Love It or Hate it, the Desk Phone Has Its Place

By Pete Engler

As BYOD (bring your own device) and the remote workforce continue to gain popularity in the business environment, it’s tempting to knock desk phones off the list of essential tools for employees. When you tack on the additional business cost to support, install, maintain, and troubleshoot desk phones, it makes you question if they are worth the investment. Yet, for companies of all sizes, the desk phone continues to be an asset and still fills an important need, despite prior naysayers who predicted the ultimate demise of this business staple.

When reading articles published as far back as 2011, I am struck by the bold predictions that desk phones would only be purchasable on eBay alongside flip-phones. Instead, we see many handset vendors expanding their line of phones and continually developing new models. Sales of desk phones in the past several year have continued to climb.

What’s keeping the desktop phone alive? The value of traditional desk phones, along with 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 whether you started your career before or after mobile and softphones were available. Baby boomers, for example, are less likely than millennials to use a cell phone over a desk phone while in the office. Gen X’ers are stuck in the middle, so it’s likely 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:

The Traditional Office Employee

businessmen_computer_stockWhen 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.

The Road Warrior

phone-system-for-auto-dealershipsThe company road warrior is common in sales, and these workers tend to be heavy phone users. 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 control because voice quality is extremely important when talking to customers) they have the ability to 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 to the road warrior is the integration of CRM solutions, for click-to-call, call logging, and immediate access to customer information. Heavy integration between platforms is achieved by using APIs and the cross platform integration continues to expand.

The Phone Warrior

iStock_000006861431SmallPhone warriors are those who rely heavily on the phone, and typically work in call centers or technical support centers. Their two options 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. While mobile phones are not the optimal choice for these users, they can be used in an emergency, such as PBX downtime or an after-hours emergency call.


The Phone-Adverse Employee

Fear in the OfficeA small segment of employees fit into a category of avoiding the phone altogether. These users don’t care what phone they are provided, and are not concerned with features, functionality, or platform integration. No matter what endpoint is provided, they are more likely to prefer other forms of communication (email, chat, etc.). Regardless of their personal preference, they still have access to some type of phone, and at some point, they will use it.



Given the array of user types, it’s safe to say the business phone market will continue to exist. There will always be a need for employees to communicate, whether using a desk phone, mobile phone, or softphone. In some situations, there is 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 type of phone is used to make the call depends on the job role and personal preference of the user. If the options are limited, 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.


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There Are 2 Comments

  • Mark Trowbridge says:

    Great article and I could not agree more – Voice communication is not going away and I believe will increase as it is a form of communication less prone to innuendo and errors. BYOD is truly important in the take up of mobile in the office space but is currently flawed by virtue of employees not able to hide their personal mobile number when calling clients (unless on a haphazard VoIP connection). We and others, have addressed and solved this issue for calls over GSM and in addition have added all the main desk phone features and functions to a neat GSM enabled mobile service. These technology advances are giving clients a 50% saving on telecom capex and opex and greater freedom. Whilst the desk phone still has its place they are now accounting for just 10% of overall handset sales to our client base – clients are ‘cutting the cord’ in favor of mobile.

  • Hi Pete,
    BYOD had a slow start when the soft clients were focused on desktop phone replacement to a desktop PC/laptop. Today I think the smartphone is where the soft client is headed because everyone understand an app. BTW deploying soft phone apps on smartphones on the data portion the phone is a low cost alternative to most IP Phone hardware on the desk and the wiring closet behind it. I see more BYOD/smartphone use at an increasing rate of adoption in the next couple of years. Cheers Mike

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