When we think of automation, our minds will generally jump straight to the worlds of engineering, manufacturing, and quality control – but automation is also transforming the world of telecommunications.

For a long time, businesses have adapted around the limitations of phones. In fact, telephones as we know them have shaped how we do business – and how employee’s job roles have developed. Taking a fresh look at phones unlocks a world of automation – and unlocks a world of possibilities for your workforce and your company.

It’s time to rethink the phone’s function

When asked to describe a phone, most people go down the same route; a phone is a device used for communicating with another person or group of people. If you push a little harder, people will generally be able to describe the basic functions of a business telecoms system – holding calls, transferring, redirecting – but that’s about it.

It’s no surprise that this is generally the extent of a casual user’s thinking around the phone that sits on their desk, after all, we’ve been using them in this way for decades. In reality though, it’s only habit that constrains our thinking – especially since so many of us now have Apple, Google, and Amazon voice assistants in our pockets and our homes.

The truth is, a phone is simply an input device – in much the same way that your voice assistant is. In fact, it’s perhaps even more sophisticated; especially since you have a more versatile control device. With the right interface, your phones can access an almost unlimited number of functions within your IT network.

What exactly can a phone do?

Thinking of a phone system as a sophisticated interface really starts to move people’s imagination – and, that’s really the limit of what’s possible. In much the same way that it would be impossible to consider the range of possibilities that a keyboard and mouse opens up on a computer – there’s an equally staggering number of possibilities that your phones unlock for your IT network.

Would you like people to access common helpdesk requests with no human input required? No problem. Perhaps you’d like to automate a payment system? Again, no problem. That said, if you don’t feel like customers are ready for full automation, why not have your phone system simply automate the legwork needed by the person handling the call; automatically transcribing the conversation – freeing up resources and employee time.

It’s useful to recognise inefficient steps in the process that a customer goes through to get the outcome that they want from your company. Generally, inefficiency is centred around human-to-human interaction, so, when you automate these steps, you’re likely to unlock a better customer experience – while freeing up resources to be used elsewhere in the business. While a customer-to-machine interface is more efficient for the customer, an end-user-to-machine interface is actually the point at which employee productivity drops. So, with the help of APIs, your phone system will take your customer information and use it to populate a number of applications too (your CRM for instance), improving efficiency a both ends.

How much do next generation phones cost?

As you gather a better understanding of what’s possible with a hosted telephone system, your next question will almost always be around the costs involved; after all, this kind of innovation doesn’t sound like it will come cheap.

In terms of cost, there is some bad news – but, for most companies, the good news will immediately fix that. The bad news is, a hosted phone service requires a full IT infrastructure that connects every user, device, and application you’d like your phone system to work with. The good news? You probably already have this in place. A hosted phone system doesn’t require its own connections, cabling or proprietary system; it simply runs as part of your existing IT network.

The fact that your new phone system will run as part of your IT network represents another financial bonus too – as many hosted phone users find they can leave their traditional telecoms supplier, instead, putting their phones under the supervision of their IT department or managed IT network provider. It’s rare than the next generation of any technology comes cheaply – but, when you’re piggy-backing on your existing network, you’re likely to find that automation comes with some savings.

What’s possible for hosted phone systems?

Many companies start to explore the possibilities of hosted phone systems by mapping their processes and workflows. At this stage, it’s useful to consider every point that data is transmitted, either person-to-person, person-to-machine, machine-to-person, external company-to-person – and so forth. Since a hosted voice system is primarily used to expedite these interactions, they’re often the first port of call. When you understand your workflows in some detail, you can talk to a specialist hosted phone provider about what’s possible. 

Of course though, slick interactions are just one of the benefits that come from having your phone system and IT network running as one, as you’re also likely to see enormous security benefits – since your phone system is now subject to the same safeguards and disaster recovery processes as your IT system. If something goes wrong for your business and your suddenly need to set up in different premises, a few clicks will see your phone system following you.

There are also big benefits relating to the maintenance of a hosted phone system – especially when you compare the processes involved with those of a traditional, copper-line based system. Where copper lines require on-site engineers, a next-generation phone system will generally be managed through a portal that is accessed by your IT support. As such, the distribution and routing of calls, the addition of users, security, and much more is all just a couple of clicks away for being set up according to your exact needs.

It’s worth considering what the next generation of phones could offer you. When automation is such an important part of the processes that form the core of our business models, it’s makes a lot of sense to free ourselves of the age-old restraints that come with an old telephone system.