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Let's say you're looking for a new office space and need to give your broker a way to get in touch with you, but you dont want to share your personal number. Wouldn't it be great if you had a second number?
For entrepreneurs and businesses, the need for separate personal and business phone numbers is fairly evident. But, carrying two phones can be uncomfortable and getting a new SIM card isn't always easy. It's reasons like this that brought about the evolution of the Softphone.
Sure, it's designed primarily for business users but anyone can benefit from it. If this is the first time you're hearing about a softphone, dont worry. We'll tell you everything you need to know – what it is, why it's better than a desk phone, and who the top service providers are. Then, we'll give you tips on how to choose a softphone system. Let's get started.
A softphone is a software program that can be installed on computers, laptops, tablets and other mobile devices to allow users to make and receive phone calls over the internet. Thus, it eliminates the need for dedicated hardware. Once installed, it behaves in the same way as a traditional telephone with buttons for user interactions and a display panel to see the incoming and outgoing call numbers. You may require an additional sound card and headset.
Softphone designates the software that is used to extend the capabilities of call servers, PBX or VoIP services. Some solutions on the market provide the softphone tool alone so that you can enhance your existing telecommunication system, but most modern business phone systems integrate both the VoIP service and the softphone.
What is a SIP Software? What is a SIP Client? What is a SIP Softphone?
SIP software, SIP client, SIP softphone and softphone are synonyms for the same software program.
Also called SIP software or SIP client, a SIP softphone refers to the protocol that is used to handle VoIP calls. SIP stands for Session Initiation Protocol. When we talk about a softphone, we refer to a certain type of protocol that is a mobile/desktop software or application.
There are other types of SIP. For instance, SIP phones are phones that look like the ones you have
Is VoIP the Same as a Softphone?
VoIP is not the same as a Softphone.
VoIP, or Voice over Internet Protocol refers to technology that transmits your voice over the internet rather than a regular analog phone connection. A SIP or Session Initiation Protocol Softphone is a software program.
To put it simply, the softphone is the software that allows you to make and receive calls, its the interface youre using. VoIP is the telecommunications channel running through the internet.
What Device Can Use Softphones?
Most softphone solutions provide multi-device applications. You can use softphone software on iPhone and Android smartphones, tablets, laptops and desktop computers. Many softphone providers also developed SaaS versions that you access from your web browsers. You just need to download the right application on the right marketplace.
Softphone: How to Install It. A Step-By-Step Guide.
Getting started with a softphone system is easy. Once you've chosen your service provider and plan, you can simply install the software on your device, configure the settings and start making calls. Here's what you need to do.
Step 1: Visit the softphone service providers website
Step 2: Download the setup file and save it to your device.
Step 3: Run the setup as you would for any other program
Step 4: Configure the settings for speakers and microphones
Step 5: Start calling!
Softphone Main Features
A Softphone has the features of a regular phone as well as a few additional features that make it more advantageous. Let's take a look at some of the main features.
Get a Second Phone Number Without a Sim
A softphone gives you a virtual phone number. This is a number that can be used from anywhere in the world, on any device. It can be routed globally and when installed on a phone, it acts as a second phone number.
For professionals and business users, this makes it easy to distinguish between personal and business calls made using the same device.
A softphone lets you take calls anywhere and at any time. This frees you up from your desk and is especially useful when youre in long meetings or another part of the building.
In a business scenario where customers expect you to always be reachable, this is a great advantage. There is minimal risk of being unavailable to clients and you dont have to wait at your desk just because youre expecting a call.
With a softphone, you can redirect incoming calls to an alternate number. This lets you stay communicable on the go.
This simplifies communication channels for a business. Customers can use the same number to call a person irrespective of where they are. You could take a call at your home, the office, or even the airport lounge.
Put On Hold
Softphones allow you to pause a conversation and put the call on hold for a few minutes without terminating the call.
You may find this useful when a customer calls and you need to check the status of an order. They hear only the information theyre supposed to and theres a lower risk of them overhearing anything you dont want them to be privy to.
Snoozing lets you postpone the ring on the softphone app if youre talking on a parallel line on the desk phone.
This minimizes distractions and lets you stay focused on completing one call at a time.
Click To Call
A softphone lets you make and receive calls even from a laptop or desktop computer. The click to call feature lets you dial any number from your web browser.
This makes call center operations budget-friendly as the need for dedicated hardware is reduced. Using a Click to Call button on your website will also make it easier for customers to reach you and could increase lead conversions and reduce the risk of cart abandonment.
Microphone and Speaker Settings
This feature lets users define the settings for the microphone and speaker to be used for calls. If there are multiple speakers, you can select which one is to be used for a call. Similarly, volume and background noise levels can be adjusted.
Nothing is more frustrating than to be on a call and have noise in the background interfere with your conversation. By adjusting the microphone settings, you can reduce these disturbances and make your voice clearer and more audible.
Shared Contact Lists
As the name suggests, shared contact lists give you access to a common list of contacts shared by a group of people.
Let's say a coworker is on holiday and you need to get in touch with one of his clients. A shared contact list makes it easy to find the number.
Get Voicemail in Your Mailbox
Though softphones let you be accessible from anywhere, there are times you may not want to take a call. In such instances, you can let the call go to voicemail. The audio file will be pushed to your mailbox. You may also get a transcription of the file. You can then skim through this and if its urgent, return the call immediately, else, follow up later.
For example, you may be in the middle of a training session when a client calls. If you realize on seeing the voicemail that the call isnt urgent, you can choose to continue with the training session and thus make the best use of your time.
Application Opening On A Phone Call Or Event
This feature minimizes the risk of missing a call because your phone is on silent. When someone calls, the softphone window pops up on the laptop or computer screen so you know who's calling and can take the call.
Let's say the phone is in your desk drawer and you're listening to music on your headphones through the laptop. A pop-up screen will immediately grab your attention even if you dont hear the phone ring.
As a mobile application, you can stay accessible on your virtual number from anywhere.
You may be traveling and away from the office but a client calling on your office number will still be able to reach you. This helps maintain a professional image and can play a big role in improving client and partner relationships.
Though a softphone system will make sure that your team is always reachable, there may be times when someone doesnt want to be disturbed. Rather than send a message and wait for a reply saying so, they can choose to let their status show them as offline or in a meeting or away, etc.
This simple feature boosts productivity and improves communication. For example, if you can see that a person you want to reach out to is in a meeting, you could communicate via an instant message rather than a call.
Detailed Call Logs
A softphone system not only tells you the number of incoming and outgoing calls received and made but also logs in details for each call. This includes the call initiator, date and time, call duration, etc. This can be important for assessing productivity and following up on calls.
For example, if you see multiple calls initiated by the same customer repeatedly, you may want to get a manager to return the call and find out where the issue lies.
A softphone system offers outgoing and incoming caller IDs. Outgoing caller ID allows the people youre calling to identify you through your virtual number and name. Incoming caller ID allows you to know who is calling before you answer the phone so that unwanted calls can be ignored or sent to voicemail.
An outgoing caller ID is important to build trust in the eyes of a client. Many people avoid picking up calls from unknown numbers. Thus, this feature can improve call answer rates and help expand your audience.
Connect Your Tools
Since it is a software, softphone systems can communicate with other software products and tools. Integrations between a softphone system and CRM tools are quite common. Using connected systems like this can boost efficacy and efficiency.
For example, integrating the softphone system with CRM tools automates call documentation and, in turn, makes it easier to access call recordings required for training purposes
Business Phone System: Why Set Up Call Routing and Custom Greetings
Along with connecting to other software tools, a softphone system can be set up as a business phone system. Your team can install the software on their devices and make and receive calls without giving away their personal numbers to maintain a professional edge. There are two additional features, in particular, that stand out.
This feature allows you to design and record a custom greeting for all incoming calls. This can be used to introduce the business, call out seasonal greetings, etc.
For example, if you have just launched a new product, you may want to mention it in your greeting to build awareness.
The system can also be designed to route calls automatically through an IVR rather than make callers wait for their calls to be transferred from one department to another.
For instance, a call from someone inquiring about the status of their order can be routed directly to the order fulfillment team.
What Are The Benefits Of Using A Softphone For Your Business?
The range of features as mentioned above gives a softphone system many advantages over traditional phones.
Portability - Use It From Anywhere
A softphone system is not tied to a location. Your team can use it from their desks as well as while theyre traveling or even when theyre at home. In todays world of remote working where your team may be using their own devices to work from home, this helps maintain an executive appeal.
Scalability - Grow Your Business At Ease
You can add a new user in 2 clicks. Most softphone business phone systems use monthly SaaS payments. As your business grows, you will need to add new users to the phone system. Rather than having to call the telecom partners as it was done traditionally, you can add users online on your own in minutes. The need for technicians and unnecessary wait times is dramatically reduced.
Collaboration - Foster Teamwork
A softphone system seamlessly connects employees wherever they may be. This is important especially given the rising remote workforce. Rather than rely solely on emails, employees can message or call coworkers through the system to get an instant reply. This makes working on collaborative projects easier and builds a team spirit despite physical distances.
Productivity - Work Better and Faster
Click to call, as we mentioned earlier, is such a good feature to save some time. Call people from any device with just one click. As compared to traditional phones, this can be a great timesaver. Softphones also save time by letting you filter calls through voicemails and providing access to a shared contact list. Integrations with CRM tools further boost productivity by making call records accessible through a single dashboard.
That makes an easy transition for my next point…
Connectivity - Integrate With Your Business Tools
Most softphones can integrate with your business tools to increase productivity.
CRM integrations are the most popular softphone integrations because they allow the sales team to be more productive with click-to-call, automated call logs, contact lists synchronization, etc.
It also allows you to automate reporting to get better insights on your teams call activity directly from your CRM.
But there are many other integrations that can be very useful for your business:
Browser Integration: like Google Chrome integration, enable click to call on your favorite web browser.
Helpdesk Integration: its more or less the same kind of integration as the CRM integration but to manage your customer support.
Payment Software Integrations: for instance, you can trigger SMS when payment is registered
Survey software integration: trigger an SMS when a form is submitted.
And many more with webhooks or Zapier: build bridges between your softphone data and your business tools to develop any kind of automated process.
Most softphones have monthly subscriptions. There are no setup fees and no technical maintenance. With the traditional PBX system, technical support and maintenance can cost a fortune. This is the main difference between softphone pricing and traditional PBX phone system pricing.
In addition, using softphones empowers you to make international calls without worrying about exorbitant per-minute rates. The cost of making an international VoIP call is significantly lower compared to an international call through regular phone lines.
Some of the best softphones on the market even include unlimited calls in the monthly subscriptions.
What Are The Best Softphone Applications?
Today, there are countless softphone applications available. Let's take a look at the top options.
Quicktalk - The Best Phone System for Small Businesses
Quicktalk is a small business phone system that allows professionals to manage their customer calls. Its an all-in-one solution that provides businesses with a company phone number, unlimited calls, auto-attendant features and advanced call distribution for only $19 per month per company (up to 3 users).
Local phone numbers in 36 countries
Unlimited calls from desktop and mobile
Call forwarding to mobile
Unlimited calls to 36 destinations
Live call listening
Pricing: $19 per month per company (up to 3 users) all included with unlimited calls.
Zoiper - A Stand-Alone Softphone to Enhance Your Phone Services
Zoiper is a free client-side software VOIP phone application available to SIP and IAX systems. It can be run on almost all devices and offers encrypted communication channels. To use it, you need to buy a VoIP line from a telecom operator in order to get a virtual phone number.
The key features include:
Call muting and hold
Integration with native contact list
Click to dial CRM integration
Low memory and CPU usage
Calling over 3G and WiFi
A few additional features like video support, call transfers and TLS support are available to gold users.
While the software is free for use on Android and iPhones, desktop users must buy the product for $49.95.
Unfortunately, the app has an outdated look and feel, callers often experience lags, it has a tendency to crash and the free version has limited potential.
Google Voice For The Google Workspace Integration
Google Voice offers an easy solution for voice calling on all devices. It is beneficial for personal use as well as for businesses. This easy-to-use phone solution is suitable for organizations of all sizes and lets you stay connected wherever you go.
The key features for business users are
Free calling to US numbers
Google calendar and Google meet integration
Mobile and web application
Monthly plans range from $10 to $30 per user. The plans vary not just in terms of features but also in terms of the number of users permitted and locations.
On the flip side, all incoming calls are identified as Google Voice calls which makes it difficult to differentiate between personal and work calls. There is also an issue with notifications which often leads to missed calls and lost opportunities.
Bria - Another Stand-Alone Softphone to Enhance Your Phone Services
Formerly known as X-Lite, Bria is a softphone solution that lets you make and take VoIP calls from a mobile device or on your desktop. It uses a single interface to streamline communications and manage calls as well as instant messages and is easy to integrate with existing IP-PBX infrastructure. Or else, to use it, you need to buy a VoIP line from a telecom operator in order to get a virtual phone number.
The key features included in the paid version for multiple users include
Voice and video support
Team messaging and presence
Push service on Mobiles
Call transfers, recording and waiting
Bria has free and paid versions with an annual plan starting from $35.40 for single users and $59.40 for multiple users.
Though the system is considered easy to use, it is known to sometimes cause a lag in calls and not offer the same experience on all platforms. Bluetooth connectivity has also been found to be problematic.
Ringotel - A Softphone To Keep Your Existing Telecommunication Infrastructure
Ringotel is promoted as a feature-rich and cost-effective UCaaS solution. It can be used by mobile and desktop devices and is easy to set up. To use it, you need to buy a VoIP line from a telecom operator in order to get a virtual phone number.
Some of the features offered by Ringotel include
Call transferring, forwarding and conferencing
Cloud call recording
Video call support
Click to call
There are three plans to choose from with the Essentials plan starting from $2.49 per user per month.
The main issue with Ringotel is a lack of reliable support and service from the company. Getting help when youre stuck with a technical issue can be difficult.
How To Choose The Right Softphone?
There are a few questions you need to answer before you choose the right softphone…
Do you need a softphone to use with an existing telephony infra or are you looking for a complete business phone system? Do you need a simple solution or are you looking for a productivity solution?
Do You Need a Softphone for Business Purposes?
If you are looking for an actual business phone system, a stand-alone softphone will not cover your needs. You need to have a complete solution with a dedicated company phone number, custom greetings, call routings and team management settings.
Whats your Budget?
This is linked to the previous question, a complex business phone solution like call center software that is focused on connectivity and productivity will be more expensive than small business solutions that focus on simplicity. Youll also need to consider the number of users. Most paid plans have a per user per month/year rate.
Will You Be Using A Softphone More For Outbound Calls Or Inbound Calls?
For inbound calls, when it comes to managing your customer calls, for instance, we would recommend Supercaller. Regarding outbound calls solutions, if youre looking to increase your sales teams productivity, for instance, a business phone system like Ringover would be a better fit.
Softphones not only make it easier for you to stay connected on the go, but they also play an important role in safeguarding your privacy. You get control over how one-off acquaintances and clients get to reach out to you vs how friends and family connect with you.
So, are you ready to get started?
Paul is a tech and business phone system enthusiast always open to discuss ideas. If you’re interested in collaborating on content projects or getting a product listed on our blog, don’t hesitate and reach out to us: [email protected].