Ask Mr. Andrews: Hard Phone or Softphone?
Q: I run a small office with 25 employees, 10 of whom work in our call center making outbound sales calls. We are about to deploy an Asterisk based IP PBX, and I am in the process of researching IP phones to complete our solution. I am looking at both SIP based hard phones as well as softphones. What is your opinion of softphones versus traditional desktop IP phones? Gary P.
A: Gary, personally, I’m an IP phone guy…but there are benefits to both approaches. Softphones are typically employed to keep purchase and maintenance costs down. Call center’s in particular often employ softphone clients for their agents, in conjunction with USB or PC based headsets. Some softphones also offer video conferencing capabilities.
There are several factors to consider here. The first factor I consider is how each employee works. If you think about each of your 25 employees and what they do during the course of a typical work day, you can begin to determine if they are a good candidate for a softphone versus a traditional IP phone.
Executives and managers are typically more accustomed to a traditional desktop phone, and it may be easier to provide them with an IP phone that has multiple line capability, speakerphone and an LCD display so that you do not have to spend a great deal of time and effort “retraining” them to use a software based phone interface. User habits and general comfort levels with technology are important in choosing a hard phone versus softphone. Also, if you are uncomfortable taking calls on a headset, you are not a good candidate for a softphone.
You callcenter folks likely spend the bulk of their day making outbound calls, likely favor a headset, and may be better suited for softphones. I would consider offering both options to your employees – it won’t hurt to ask their personal preference.