Business Technology

Don't buy phone systems like you buy a washing machine

3 min read

21 February 2017

In part four of his series, James Passingham explains why the demand for simplicity and control in cloud phone systems and contact centre design is a growing reaction to automation-overload.

In part four of his series, James Passingham explains why the demand for simplicity and control in cloud phone systems and contact centre design is a growing reaction to automation-overload.

Think of your typical washing machine. How many programmes does it offer? Fifteen, twenty maybe? And how many do you use two or three? Over-complex, over featured and, no doubt, over-priced. The machine wants automation, you want simplicity.

Now think of your typical food mixer (stay with me on this!). A dozen different speeds for different ingredients, but you prefer to control the speed manually using the dial. The machine wants automation, you want control.

The need for simplicity and control in a phone system is a recent and critical rebuttal by the consumer to the provider’s desire for the higher productivity and lower costs that come with automation.

For example, away from domestic appliances, the ‘digitisation of business processes’ is at full throttle. Above the noise, though, a human voice can be heard calling for a more balanced approach to automation, where simplicity and control are retained.

Over recent years, we have witnessed this growing trend. Developers of contact centres and phone systems are offering automation of workflows, aggregation of media channels and integration with countless CRM apps. The problem is, technology designed to eliminate human error is also eliminating human input, and ‘personal’ service is disappearing. At a time when every consumer survey shows that voice and personal communication are still favoured over all other channels by a long way, this isn’t good news.

In days gone by, we used to offer customers a highly bespoke design to our phone systems, with lots of lengthy integration work and often complex solutions requiring technical expertise to manage. Today, we still use that technology to build powerful, feature-rich platforms but, the difference is, we make them simple to use. This is key for the customer experience, which goes hand in hand with employee engagement. Systems should be easy to use without sacrificing powerful capabilities. We build-in those intelligent features from the outset, using software that lets the user perform simple integration with key applications, and provide management tools that give control to the user rather than to a third-party specialist.

I have no doubt we have the skills to build the most bespoke and complex phone system, integrated with anything. We could even get it to make your coffee! (see my last article). But complexity is easy, simplicity is difficult, and that’s what our customers recognise.

James Passingham is a 20-year veteran of open source software development and CTO of Foehn, a provider of cloud phone systems built on open-source foundations.