Business owners and their teams can’t afford to be out of touch ― but they also can’t be tethered to a wired desk phone. At the same time, packing personal and business smartphones is impractical. Business phone system smartphone apps offer a solution that keeps mobile workers in touch anytime, anywhere.
These apps have numerous benefits. Employees don’t have to carry multiple devices or risk commingling business and personal communications. You and your team can receive business communications on your personal devices from any location. Meanwhile, callers can reach you outside the office without knowing your personal number.
Here’s everything you need to know about business phone system mobile apps and their benefits.
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Businesses often have bring-your-own-device policies that let employees use personal devices for company work. However, conducting company business on a personal device isn’t always ideal. Phone system apps offer a solution, turning employees’ smartphones into powerful mobile business communication tools. Some benefits include the following:
Here are some of the most valuable and effective business phone system mobile app features.
Most top business phone systems with apps provide call routing. This valuable feature forwards calls to one or several numbers when a caller dials one specific number, such as your business’ main phone number. For example, an employee working from home can answer a call to your business’ published phone number on their personal phone. From the caller’s perspective, it will be as though they’re talking to someone on the business’ premises.
“If your business serves globally, you could buy a phone number from a specific country to make it easier for that part of the audience to contact your brand,” Kliszczak explained. “Things like call forwarding and IVR [interactive voice response] systems can help you distribute the call smarter and [save time].”
Many business phone system mobile apps provide an auto-attendant, eliminating the need for a receptionist and ensuring calls are handled properly.
“You can set up an auto-attendant for your business phone number,” explained Jeremy Boudinet, senior director of growth at Ubiquitous. “You can create a main attendant for different departments. Therefore, the user can press a number and go to a certain department. This eliminates the need for a phone receptionist and stops robocalling from happening since they make it past the main auto-attendant. There’s no need for a human switchboard.”
A virtual phone number lets you direct business calls to your devices without divulging your personal number. You can choose to take the call on your desk phone, laptop, voice-over-internet-protocol (VoIP) phone or mobile device. You’re not limited to one device, so the caller has no idea you’re not speaking to them from a business phone.
“Instead of having a landline in your office, you can have a phone [number] that works on any device or any network,” said Doug Brackbill, CEO at DLB Mobile. “The idea is that the phone number is no longer attached to a specific device.”
A virtual receptionist could be an automated menu of options or a live human being that answers the phone on behalf of your business. A virtual receptionist saves you money compared to hiring an in-house receptionist. The virtual receptionist can direct callers to the correct department quickly and boost customer satisfaction by streamlining the customer experience.
A phone system desktop app works like a mobile app and, in many cases, you get both. “One of the great features of the desktop app is called ‘call pop,'” explained Boudinet. “You can see the profile of the customer calling. Therefore, you can see their segment score and understand how they’re feeling before answering the call. Once picked up, you can see their profile and look at previous interactions with the customer.”
Phone system desktop apps also include familiar functions like voicemail, auto-attendants, employee name directories, call recording, messaging, faxing and call and video conferencing.
Smartphone business phone apps also offer features that most wired desk phones don’t. For instance, some can transcribe voicemails and deliver them to an email address. These apps also may facilitate reporting, letting you track, analyze and manage your employees’ communication activities.
Business phone system apps typically use VoIP technology to carry calls over cellular networks and Wi-Fi connections to the internet. Other businesses use the older public switched telephone network for its reliability and call quality. The apps operate as extensions of cloud-hosted private branch exchange (PBX) systems to enable the features traditionally provided by the hardwired PBX business phone systems of the past.
Business phone system apps have similar features to a traditional PBX system. For example, callers to a business’ main line may get a recording directing them to press 1 for sales, 2 for accounting or 3 for shipping. But instead of being directed to a wired desk phone on the premises, the caller will be connected to an employee’s smartphone ― wherever the employee happens to be.
Some smartphone apps only require you to download and install the app on your phone. Others are part of more complex, cloud-based business phone systems that can include wired internet protocol desk phones. While well suited to small businesses and solopreneurs, the apps are scalable and can be used by businesses with hundreds of lines.
App-based telephony is readily affordable. For example, providers like RingCentral and Digium include mobile apps without additional charges to customers of their cloud business communication solutions.
For apps at the low end of monthly subscription fee plans, providers may also impose per-minute fees or setup fees. Features and support levels also vary by plan, so it pays to compare offerings in detail before deciding.
Many of the best business phone systems offer mobile apps in addition to browser or desktop apps. Here are a few to consider:
Vincent Paquet, chief product officer at Dialpad, said phone system apps are just the beginning of a dramatic sea change in how business communications are handled. The trends point to an increasing shift toward more technological automation as artificial intelligence (AI) continues to transform business.
“It’s the same as the future of phone systems in general. AI, which we called VI [virtual intelligence] at Dialpad,” Paquet explained. “If you think about voice communications, compared to other means of communications, it’s fast ― try typing as fast as you speak ― [and] it’s rich in emotions and nuances, but it’s ephemeral. As a result, it’s unreliable; two people will recall a conversation differently and inefficiently.”
Paquet says the future of mobile phone apps lies in AI’s ability to fix problematic issues. For example, with AI, all your conversations would be transcribed in real time, allowing you to search and extract essential action items, significant moments and more from those calls.
“AI as part of our phone systems is not perfect yet,” Paquet noted. “This is an ongoing improvement that will get better over time with more and more data. I can’t wait for the time when everything I need from a phone conversation is readily available for me without any input on my end. I could be walking, driving or flying while on a business call, and I’ll remain productive and connected no matter where I am. The biggest adjustment will be what to do with all that extra free time.”
Max Freedman and Jennifer Post contributed to this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.