There is an ongoing trend that is negatively impacting organizations. Instead of reaching for a conference phone, team members are leveraging their personal, mobile devices for huddle or meeting room voice conferencing.

It’s easy to understand the trend. After all, it’s rare that we go anywhere, especially work, without our smartphones. And in many cases, it’s our employers’ IT department that gave us that device. At the same time, that IT team is facing shrinking technology budgets and shadow tech purchases, resulted in IT answering the voice communications question with apathy and settling for audio solutions that are simply “good enough.”

Unfortunately, not everyone realizes how this trend is this hurting the organization. Poor audio quality impacts the interaction whether it is with coworkers, strategic partners or customers. No one wants to spend most of the call asking, “Can you repeat that please?” (Conference Call Bingo, anyone?) and missing or mishearing a customer’s concern because of poor audio quality could seriously hamper the relationship.

Additionally, the rise of web conferencing and content sharing solutions are also pushing many users to rely on their laptop speakers and microphone for the audio side of the collaboration.

It is easy to see how a poor investment can impact the bottom line when you start analyzing the numbers.  In this YouTube video, Polycom co-founder Jeff Rodman discusses the productivity costs associated with a lower quality conference phone. Working off the assumption that the average conference call has two people at each of three locations, and lasts one hour. If employee costs $60,000 each year and has three meetings per day, the annual payroll effect of one speaker phone is $135,000.

“HD conference calls are clearer sounding and reduce fatigue leading to greater worker productivity. There is less confusion, people understand more the first time, and they stay involved and focused. They can understand who is talking. Let’s be optimistic and say If confusion and repetition cost only 10 percent and boredom another 10 because they have stopped contributing. Those two 10 costs are invisible, but real,” he says. “This comes to over $25000 of expense annually wasted for every cheap speaker phone ever bought. If the company had decided to get an HD conference phone at maybe a $1000 premium, the time to pay back the extra investment to make all those employees more productive is three days. After that first week, a company that bought quality is pulling ahead $25,000 per year for every speaker phone.”

Recognize Total Cost of Ownership

As with most investments, it is crucial to look beyond the initial cost before making a commitment. Although cheap solutions may seem like they have good enough audio quality, the user experience is often difficult and frustrating. Unfortunately, this poor user experience usually translates to a spike in IT help desk tickets – adding to the total cost of ownership by placing an unnecessary burden on the already taxed IT department.

Fortunately, by paying close attention to the user experience, organizations and the IT teams that support them can often reap rewards. For instance, seeking solutions that behave like the devices employees select themselves (e.g. their smartphones) is a sure way to secure valuable user buy-in. If a phone is over or underwhelming, users will default back to what they already feel comfortable using – making it unlikely that the investment will add to the current environment.

Additionally, by focusing on solutions that integrate into the existing UC environment is crucial for longevity. Pay close attention to the benefits and how they can help enhance the user experience. For instance, when users book a meeting room in Outlook, it should be automatically added to the conference phone’s calendar. And, users should be able to simply press join on the conference phone’s screen when they walk into the room.

Even beyond audio quality there are audio enhancements that further improve the experience, such as Polycom NoiseBlock that is designed to keep that bag of chips (or more often a clacking keyboard) from interrupting a meeting.

Long-term service

Lastly, organizations need a clear understating of included service before making a commitment as well. Lower end units often cut corners with support services in an effort to hit a rock bottom initial cost, but you’ll ultimately pay for it down the line when those cheap devices break. Some of the most important questions to ask when making this purchase decision include:

  • How long is the warranty?
  • What’s included with the warranty?
  • If the phone breaks, how long do I have to wait to get a new one?
  • If the phone is discontinued is my warranty and service immediately discontinued as well?

How the vendor addresses these questions should shine a bright light on what you can expect going forward.


When the business is on the line, settling for voice conferencing technology that is “good enough” has significant, negative implications for collaboration, user frustration, and the strain on IT. So when upgrading or equipping a new space, consider user experience, UC integration, technology enhancements that further enhance communication, and the service that will keep your investment providing returns for years to come.