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Ooma Business Blog

Essential softphone guide: Key voice and video call features you need to know.

By Husain Sumra|Thursday February 25, 2021

Curious whether a softphone is a good fit for your company? Use this softphone guide to discover the critical capabilities of this type of digital phone system.

Softphone 101: The basics you need to know

A softphone is an app that you use to make phone calls, like Skype. Your calls are all made over the internet versus a copper landline attached to a desk phone. That’s just the beginning. Since you are using digital technology, a softphone gives you more than voice service.

Softphone: What about call quality?

Since a softphone relies on an internet connection, call quality can vary. However, PC Mag reports that large U.S. internet service providers are keeping up well with high levels of demand in 2020: “AT&T’s network is hitting record highs” in peering traffic, especially to video streaming sites like Netflix, but the carrier is “manag[ing] this traffic flow effectively,” a spokeswoman said. From an internet service perspective, it is clear that major carriers like AT&T are doing what they can to keep up with high demand.

In addition to raw internet speed, other factors impact softphone call quality like microphones and headsets you use. It can be tough to find the right headphones and microphones that are comfortable to use for business calls all day. At the same time, a digital phone system maintains flexibility. If you left your phone at the office, a softphone lets you access your calls with another computer or mobile phone. These options make it easy to quickly adapt if one device has call quality problems.

With a landline phone, there’s not much you can do to improve call quality, but using a softphone gives you more choices. You can make a call through your smartphone by using the Ooma app. Prefer to use your laptop instead? You can do that and use a headset so your hands are free during the call. If you like earbuds, you can use those to make calls as well. A softphone lets you switch between these options depending on what you find most comfortable for your calls. 

No need to buy new hardware: A key softphone advantage 

When you rely on traditional phones, you have to buy new equipment whenever you expand or add new lines. With softphones, there is no need to buy hardware or even use a physical phone. That means you can add new phone capabilities to your company efficiently by turning existing computers, or even your employees’ mobile phones, into softphones. Further, you can save time and money when new employees or contractors start working with your business by using a softphone.

Video calling: A key to improving workplace collaboration

Video calling has exploded in popularity in 2020, Computerworld reports. “According to App Annie, during the record-breaking week, Zoom was downloaded 14 times more than its 2019 Q4 weekly average in the U.S. … During the same period, Hangouts Meet saw 30 times the weekly level of downloads compared to the last quarter of 2019 in the U.S., while Teams saw an 11-fold increase.” As more people become comfortable with video conference tools, employees are going to expect this capability at work.

With video calling, you can improve employee coordination and productivity. Employees can discuss problems, pick up on visual cues, and communicate faster. There’s less of a need to write multiple emails to clarify communication problems. As a result, you can have one video meeting to address a problem instead of spending hours on back-and-forth emails and phone calls. For instance, consider running a video call with a virtual whiteboard so employees can brainstorm more effectively.

Adding video calls to your business can also make recruiting easier. According to Global Workplace Analytics, “80% of employees want to work from home at least some of the time.” If your business offers this kind of arrangement, you may be able to attract a greater variety of applicants for open positions. 

Five questions to ask before you select a softphone solution.

Now that you know some of the basics of softphones, how do you make a choice? To help you make a better decision, make a shortlist by answering these questions:

  1. How easy is it to use the softphone’s app? 

Some softphone apps are easier to use than others. For example, test how long it takes you to make a call. If it takes too long, you may want to choose another option. There are other ways to evaluate the phone’s user interface (UI) beyond this point. You might also want to test how easy it is to add, change and delete a contact. This is another common function that should be easy to use.

  1. Is the softphone compatible with all the operating systems your company uses (e.g., iOS and Android)?

This flexibility is important because it means you do not have to buy new computers or devices to manage calls. Instead, employees can take business calls through a smartphone app. Furthermore, you should also look into desktop computer compatibility—does it work on Windows and Mac? When you have more options available to use your softphone, you’re more likely to get more value out of the softphone.

  1. What types of automation (e.g., contact lists) does the solution offer?

If you don’t like listening to voicemail recordings, look for a business phone service that transcribes call recordings.

  1. What kind of internet connection is required to use the service?

Some softphone features, like video calling, may require a faster internet connection than traditional voice calls. Ask the provider what kind of internet speeds are required before you buy the service.

  1. Does the softphone system offer call recording?

This is a crucial feature if your business records calls for quality and training purposes. With call recording, you can provide much more detailed coaching feedback to your employees. Instead of asking them to “be more professional,” you can refer to specific situations and help your employees improve more quickly.

Your last step to choosing a softphone.

Before you commit to a softphone and throw away your desk phone, ask the provider if you can test the product for a few days. That’s the best way to find out if the voice service and call quality meets your business needs. Remember to test out the video call features since those features are likely to become more prevalent in the future.

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