A client has come to us asking about desk phones and their PABX system, and asking, what is Teams for Calling? Most of their staff have a phone on the desk, but are they necessary? They wanted to look at options of removing the phones to let up some desk real estate, but also to enable easier remote working.
Also, while their current system is VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) and that means each staff member has telephone software installed on their computer (‘softphone’), it’s not easy to switch between using the deskphone to make and take phone calls, and using their laptop.
Less than half this client’s staff have company mobile phones, so while some companies simply divert all calls to a telephone extension to that staff member’s cellphone, that would not work for this client. They couldn’t expect that staff would want to/be okay with diverting work calls to their personal mobiles. This is the same scenario for many companies.
“I need a deskphone – I get lots of calls”
The last aspect of this case study is the amount of phone calls each staff member gets. After checking the phone system reports, some people get only a few a month, while others get a few a week. Getting rid of the deskphones and perhaps saving some money suddenly took focus.
This client already uses Microsoft 365 for email and Office productivity software like Word, Excel and Outlook. They had already deployed Microsoft Teams, a collaboration platform, as the first major lockdown hit, so staff were used to using Teams to call each other, among other things.
Could they use Microsoft Teams for phone calls?
The short answer is yes, 100%.
There are some good benefits for this client and for many others in switching to Microsoft Teams for calling. For this client, as mentioned staff had already been using Teams for calling each other – often doing this instead of calling them on a deskphone – so the familiarity with the product was already there. This is a far cry from changing from one phone system to another and having to book staff in for training sessions, often taking days to achieve. This can take weeks if you have hundreds of staff.
Then there is removing the deskphone. At this particular client site, some staff already run only with the softphone application, and would never go back to having a phone on their desk that rarely gets used. It’s ideal for hot-desking, too.
Cost is definitely another benefit. While changing to Teams for Calling requires at minimum a Microsoft 365 Enterprise license and also another add-in to achieve using Teams for Calling, the long-term result is money saved. The payback period is dependent on your phone provider; you would still need to push calls through a provider. Some providers offer free local, national and mobile calls, while others work on the traditional cost-per-minute billing system.
But over time, the total cost of ownership is well lower. You don’t have desk phones to repair/replace and pay a rental on.
A bonus for Teams for Calling is the way they handle calls. A recent update lets the user change what actually makes the ringing sound. This may seem trivial, but it was a major issue for many users. Take this scenario; previously, any calls coming it to a user would ring on that user’s headset. If they weren’t at their desk, perhaps at the doorway talking to someone, they likely wouldn’t hear the call coming in. Teams will now let you assign your laptop speakers to ring, but you can still hear the caller’s voice on the headset. This is how it should have been from the beginning, but it’s been a long time coming. Most other ‘softphone’ applications (programs that let you make/take phone calls on your computer) don’t allow you to do this. As far as we know, only Teams has this capability.
Remote working is much simpler with Teams for Calling. The staff member takes their computer home, and that’s pretty much it – there’s nothing else to do. If they forget to take their headset, they can use the laptop’s microphone and speakers. And if they don’t have their work laptop at home, they can use their home computer to log into the Teams website and make or take calls.
There’s also the Teams app for mobile phones. If the staff member is offsite, they can easily take or make a call using the app. Microsoft are developing the Teams app to work with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, so this means it will work with both of those systems, for a much safer user experience in the car.
Taking away a deskphone means all staff will need a headset to make or take calls on. You could use a laptop’s microphone and speakers, but with open plan offices this gives no privacy. Also the quality of the call is far higher with a decent headset. Expect to pay $100 per staff member for a reasonable headset. And yes, this does mean over time you will need to factor in replacements.
Meeting rooms and common areas are places which may still need a deskphone of some sort. This client is looking at using a wireless conference phone that can be booked out and taken between meeting rooms, as required. They are finding most audio calls are now made via Teams, Zoom or Goto Meeting, so a phone in each meeting room isn’t the problem it once was.
The license you require to run Teams for Calling understandably costs more than a standard license. But the payback is there, and the license required to use Teams for Calling also has other financial benefits, meaning the ROI can be less than you’d expect.
Teams is also not that great at handling incoming calls, for example. It all depends on your organisation’s requirements on this front, and it’s something to keep in mind. There are additional options out there to handle incoming calls in different ways, but they can cost a reasonable amount each month. It’s a matter of taking a Big Picture approach and then seeing if Teams for Calling ticks the boxes for you.
If you want to discuss your telephone system with Icon IT, fill out this form and we’ll get in touch. Of course, you could also contact your IT provider and ask them the same.
Looking at your entire telephone and communications can be part of a full IT Audit.