In a day and age where technology seems to change on a moment-to-moment basis, the number of late adopters of the hosted business phone model still astounds me. It seems as though companies have an almost nostalgic connection to their aging PBX phone systems—why I have no idea—but it’s deep rooted, nonetheless.
In fact, the number of aging Nortel systems alone that we still see in the market is nothing short of incredible. Here you have PBXs that haven’t been updated in years, have no modern functionality, and yet companies still cling to them. But the question is, why hold on to old tech?
Those antiquated systems that we displace weekly—belonging to companies that choose to move into the twenty-first century—have told us that it really comes down to an “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mindset. The fact that these systems still deliver dial tone is the single greatest factor in not moving forward with a new system.
But the issue here is not the early versus late adopter challenge. More so, it’s what companies are missing out on. The fact that dial tone is the determining factor in keeping old phone systems around, tells me that the phone system itself isn’t being used as it should be.
In today’s business environment, the concept of communication with customers, partners, etc., has taken on a new meaning. The need to ensure that someone answers the phone when customers call is paramount—after all, if a company doesn’t answer another company will. The idea that people now vote with their wallets is the new standard: meaning that if customers don’t get the service they want, they leave. Period.
Now, I know this doesn’t sound like anything new, and it’s not. It has, however, evolved to a new level of customer expectation. We see it everywhere. The concept of digital transformation is the perfect example of companies needing to change to fit the growing demands of customers. The world collectively wants everything to be personalized. Individuals want attention placed solely on them, and they don’t want to wait for anything.
So what does this have to do with a phone system? Well, to put it bluntly, a lot! If a company only needs a dial tone—or at least they think that’s all they need—what are they missing out on as it pertains to customer service and profit? For instance, aging PBXs don’t have the ability to connect with marketing and sales efforts, or even customer service on a granular scale. Therefore, without that connection, companies can’t easily implement KPIs. Knowing who the sales team is calling and when, how marketing efforts are driving inbound calls, or how many support calls are coming in and why, can drastically impact the way a company does business in a very positive way.
Moreover, aging systems can’t allow for hunt-groups, customer extensions, voicemails, auto forwarding, twinning, and the list goes on. And even if they can do some of that, the need for the “phone expert” to make it happen slows down the process and makes for a cumbersome workflow. And, with technology where it is today, slow workflow equates to money and opportunity lost.
In fact, one of the funnier aspects of the aging PBX are the so-called experts themselves. On average, our team reports that the “experts” are actually long gone—trained when the phone system was installed then left a few years later. The result: there are people still sitting at their desks with phones that have buttons programmed to reach people they don’t even know—left over from the last 10 people who were assigned that phone.
And yes, though it’s funny to think that no one knows how to reprogram a phone so that the buttons don’t call the spouse of a person who left the company eight years ago—it’s also sad that so much opportunity is missed.
In all, legacy technology has little to no place in the modern workforce. It doesn’t lend itself to connecting with other systems, and it doesn’t lend itself to creating a better customer experience—it is, after all, just a dial tone.
My advice, take your old phone system and recycle it. You could take one of the handsets and place it in a frame as a reminder of all the things that it never did. And please, follow this advice: If it ain’t broke, still fix it.