Guest Blog: The Desk Phone is Not Dead – Just Ask These Users


Pete Engler PicBy Pete Engler

When determining tools that employees need in order to do their jobs, it’s tempting to add the desk phone to

the hit list as “not essential” in this age of BYOD (bring your own device.) The proliferation of cell phones and soft clients, combined with an increasing remote or mobile workforce begs the question whether it makes sense to spend the money on a desk phone. In addition to deciding whether your employee needs a desk phone, there is the additional consideration of the business cost to support (install, maintain and troubleshoot) phones. Yet, for companies of all sizes, the desk phone continues to be a worthy investment and still fills an important need, despite prior naysayers who predicted the ultimate demise of this business staple.

When reading articles from as far back as 2011, I am struck by the bold predictions that desk phones will only be on display in museums or only purchasable on eBay within a handful of years. According to those assertive predictions, this is the year (2015) that we should be putting desk phones on the list of extinct technology. Instead, we see many handset vendors expanding their line of phones and continually developing new models. If we look at sales of desk phones, there is also no evidence that the business handset market is suffering from a sales trend that takes the form of a reverse hockey stick.

What’s keeping the desktop phone alive? The value of traditional desk phones, mobile and softphones can largely be based on the individual users. The preference of using a desk phone may depend on your job role, or perhaps whether you started your career before or after cell and softphones were available. Baby boomers, for example, are less likely than millennials to adopt using a cell phone over a desk phone while in the office. Gen X’ers are stuck in the middle, so it’s expected that the trend toward BYOD will only increase as time marches on and new generations enter the workforce. Employees in most organizations are a diverse group with different needs. Let’s take a look at a few examples.

Traditional Office Workers

When categorizing a traditional office worker we tend to think of employees in marketing, engineering and other groups that are minimal or moderate phone users. While a cell or softphone could work just fine, it’s the ease of use that a desk phone provides that makes it appealing to this worker. Within a few seconds, using preprogrammed buttons, a call can be placed to any of the handful of contacts that they need to communicate with. Also the call quality and convenience of a speakerphone provides a clear, quick connection.

Road warrior

The company road warrior is typical in sales or field support role and can be a heavy phone user. With the advancements of Unified Communications (UC), these workers can have multiple devices and even multiple extensions. While typically replying on a desk phone for quality of calls, because voice quality is extremely important when talking to customers, they will reply on a converged set of phones. If a call comes in to the desk phone and isn’t answered, the call can be routed to a cell, office or home phone. This insures the call is not missed.

One additional value that UC brings this user is the integration into CRM-types of solutions, for click-to-call and call logging. Heavy integration between platforms is achieved by using APIs and the cross platform integration continues to expand.

Phone warrior

Phone warriors that work in call centers or technical support centers have a heavy reliance on their phones. The choices are typically between a softphone with headset or a traditional desk phone. Call quality and ease of use is critical for these employees. The phone system will be connected to a call center solution with calls being routed to the next available agent. Mobile phones are not optimal for these users but can be used in an emergency if there is PBX downtime due to a failure or after-hours emergency calls.

Phone adverse employee

A small segment of employees fit into a category of not wanting to talk on a phone at all. This type of user will not care what phone they are provided and are not concerned about features, functionality or integration into any other platforms used to support business operations. No matter what endpoint is provided, they are more likely to prefer other forms of communication - but ultimately they must still use some type of phone.

Given the range of user types, it’s safe to say the business phone market will continue to be a very large market. There will always be a need for employees to communicate whether using a desk phone, mobile phone or softphone. There’s often no substitute for speaking with someone directly, and the phone is likely to continue winning out for that purpose even over chat, e-mail, and other forms of communication. The preference of which device that is used to make the call is a preference by the user. If the choice is limited, for example dictating that only mobile phones will be provided or having the employee provide their own (BYOD), then employees will adapt. However, there will certainly be a mixture of devices desired and used, based on the needs and preferences of the employees - and that includes the desk phone.

Pete Engler is the channel marketing manager at Digium, a business communications company based in Huntsville, Ala., that delivers enterprise-class Unified Communications.