The death of the landline
Last week, PwC announced that they are dispensing with landlines for all of their staff. Instead, employees and partners will be asked to make and receive all calls on mobile phones.
However, even the biggest firm of all has had to admit that there are uses for fixed telephones, confirming that there will still be numbers to ring to contact receptionists and make confidential calls.
Readers will inevitably wonder how this might apply to their own lives. If you run a practice, could this be the moment to dispense with landlines in favour of what the Americans call cell phones? Similarly, younger folk generally seem happy to live without the crutch of a home telephone, unless they feel obliged to take on a contract in connection with their internet or TV provision.
PwC’s bold step brings out into the open a number of considerations, not all pointing in the same direction.
The first of these is cost. As a general rule, my mobile provider charges much higher call rates than the company that supplies the landline. In terms of hardware, without wishing to seem like a cheapskate, my pair of home telephones cost less than £50 and should not need replacing for at least 10 years. My mobile cost three times that and, if I were an Apple addict, could have cost 20 times as much. Thanks to the alleged built-in obsolescence it would be unlikely to last more than two to three years.
Presumably, with their massive clout, PwC has got fantastic deals on phones and calls but could smaller firms or individuals manage the same? The trick here is probably to buy unlimited minutes, although unless you (firm or individual) make vast numbers of calls, that could be an expensive luxury.
Mobile phones are indubitably sexy but they are also flimsy. Half the people that I observe appear to have broken screens, while other problems appear with frustrating regularity. If this is your only source of communication while at work, there could well be periods of silence, which will inevitably annoy clients. I frequently end up aborting calls involving mobiles when the connection either breaks or is intolerable. The solution is always to revert to the good old landline, where the signal is almost always completely clear.
It should never be forgotten that accountants are people. This makes them unpredictable and forgetful, meaning that from time to time they will either temporarily or permanently lose their mobiles, once again rendering them inaccessible to clients and colleagues.
It is also worth observing that the majority of calls made in practices like PwC are likely to be internal. It seems strange that, in future, rather than going through the switchboard these will be made mobile to mobile.
There is no question that having a single mobile phone is theoretically simpler and allows for mobility, but these days’ switchboards used by larger practices are equally effective, generally allowing users to log in to their own phone line from any location across the country.
It may sound as if I am playing devil’s advocate against the universal use of mobile phones as a replacement for landlines. That is not the case. However, I can’t help feeling that PwC’s decision might be a little premature and would advise caution to any other practices thinking of following suit in the immediate future.