In VoIP, VoIP Phones

You may not have given this much thought, but it’s important to recognize that hosted VoIP has two basic elements – the desk phones and the service itself. When it comes to the phones, you can treat them as “just phones” or look a little closer to see the things that make for a better VoIP experience. The danger is that it’s easy to view VoIP service as a commodity and then extend that thinking to the phones.

While it’s true that IP phones are more affordable, they have richer capabilities than legacy phones, and not just for voice. With VoIP being a data application, any IP-enabled endpoint can support multimedia communication, so there’s more to consider with these phones. Here are five factors that will help you determine which IP phone is right for your needs.

1. Ergonomics

Some employees are on the phone all day long, and if their current handset has been with them for many years, the new IP phones better provide a similar look and feel. Design is a key part of this, especially the handset shape, the feel of the material, its weight, keypad layout, etc. Quality can vary widely across IP phone vendors, and you shouldn’t underestimate the impact of these basic design and usability elements on everyday usage.

2. Audio quality

This is another area where quality can vary widely and again, the impact on end users should not be underestimated. Hosted VoIP operators can certainly provide carrier-grade quality audio, but if the phones are low grade, the voice quality will suffer. By viewing VoIP as a commodity, it can be tempting to go with the cheapest phones, but this is where the results of that thinking will really show.

There is a higher level to consider as well, namely High Definition audio. The experience is markedly better, and can be a great add-on for the contact center. Again, while many hosted VoIP providers can support HD audio, the phones must support it too, but this is not yet a standard feature.

3. Visual display

Higher-end IP phones will have large displays, often in color and at resolutions meant to support Web-based applications. Your employees may not need this today, but if you think their needs will change, then multimedia support will be a factor for the type of IP phone to buy.

4. Headset support

Some legacy phones have this capability, but there are more options with today’s IP phones. This will be especially important for contact center agents and anyone else who is on the phone a lot in close quarters. The main thing that’s different today is wireless headsets, which gives employees much more mobility within the office. Audio quality is better now as well, and overall, headset support is another way to make VoIP more than just a commodity experience.

5. Range of product line

If you’re a startup with few employees, everyone probably gets the same phone. For larger scale SMBs, however, the range of needs is broader. Given the affordability of IP phones, catering to everyone is do-able. For example, executives will want higher-end phones, contact center agents will need more durable phones, meeting rooms will require conference phones, and for guest use a basic lobby phone will do. Some environments will also have needs for cordless phones, which have a separate set of considerations. On a broader scale, the product line is yet another factor for determining the right IP phone vendor.

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