Phone types used by survey respondents. (Image courtesy of Software Advice)

...72% of respondents cite ease of working remotely as the top advantage, and ease of integration coming in second at 68%.

Agent Talk: Report Offers Worker Insight into the ‘Desktop vs. Softphone’ Debate

Date: April 10th, 2015
Author: John Putnam

“Agent Talk” is a recurring segment that offers new insight, ideas and strategy to our friends in the telecom agent community. Check back for a new post each month!

Desk phone or softphone? Different companies have different needs and trying to figure out which one is right for your prospective buyer can be tricky. A recent report from telecom market research firm Software Advice surveyed employees to figure out why they preferred one over the other and makes some connections as to why they might feel the way they do. As an agent, it offers some good insight into what your prospects might be thinking, and those insights could help you craft a more effective proposal.

Let’s dive into some of the more pertinent findings...

Softphone advantages
The top-mentioned softphone advantages are probably what you would expect, with 72% of respondents cite ease of working remotely as the top advantage, and ease of integration coming in second at 68%. Somewhat surprisingly, a simpler user interface was last on the list. This could be a little telling, as it might suggest we’re crossing a line with technological familiarity: users are more adept at figuring out new programs and software, thus usability isn’t as important as overall functionality and capability; that is to say users may have a mentality of “as long as it does what I need it to do, I’ll figure it out how to use it.”

Desk phone perceptions
By far and away the most cited advantage of desk phones vs. softphones was reliability, followed by audio quality. That means if you’re pushing a softphone client, those are two big objections you’ll have to overcome. I think the gap between the two voice options in these regards has shrunk and will continue to do so as technology evolves (mobile charging devices are making cell phone and laptop battery strength less of an issue), but the perception apparently still remains.

What about remote workers?
Expectedly, softphone usage increases significantly for employees spending more than half their week working remotely. Perhaps somewhat surprisingly is that these workers still use their desk phone quite a bit when out of the office. As the report indicates, this is probably for two reasons: 1) Remote workers want to use their personal laptop/PC and the company won’t allow it’s phone programs to run on personal devices; and 2) Workers themselves want to separate their personal from professional devices. So while softphones may have an advantage in perception when it comes to remote employees, you shouldn’t necessarily take desk phones off the table when selling to clients with a more mobile workforce.

Here’s the takeaway
Telecom as a whole is in a major transition period, and that’s really what this report is demonstrating in its findings. Most workers are using multiple devices and most businesses are implementing some combination of desk phones and softphones, and (for the time being) that seems to be what employees prefer as well: options. This underscores the importance of truly listening to your client and what they need and want and making sure your vendor is equipped to engineer a solution that integrates multiple products, as opposed to pushing one single service on them. The bottom line: Beware...If you force an option on your client that their employees don't want, you may make the sale, but you'll get a lot of pushback afterwards.