Children today have little idea what a payphone is. They’ve likely never inserted a quarter to make a three-minute call. And chances are even slimmer that they’ve ever seen, much less used, a rotary dial. Or an answering machine. To them, the telephone functionality of the past has simply been consolidated into a single mobile device.
For the business owner, a similar evolution appears to be happening. But instead of eliminating wall phones and payphones, business are slowly and steadily replacing their physical phones with Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) systems that allow calls to be connected by myriad devices from anywhere with a web connection.
The question for businesses, though, is whether VoIP is the only way to go in today’s world. Is the traditional telephone headed the way of the 8-track tape and the payphone?
Phones Are Dead. Long Live Phones.
It is true that VoIP systems are becoming more prevalent each month, but they haven’t killed off telephones just yet, which might be a shock to some in the media.
As far back as 10 years ago, the death of the telephone was predicted at the hands of VoIP and a little company called Skype. In 2005, The Economist touted this future:
“It is now no longer a question of whether VOIP will wipe out traditional telephony, but a question of how quickly it will do so. People in the industry are already talking about the day, perhaps only five years away, when telephony will be a free service offered as part of a bundle of services as an incentive to buy other things such as broadband access or pay-TV services.”
While VoIP has grown by leaps and bounds, it has not completely eliminated traditional telephony yet. Some of this can be chalked up to inertia among the business community or to fear based on old claims of poor service from VoIP that have long since been debunked.
Tools Of the Trade
For those who believe that VoIP will eventually drive out traditional telephony completely, they generally point to the wide range of functionality and scalability that comes with VoIP services. It isn’t just about great call quality or basic tools like call forwarding or voicemail.
For many, the functionality that sets VoIP apart is the most basic of elements — the phone line itself. In a business with traditional telephony, there are limits to when and where calls can be answered or connected.
With the VoIP system, any call will sound as if it’s coming from a call center when, in fact, it might be reaching a business’s employee anywhere in the world, as long as there is a web connection. Eliminating the need for a physical phone — many VoIP systems simply need a headset or even just the microphone and speakers in a modern laptop — can free a business to spread its employees across a coverage area or allow flexible scheduling.
Moreover, many VoIP services are integrating with standard office software and customer relationship management systems to help companies provide customers with the same service they would get from a person in a cubicle on a physical phone.
The end isn’t here yet for traditional telephones in business, but the tide had definitely turned. Who knows. While that 2005 article wasn’t totally on target, many of its predictions appear to be slowly headed toward inevitability.
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