What is a Softphone?  

Businesses traditionally use desk phones for customer support, call centers, sales calls, internal meetings and more. While this makes sense for large corporations who have complex systems and thousands of employees, many small businesses and startups don’t need to deal with the hassle of managing phone lines, hardware, network connections and more. Many small businesses and startups with distributed teams are embracing softphones to manage their business phone numbers. So what is a softphone?

A softphone is a software that allows businesses to make calls over the internet using their computers or mobile devices. Instead of being connected to a physical phone via a cable, softphones just need an internet connection and a mobile device or web browsers to work.

In this post, we’ll discuss how softphones work, why you need them, how they compare to desk phones and what the best softphone apps include.

How Softphones Work

Softphones use the voice over internet protocol (VoIP) to make calls over the internet. By downloading a mobile app or using a browser-based app, anyone can make phone calls as long as they’re connected to the internet. Softphones don’t require a desk phone or a phone line to function.

Benefits of Softphones

A VoIP softphone delivers a wide range of benefits to businesses. They don’t require physical phones, they’re much easier to manage and more affordable. The best softphone for your business will allow you to manage your phone numbers without making it a hassle. Let’s look at the benefits of softphones:

More Features

Softphones are renowned for offering the same features as desk phones plus more. Just like with desk phones, softphones can record calls, have an IVR system, take voicemails and more. Softphones can also be integrated into the apps your business is already using. With the best softphone apps, you can integrate them with your CRM, email and even Slack.

Better Costs

Managing desk phones and phone lines for your business can be surprisingly expensive. Cables have to be put in place, numbers have to be constantly activated and deactivated, you have to pay for each individual phone number, and IT teams have to be involved to set everything up. It’s a lot of work. Unless you’re a Fortune 500 corporation with big offices, desk phones aren’t going to be an efficient solution for your business.

With softphones, you have more control over your costs. Most softphone apps just charge you based on the number of users you have and offer unlimited calling to help save even more money.

Easy to Scale

As your business grows, you’re going to need more phone numbers. Sales reps will need phone numbers to contact their prospects. Your customer service agents will need to work through a central phone number (aka unified communication) to take support calls as they come in. Managing all these numbers through a softphone is a pretty easy process.

Do you want to add more users to your business? Just go into your settings and add ten new users. It’s that easy to scale as your business grows.

Softphones vs. Desk Phones

How do softphones compare to desk phones? As mentioned earlier, desk phones are better suited for large enterprises with thousands of employees. Due to the volume of calls they process daily, enterprises need dedicated phone lines and network infrastructures that can support large call volumes. 

Softphones are better suited for small businesses and startups because they offer the features you need while being more cost-effective and offering better features for the distributed and remote teams smaller businesses tend to use.

How else do softphones compare to desk phones?

Features

As mentioned earlier, softphones offer many of the features available with traditional desk phones. With softphones, you can effectively manage hundreds of phone numbers from one location without having to involve your IT teams or complex network infrastructures.

Softphones also offer a few unique features. Most offer text messaging. Some softphone apps integrate with other apps that your business is already using including CRMs, Gmail and Slack. If you want to integrate your desk phone with your apps, you’ll have to build custom integrations that take time and money.

Costs

Softphones are much cheaper than desk phones. With desk phones, you need to set up dedicated phone lines in your office, buy VoIP-enabled phones, set up cables and that can be costly.

Softphones require using the hardware you already have. They work with computers and mobile devices, so your employees won’t need dedicated hardware. Because there’s no complex infrastructure involved, softphones also have lower monthly costs. Many softphone options begin at $10 per user per month which most businesses can afford.

Remote Work

As more companies embrace remote work, softphones offer a better way to manage phone numbers. If you want your employees to have desk phones, your business will need to pay the cost of setting up phone lines in each individual employee’s home and that just isn’t cost-effective. With many businesses going remote due to the COVID-19 pandemic, softphones can help your business adapt to remote work quicker and more efficiently.

For example, if your customer service team worked out of your office but now has to stay home, they still need to calls to forward to them. With desk phones, each employee needs a phone line at home. Otherwise, they have to have calls forwarded to their personal cell phone. There are many reasons why you shouldn’t use your personal cell phone number for work.

With a softphone, all calls can be forwarded to your employees and they can pick up the calls as they come in without having to worry that customers may have their personal cell number.

Scaling as Your Business Grows

Softphones easily scale with your business because adding more phone numbers can be done quickly. To add more phone numbers for your desk phone, you have to involve your IT team and purchase more phones, which can take time. As your business grows into having thousands of employees, you might switch to desk phones to help manage your phone lines as you build more offices and need to manage thousands of phone numbers.

The Best Softphone Apps

When researching softphone apps, you’ll want to focus on four main areas: features, integrations, security, and support. The best softphone apps will have the features below.

Basic Features

Softphones should have the same basic features as desk phones, but not every softphone app offers the same features. When researching softphones, make sure they have the basic features listed below:

  • Basic calling
  • SMS and MMS support
  • Voicemail to text
  • Private and shared phone numbers
  • Call recording
  • Support for IVR and individual extensions
  • iOS, Android and web apps

Integrations

Many businesses use a wide variety of apps to help manage support, sales, marketing and more. These apps usually aren’t connected which can lead to issues with data accuracy, data silos, and missing customer information. When researching softphones, look for one that can integrate with commonly used CRMs, email systems, and Slack.

Here’s the preview of integrating your softphone application with Slack

Admin and Security Features

Managing your phone numbers shouldn’t be a hassle. You’ll want powerful analytics that shows the number of calls being made, who isn’t using their phone numbers, call times and more. You also audit logs that show where calls are being made and for general record-keeping purposes.

Support

Like with all software, issues and bugs are likely to occur. Your softphone provider should offer support options including email, text and phone support so they can help you when issues arrive. Some companies even go the extra mile and give you a dedicated account manager who can help you set up your account and provide best practices for managing your phone system.

OpenPhone – the leading iOS, Android and Web-based softphone app 

OpenPhone is a softphone built specifically for startups, small businesses, and individuals. With OpenPhone, you can make unlimited calls throughout the world to help support your customers and clients. OpenPhone is available for iOS, Android and web browsers.

Preview of the OpenPhone web application

Why should you use OpenPhone? We have many required features for business phone systems including:

  • Dedicated customer support
  • Toll-free numbers
  • Works in the US and internationally
  • Crystal-clear audio quality
  • Can set business hours
  • Multiple phone numbers tied to one account

Get started with a free trial of OpenPhone today.

Author

Co-Founder at OpenPhone. Ukrainian-Canadian in SF. Love exploring new hiking trails.

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