5 Business Phone System Trends to Watch in 2016

At ShoreTel, we’re looking ahead to an exciting new year of innovation for IP phone systems and unified communications that empower today’s always-on workforce. Here are five trends we see shaping up in 2016:

1.More organizations will cut the cord on desktop phones. As smartphones become the primary business communication device, more organizations are rethinking their business phone strategy. Many businesses are eliminating their desk phones entirely, and instead, workers use softphones and high-quality headsets to communicate using laptops or other mobile devices. It’s a trend that’s accelerating, especially in organizations where workers want to be free to roam and collaborate, rather than be tied to their desks.

The best part is that with mobile unified communication (UC) software, workers can have enterprise-grade communication capabilities wherever they go, including video conferencing with room-based systems, peer-to-peer video, web conferencing, calendar access, CRM integration, instant messaging and presence—as well as desk phone features like extension dialing, conference calling, company directory, hold and call transfer.It’s a cost-savings win too because businesses don’t need to buy desk phones as well as the associated wiring, power, maintenance, and support. But if your organization wants stylish desk phones with crystal-clear sound, don’t worry, ShoreTel has them.

 

2.The popularity of hybrid business phone systems will rise as organizations want to lighten the IT load. The fewer time businesses spend managing any IT system, the more resources they have for activities that will drive revenue and enhance customer loyalty. That’s the driving factor behind the move to cloud services of all kinds, including business phones. With a managed service, organizations can keep pace with the latest UC and phone features without making a capital investment or fuss with ongoing maintenance.

But the reality is that most companies already have an on-premises phone system, and with a hybrid phone system they can migrate to the cloud on their own terms. Businesses can keep their on-premises phone systems but take advantage of new capabilities and applications in the cloud. And new sites and remote offices can easily be added to the cloud service while other locations continue to use their on-site phone systems. Regardless of whether the service is delivered on-premise or from the cloud, everyone enjoys the same UC and phone capabilities.

 

3.Contact centers are even more important in the era of customer experience. According to Gartner, 89 percent of companies surveyed believe that the customer experience will be the primary basis for competition by 2016. Businesses need to look at all the ways they are interacting with customers and optimize them for expectations of an always-on, digital world.

A good place to start is the contact center. Most contact center communications take place over the phone today, but customers expect to be able to flip their service channels. They can chat with support if they’re watching TV or send an email if they’re just not a “phone” person. The customer experience—and contact center interactions—needs to be seamless across multiple channels.Businesses can modernize their service and support interactions with a cloud-based contact center. With contact-center-as-a-service, businesses can easily add contact center capabilities beyond voice, including email, chat, workgroups, and analytics. Using a cloud service puts sophisticated contact center capabilities in the hands of small and medium businesses.

 

4.WebRTC, which lets you make phone and video calls from your browser, is on the upswing. WebRTC gives web browsers the ability to make phone calls, video chat and peer-to-peer file share without plug-ins. It has great potential for customer support because customers don’t have to download anything before they can communicate.Technology leaders are recognizing the benefits of browser-based communications. According to Webtorials, 47 percent of IT professionals surveyed had used WebRTC or planned to use it within 12 months.

 

5.SIP trunking adoption goes mainstream. SIP trunking is used to connect an organization’s headquarters, branch offices and data center to its communication service provider. SIP trunks replace legacy telecom connections, enabling organizations to embrace UC more easily, make communications more reliable and create a virtual call center. SIP trunking can result in cost savings—up to 40 percent of your voice expenditure by one estimate.

There’s a lot of growth in the SIP trunking market. Market analyst firm IHS Infonetics found that 45 percent of enterprises in North America that are using premises-based PBX used SIP trunks for some of their voice connectivity requirements in 2015, and predicts that will rise to 62 percent by 2017 as the use of legacy T1 and other lines decrease.

 Businesses can take advantage of these trends to make their communications more effective, their businesses more responsive and employees more productive. We’re excited about the year ahead.