What is a softphone and why your business needs one

Softphones are feature-rich phone systems that work over the internet. But what do they actually do for businesses? Our blog post is full of answers.

 

Right now, we’re in the midst of a revolution.

Business operations are evolving rapidly in response to changing customer needs, extreme fluctuations in demand, and the ongoing remote working transformation.

Understandably, companies are taking a close look at how they function, and how to continue to provide the best service to their customers.

And amidst all the upheaval, the use of softphones is becoming widespread.

But what on earth are they?

It’s time we gave you some answers. So, we’re going to take you through:

  • How they differ from traditional phone setups
  • Why you might want one
  • How useful they are

 

What is a softphone?

A softphone is a phone system that operates over the internet. It’s a piece of interconnected software with high functionality that can seamlessly integrate with modern customer service platforms.

They use several technologies, most importantly Voice Over Internet Protocol (or VOIP).

VOIP is the fundamental translation tool that allows audio to be connected over the internet, providing the basic platform that makes softphones possible.

As a piece of software rather than hardware, a softphone can be installed on desktops, laptops, and mobile phones, or accessed via cloud computing. As a result, they are fully portable wherever internet service allows. They also tend to be feature-rich, offering functions that traditional phone services cannot match.

How are they used in practice?

Customer service agents might for example take advantage of deep integrations with CRM software, allowing employees to provide an enhanced customer service experience from a computer terminal.

How does a softphone differ from an ‘on-prem’ phone?

For decades, ‘On-prem’ (or on-premises) phones have remained the default choice of phone systems for businesses.

Are you picturing a classic office desk-bound handset? Then you’re in the right ballpark.

But things are changing. We live in a world where phones don’t need to be solid to exist, where flexibility has become king, and where many workers don’t even have permanent desks.

So how are they actually different?

On-prem phones traditionally work through a Private Branch Exchange (PBX). Essentially, it’s a mini telephone exchange built just for your business’s use, and it comes with all the complex installation needs you’d expect. Copper cables, network carrier connections, central server systems. Even before we get to the actual desk phones themselves.

As you can imagine, setting one up requires extensive investment in hardware and infrastructure, and it also requires regular maintenance and hands-on intervention for any upgrades or additions.

In reality, they can pose several challenges in running telephony operations.

  • Need to add a new extension? That will mean programming it into every existing phone.
  • Aging cable infrastructure? That might take down your whole PBX network in one fell swoop, so it’s best to have a staff member dedicated to protecting uptime.
  • Upgrades or integrations to add? Here comes new hardware and tricky problem-solving to make everything work together.

Softphones on the other hand do all of this over the internet, with server systems handling upgrades and installations at the click of a button. Your PBX will be virtual rather than physical, with the cloud (or a server) processing call transfers, recording, and of course the voice data itself.

All the other features you’d find in a traditional on-prem phone system are coded into the software, which can directly interface controls with other computer programs and systems.

And don’t worry, you can still have a physical handset.

The table below points out the prerequisites you need for using a softphone compared to an on-premise phone system.

Softphone‘On-prem’ phone
Existing computer/mobile devicePBX boxes
Stable internet connectionPSTN cables
Headset for hands-free use (Optional)Network carrier connections
Desk phones and supporting hardware

Portability, functionality, and more: what are softphones better at?

Like with any technological advancement, softphones are designed to surpass the functionality of traditional on-prem systems, whilst also overcoming many of the challenges of a physical PBX.

Portability

There’s no doubt that softphones provide unprecedented flexibility for employees to connect wherever they are.

Ease-of-use

Good interfaces are intuitive and customizable. Staff can easily see how to put calls on hold, transfer, send to voicemail and more, without confusing buttons.

Scalability and upgrades

Softphones install upgrades over the internet, and shared contact lists make adding extensions a breeze.

Enhanced professionalism

You can quickly see who’s online and easily set up complex scheduling to forward calls to available staff members. Without having to give out private numbers, agents who are offline really are offline.

Monitoring

You can keep a firm eye on customer service standards in one place, tracking interactions and managing team communications.

Improved voicemail

You can send voicemails to specific phone numbers or even save them as transcripts sent to emails for later reference.

Low setup costs

Unlike on-prem systems, installation costs are minimal, with clear monthly rates charged on a rolling basis.

Virtual phone numbers

You can purchase and use local phone numbers in countries all over the world without the need for a physical office. Also, you don’t require a SIM or anything similar as a mobile device requires.

Softphones, decoded

Whatever choice you make for your business, it’s clear that in a world of possibilities, there will certainly be technology out there that can help make your operations seamless.
With enhanced processes and greater efficiencies, you’ll be providing an even better service to your customers, giving you space and time to focus on serving them.
After all, isn’t that the most important thing?

Illustrations by Mahalakshmi Anantharaman

Animation by Yuvaraj Linganathan


About Freshcaller

Freshcaller is a modern-day cloud phone system for customer support, sales, and remote working teams. With its cloud-based architecture, Freshcaller brings together the best of legacy features like IVR and advanced call routing capabilities like Smart Escalations, Customizable Performance Reporting to help you set up state-of-the-art phone operations. Freshcaller offers phone numbers in 90+ countries, requires zero phone hardware, and is extremely easy to use.

Visit the Freshcaller website for more information.