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Smart phones vs. Dumb phones

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Steve Jobs touched so many aspects of my life. I wanted to write about one sliver of his legacy that directly impacted M5’s business phone system business, and illuminated our vision.

Ever notice that while mobile phones are now smart, office phones are still dumb?

Wikipedia claims “Smart phones” have been around since 1922. Nonetheless, I credit Jobs. iPhone was a natural extension of his original vision – from everyone having a computer to everyone having a computer everywhere, all the time. That’s the first thing missing from office phones – they are stuck on desks. People move around. The office is the worst place to work. Nothing that doesn’t move with people can extend their intelligence.

What could delight a business the way smart phones grab the hearts of consumers? My answer: helping connect with customers. Happy customers light up a workplace. I know that’s true at M5. The more important user of a business phone system is the person calling into it, not the one calling out of it. And this is where you can see smart vs. dumb. A smart phone system measures if people are getting through. A smart phone system then makes it easy to optimize the path to get to the right person. A smart phone system connects these conversations to customer data. And I’m not just talking about call centers – everyone touches the customer sooner or later.

It isn't the desk phone’s fault it is dumb. Until recently, desk phones could only connect to an on-premise phone system sitting in an office closet. A phone system is a small local computer with a small brain. Smart cell phones access a huge brain by connecting to vast app-stores and media libraries and software upgrade servers over the Internet. To be smart, office phones needed to be connected to the cloud too.

So, M5’s providing cloud communications for business is a start.  It is on us to make office phones truly smart. And we’re moving in that direction. We are putting a full-featured business phone everywhere (M5 Softphone and M5 Mobility for iPhone). We measure live answer service metrics. We provide tools and experts to optimize call flow on the fly. We connect all these activities to business data. And we do it in the call center and beyond.

Businesses are adopting cloud communications faster than ever, for reasons like cost and time savings. Just like wireless internet opened the door to Job’s iPhone, the smart business phone is on its way. It is dumb to be stuck at a desk. It is dumb to let your customers get lost in an auto-attendant, or get transferred four times to get to the right person. But business is all about connecting to the customer, so the demand is there.

Perhaps this is not as grandiose a vision as Steve’s. But his death redoubles my commitment to make business phones smart.