What does the future hold for business telephony?
If recent history has taught us anything it’s that we never know what could be around the corner. The COVID-19 global pandemic completely changed the way the people and indeed businesses had to communicate with one another. As we move on from the limitations placed upon us by the pandemic and return to business as usual, it is becoming clear that not all old habits will return. Businesses are allowing their employees to work in a more relaxed and flexible way with hybrid working becoming common across many organisations and working from home becoming the new ‘norm’.
Before early 2020 most of our teams were predominantly office based and video conferencing, instant messaging and file sharing collaboration technology, whilst available, was rarely used in most organisations. The changes in the way we work forced upon us by the pandemic, changed all of that and now collaboration technology is common within business. According to a 2021 survey of 400 IT decision makers by ITC carrier 8×8, around 80% of organisations plan to provide a hybrid work environment for their staff moving forward.
So, what does that mean for the future of cloud based telephony, is the old-fashioned phone call a habit living on borrowed time? Recent research would suggest not and that there is still an important place in business for telephony. Whilst many businesses have embraced new ways of communicating, the option to pick up the phone and speak to a colleague or external contact is still very popular.
What we are seeing develop is a new way of working that allows employees to work in an environment that gives them optimum productivity and to communicate in the best way for a specific task. Unified communication tools allow the end user to decide “how” they wish to communicate, but it is very clear that telephony software is still an extremely popular tool within business and is the go-to tool for a unified communications solution.
At Bluecube we have seen a definite trend away from desk phones, with end users opting to replace physical handsets with soft phones and mobile apps, turning other devices in to their business extension. However, the popular option to chat by phone to a colleague or to an external party is also reflected in our customer call volumes which have risen by an average of more than 11% since March 2020 and have not dropped back down since lockdown measures and restrictions ended last year.
Let’s not forget our customers in this debate either, at Bluecube we give clients the option to communicate with our support team by email, phone or via instant chat (web RTC) on our website. The overwhelming majority still choose to pick up the phone and call us. Many of our customer meetings involving unnecessary travel have been replaced with virtual meetings via video conference. However, we still recognise the importance of keeping our customer relationships strong through face-to-face meetings and our customers still enjoy being able to pick up the telephone to call us when they have an issue.
Much of the basic phone system functionality (call transfer, call hold, auto-attendant etc) of our legacy PBX systems has been incorporated and developed further still into our UC and UCaaS (unified communications as a service) tools here at Bluecube, giving our customers a rich and broad choice of communication options and features. Call recording via any device is still a popular feature and we’ve developed that now to extend to recording virtual meetings and video conferences. The presence of your colleagues (available, busy, do not disturb etc) is now available on all devices not just on your desk phone and can be seen during video meetings as well as on phone calls. A whole range of business phone system features that are still valuable tools for voice calls have now been extended to other forms of communication on UC platforms.
In short, the world of business communications has just evolved much faster than any of us had anticipated and the net result is a win for everyone. Businesses have happy employees communicating and working on the device of their choice at their desired location which delivers great productivity. Call volumes increase whilst call charges have bottomed out and are generally inclusive or low cost. There hasn’t been much good come from the pandemic, but we have seemingly re-evaluated the work/ life balance question and come up with a better answer.