The Evolution of the Business Phone System: Part 1

Changes in Technology

The nature of telephone systems has changed a lot since Alexander Graham Bell; actually it’s changed a lot in just the past 10 years. Since we have been servicing businesses in the San Francisco Bay Area since 1984, we have seen the evolution of business phone systems. The criteria today’s business shoppers use to buy new telephone systems change dramatically from the days of the old PBX phone systems.

We recently called on a long-standing customer and what they want today is radically different from when they started with us 15 years ago when they bought a proprietary business phone system. Then about seven years ago they bought an IP-based PBX system. Today we are talking to them about a hosted PBX system.  The changes in technology seem to require the capital investment in a new telephone system about every seven years.

Back in the day, it was all about features and functionality. We used to physically demonstrate the phone, showing off such features as the intercom, conference calling, one-button transfer, and even available ring tones. For some customers, hands-free operation was a huge deal, but today nobody asks for that, since it’s standard with most handsets and users today prefer headsets.

And size was a huge consideration. Business telephone systems were installed on premise, so you wanted a telephone system that could scale to your needs, even if you didn’t know what that meant. It was like selling phone systems to the three bears: you didn’t want a system that was too big so it required too many modules and boxes, and you didn’t want a phone system that was too small to grow with the business, but it was hard to determine what was “just right.”

Today’s Telecommunication’s Customer

Today’s customer is more interested in the device, which could be a desk telephone, a home phone, mobile phone, or some other device. Today there are even “phablets” available that  combine the features of a phone and a tablet computer. It’s more important to support multiple devices than to address specific features. No matter what device you include, it has to connect to the system from anywhere – your mobile phone, a client site, home, wherever you need communications.

And perhaps the biggest factor today is cost. Budgets are limited and businesses don’t want to spend money on capital expenses. Technology continues to evolve at an ever rapid rate, and customers no longer want to buy; they would rather pay as they go. That’s why cloud-based telephony services are becoming so popular – they require little or no on-premise hardware, can scale with new features and functions as you need.

These are just a few of the things that we’ve seen change in telephone sales. In future posts we will share some additional observations we’ve made over the last 30 years.

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