Prepare your call centre for the switch off

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The Public Switched Telephone Network, or PSTN, is the infrastructure that currently provides telephone landline services. And it’s done that for some time — the first connections were built back in 1876, back when Alexander Bell invented the telephone.

However, these old lines have become too costly to maintain and no longer have a place in the modern world. As a result, the service is being phased out, and the entire PSTN network will be switched off by the end of 2025, with no new services being sold on the line from September 2023. So, while businesses will be able to use their PSTN services for a couple more years, they won’t be able to purchase any new ones if they’re to expand or move premises.

Instead, all businesses with a landline connection will need to switch to an internet-based solution, the sooner the better. The chairman of National Business Communications has stated that businesses should be thinking about switching to a digital system now, saying that they anticipate “a hold-up in 2025 due to unprepared businesses”.

What are the alternatives?

The PSTN replacement lies in Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), a technology that allows calls to be made over a digital connection rather than an analogue phoneline. Removing the need for expensive hardware means that VoIP is often much more cost effective. And without physical installation requirements, new digital lines can be added within minutes.

Benefits of internet calling go beyond the walls of the office. With remote working becoming more popular and an increasing expectation for employers to offer hybrid working arrangements, a VoIP phone system means call centre employees can work from anywhere, on a single phone number. VoIP also makes a business more scalable. A call centre can easily add extra lines during busy periods like Christmas when they may enlist the support of extra staff, and reduce them during quieter months.

VoIP software means that calling via devices such as computers or tablets is possible. By enabling access to calls, emails and webchat all through a single machine, agents can quickly pick up enquiries without having to juggle different pieces of hardware or multiple platforms.

Levelling up customer experience

Today’s call centre phone system needs to be more than just a telephone. It must sync up to other areas of the business to offer a complete view of customer journey and experience. And that’s something a cloud-based phone system can provide.

Advanced cloud calling software can be integrated with CRM systems. This means that, when dealing with a customer enquiry, all the information on that customer can be easily accessed, including their most recent correspondence and the outcome.

This can help teams understand each clients’ situation and appreciate the bigger picture behind every piece of correspondence. Enhanced insight means agents can tailor what they offer to each customer, increasing the value of each call.

Integrated call routing functionality is another handy feature of VoIP. Using data from the CRM system, enquiries can be routed straight to the most appropriate agent. With more than 80 per cent of customers preferring to resolve their issue with only one member of staff, getting the call to the right person is half the battle in providing a quality customer experience.

Not only does call routing greatly increase customer satisfaction, it also helps to improve the productivity of the business and team. Agents are given enquiries they have the skills and knowledge to deal with, reducing the time they will need to consult other members of the team. Office staff will also benefit — saving the time they would otherwise have to spend rerouting incoming calls to agents working remotely.

The array of benefits that come with switching to VoIP prove it isn’t just about upgrading telephone lines. Making the switch, without waiting until 2025, is an investment into the current state of your business, and futureproofs it for whatever is to come next.