy will also often outweigh any disruption. As well as portability, and the ability to use their own devices more easily, employees appreciate the ease of integrating softphones with other types of software, which can help enhance business processes. If your processes require integration with CRM software such as Microsoft Dynamics, or Act!, or with business process management solutions like Exact or Office 365, softphones can be a better choice than desk phones.

There are other ease-of-life benefits to suggest as well. Many workers particularly appreciate the click-to-dial feature on softphones, allowing users to dial numbers simply by clicking on them, e.g. via an integrated email client, the survey shows. This means not only can the channel sell customers on the benefits of a softphone, but also on the integrated email client itself.

There are many other revenue streams and value-added services that the channel can provide alongside softphones, such as installation and management. While the softphone might not completely replace the desk phone any time soon, it’s gaining ground fast. The more the channel can sell the softphone to customers now, the better placed it will be to really benefit from its rise.

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