Not all phones are created equal.
That sentence seems so obvious that I honestly felt silly writing it. After all, many of us upgrade our cell phones regularly and get into verbal fisticuffs with our friends over which brand is the best (Hint: If your texts are green, I probably won’t even answer them).
However, when it comes to desk phones, most people seem to think that they’re all essentially the same. They all have receivers, buttons and the ability to plug in a headset. They are your desk equivalent of a toaster. No one cares what other bells and whistles a toaster has as long as it toasts your toast.
But just like you also have a microwave, an oven and a stove for different kitchen-needs, a fully-functioning office needs different phones for specific purposes. While you can definitely toast your bread in your oven or on your stove (truth! I just tried just to be sure!), you can use one phone for lots of different purposes, and while they’ll work, they won’t be the most efficient or effective tool for your team to use.
As you already know (I’m sure), receptionists need access to more than just a single phone line to handle a sudden influx of calls. Call center agents need a simple display and interface to help them cut down on training and call management time. Regular office employees like HR and accounting people need… well, not that much, which is why their devices can be kept especially simple.
So then the question becomes: which desk phones are right for which type of employee? With device names that are often just one number different, how do you understand the differences between them with certainty? Luckily for you, dear reader, we have those very answers right here!
We’ve broken down desk phone usage into major categories, recommended a few different options for each, and even provided some helpful charts for those who like to see the specifics for themselves.
Also, we at FluentStream don’t play favorites. Therefore our recommendations come in both Yealink and Polycom flavors. Whatever your taste in communications devices, we’ve got the perfect option for your business.
BEST PHONES FOR RECEPTIONISTS
Your receptionist is the gatekeeper to your office. They’re your field marshal, your enforcer—and much like our own receptionist Drew, they’re probably quite delightful! But still, their job is to hold the line and make sure all incoming traffic gets where it needs to go, especially if that place is straight to voicemail.
To do that job, they need a desk phone that has enough lines to manage high call traffic, and also exceptional voice quality to make sure your business gives a good first impression every time.
The T42S is a dynamic front desk phone that equips receptionists and office managers with everything they need to manage multiple calls at a time. It has a fast, responsive interface and Yealink Optima HD Voice Technology for superb audio quality.
In addition to better overall performance, the T46S has a faster interface and rich, high-resolution color display. Its 16 line keys are ideal for businesses with especially high call volume.
Polycom VVX 401
The VVX 401 is an ideal desk phone for receptionists and office managers who prefer smart visual features to go with their expanded calling capabilities. Plus, Polycom’s Acoustic Clarity technology ensures crystal-clear audio quality on every conversation.
Polycom VVX 501
With expanded capabilities like touchscreen controls, video conferencing, and truly HD audio quality, the VVX 501 is even faster and more intuitive to use for busy front desk personnel.
BEST PHONES FOR YOUR CALL CENTER
As the great Ricky Bobby once said, “If you ain’t first, you’re last.”
While reasonably true for the high-octane world of NASCAR, I’d argue it’s even more applicable to working in a call center. Agents need desk phones that can answer and manage incoming calls as fast as they can.
Having enough lines for when things get busy is important, but so is easy training and exceptional audio quality. These phones strike that perfect balance you’re looking for.
Affordable, but far from basic, the T27G is perfect for busy call centers. It’s 6 line keys mean agents can handle sudden influxes of calls when necessary, and the interface is still ergonomic enough for new employees to quickly pick up and understand.
Polycom VVX 301
Perhaps Polycom’s most powerful entry-level desk phone, the VVX 301 combines higher call volume capabilities with streamlined efficiency. HD call quality, convenient interface, simple setup--what more could you want from your call center phones?
BEST PHONES FOR GENERAL OFFICE STAFF
These are the devices that most closely resemble the idea of a “regular desk phone.” They’re simple to use and don’t come packed with many extra features.
However, those same qualities are what keep them quite affordable while still getting the job done for most administrative staff.
Oh and best of all. You can unplug them and take them whenever you go. Just find an ethernet connection, plug them in and you are good to go.
For employees who will rarely find themselves juggling more than one or two calls at once, the T23G is a fantastic phone that fits almost any budget. With an intuitive user interface and enhanced functionality, it’s simple to use and perfect for communicating around the office.
Polycom VVX 201
Look no further than the VVX 201 when you need a desk phone that’s easy to set up and a cinch to use. It won’t win any awards for screen quality or features, but it’s a solid workhorse device that allows users to make and receive calls with exceptional audio quality.
PRO TIP: If your team is anything like ours, they probably spend just as much time in conference calls as they do at their desks. Check out our Best Conference Phones Guide to see which device is perfect for your business.
BEST PHONES FOR YOUR EXECUTIVES
Likes a silverback gorilla pounding his chest, or a monster truck driver blaring their horn, a grandiose desk phone is the ideal way for your executives to assert their dominance in any business scenario.
I suppose the fact that premium desk phones have the best voice quality and feature sets is also important.
The T48S is a truly top-of-the-line device that delivers unrivaled audio quality along with a touchscreen interface that looks far too good to be found on a humble desk phone. That’s the thing though… with a smartphone-like user experience and seemingly-endless options to increase productivity, the T48S is far from humble.
Polycom VVX 601
The VVX 601 is a premium desk phone that packs so much functionality in one device, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s actually an oddly-shaped computer. It’s video conferencing, Bluetooth integration, and expanded applications are all a snap to learn. When it comes to busy executives, the most important asset they have is time. That’s why everything about the VVX is designed to not only save time, but help users make the most of it.
BEST PHONE FOR YOUR COMMON AREAS
Residing in a breakroom, lobby or kitchen isn’t the most glamorous life a phone can have, but there is a certain amount of dignity in its simplicity.
Of course, you don’t need a particularly advanced device to sit around in areas where employees will rarely need to make calls, so we picked a recommendation that offers solid reliability without breaking the bank.
With 2 line keys and high quality audio (especially for the price), the T21-EP2 has all the basic call functionality you need for your office’s common areas. Plus, if you hire a new employee and don’t have any extra phones around, the T21-EP2 can perform admirably as a desk phone until you have time to order a replacement.
PRO TIP: For teams that are still young, scrappy, and hungry, basic phones can also be used as normal desk phones until you're able to upgrade. Take a look at our Best Phones for Businesses on a Budget recommendations for more info.