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Here's what we'll cover:
Call center software helps businesses engage and interact with customers so that agents are able to address customer issues. The software helps call center agents handle outbound and inbound customer calls efficiently and quickly. This boosts overall customer satisfaction and improves customer relationship with the business.
In this guide, we’ll cover:
Call center software is software that allows businesses to make or receive phone calls to/from customers for the provision of good customer service. It offers certain features, such as call routing, interactive voice responses, automatic call distribution, call scripting, and call monitoring, to help the agents efficiently manage all the calls.
The first step to investing in call center software is to know whether you want an outbound, inbound, or blended call center solution. Here’s a brief definition of each type:
Outbound call center: This software helps agents engage with customers on behalf of a business or client for telemarketing, sales, fundraising, or surveys.
Inbound call center: It helps customers get in touch with a company to resolve their queries about a product or service. Such software can also help a business schedule appointments and dispatch technicians.
Blended: This software allows customer service agents to take care of both inbound and outbound call operations. Agents can fill in for each other while handling all the calls. This functionality boosts a call center’s productivity.
Key questions to ask your vendor before you buy: Do you offer an option to add in services to each software type? Can I scale-up the functionality of my outbound call center software to include inbound calls as well with ease?
The three deployment options that you can choose from, depending on your business requirements, include the following:
On-premise: This software is deployed within the premises of an organization. The infrastructure is maintained by in-house IT staff or a third-party service provider. This deployment option is suitable for centralized teams and organizations that have dedicated IT staff to maintain and update the software and hardware.
Hybrid or hosted: A hybrid or hosted model has characteristics of both on-premise and cloud-based software. The software is installed, hosted, and maintained on a remote server, which is off-site but can be accessed via an internet connection from anywhere and at any time.
This is suitable for organizations that are looking to eliminate physical data centers and reduce their IT costs. They can pay once for the license and then pay the maintenance fees each month without having the burden of maintaining the software infrastructure by themselves.
Cloud-based: This model is hosted online on the cloud and can be accessed via the internet. It’s suitable for businesses that are looking to invest upfront for the deployment and don’t want to maintain dedicated IT staff. It is suitable for remote offices with dispersed teams. The solution is easier to implement and scale than the others.
GetApp’s website focuses on cloud-based software options, which we believe to be the best option for most small businesses. Cloud-based tools typically come with lower up-front costs, faster implementation time, and automatic updates; they also better support remote use, scale more easily, and minimize the need for IT staff and real estate.
Key question to ask your vendor before you buy: What are the additional costs for each kind of deployment model?
The core features of call center software include: Automatic call distribution (ACD): It’s an automatic system that ensures that all incoming calls are routed to appropriate agents, depending on their availability and expertise. ACD also provides data about call volume, calls handled, call duration, and waiting time.
ACD options in Nextiva (Source)
Computer telephony integration (CTI): This feature allows call center agents to see the customer data, purchase history, and information about previous customer interactions. As soon as the customer gets connected to the agent, the information appears on the agent’s desktop to help them serve the customer better.
CTI in Bright Pattern (Source)
Monitor/whisper/barge: This feature allows call center managers to monitor calls without the agent knowing that they’re being monitored. The managers can barge into calls to speak to the agent and the caller. They can also whisper to the agents to coach them during calls without the customer’s knowledge.
The call whispering function in Aircall (Source) Reporting: This feature provides reports about abandonment rate, agent wrap time, customer interaction, etc., in comprehensive visual formats. Managers can take actions based on the insights derived from the consolidated data.
Reporting feature in Avoxi (Source)
Call recording: Call recording enables users to record inbound and outbound calls. The recordings can be searched through and heard later for quality coaching.
Intelligent call queues: This functionality routes calls as per categories, which are based on predefined business rules, wait time, and customer value. This allows agents to prioritize calls that need to be answered first based on their value, urgency, etc. They can also transfer the caller to another queue and define wait limits for the queues.
Interactive voice responses (IVR): It’s an automated telephony system that interacts with callers before routing them to the right agent or department, based on the required expertise. The feature aims to ease the situation for callers. The IVR greets them first and prompts them to choose from a series of options to talk to a team member, pay bills, check their account balance, and more.
Call scripting: This functionality helps agents follow a dialogue template for easy reference. They can fill their responses directly into the customer relationship management tool (CRM) to design workflows.
Call scripting feature in VICIdial (Source)
Progressive dialing: This feature automatically connects agents to calls when an agent becomes available. The dialer runs through the calling lists and dials at the pace at which the calls can be handled to ensure higher contact rates and lower abandoned call rates.
Progressive dialing feature in Five9 (Source)
Predictive dialing: This function allows the dialer to call multiple people at one time. As soon as a customer answers, he or she is connected to an agent. Based on the average time taken by an agent to finish the call, the dialer predicts the agent’s available time. This minimizes the time an agent spends in between calls.
Predictive dialer function in dialerAI (Source)
Key question to ask your vendor before you buy: What are the core features that you offer in different subscription plans?
Some of the important software integrations to enhance the functionality of your call center solution are listed below.
Customer relationship management: Your call center software should integrate with your CRM solution. This would help you centralize all the data, including history of communication, agent notes on every interaction, customer issues, and the offers emailed to customers.
Workforce management: Integrating this software will help you manage your employees’ productivity better. You can plan their schedules with a clear understanding of the call volume (derived from forecasting data).
Ticketing software: A ticketing system collects customer support requests from all the sources and centralizes them with the customer data about contact history. Integrating a ticketing software with a call center system allows your agents to respond to all the queries efficiently.
Key question to ask your vendor before you buy: What are the other software integrations you offer that are beneficial for small businesses?
In addition to the core features that we discussed above, it’s important for you to know about the advanced call center software configuration. Here are some of the advanced features that your small business may need in the future, or now, based on your needs:
Agent to agent calling: This feature allows agents to call anyone on their team with just one click. They can check their team members’ status before calling to ensure that the receiver is available to take the call. This increases efficiency as agents are able to provide better customer service by collaborating with each other, which also boosts overall team productivity.
Email, chat, and text: This functionality empowers agents to answer customer queries and manage requests across platforms, such as email, chat, or mobile apps, from a centralized interface.
Intelligent reconnect: This feature automatically reconnects the customer back to the agent in case the call gets dropped or disconnected. If the agent is unavailable the second time, the caller is placed in front of the call queue to minimize the waiting time.
Social listening: This feature lets your agents listen to customer issues online using predefined keywords and hashtags on social media. Social media posts are immediately routed to agents and prioritized so that they can provide immediate resolution to customers. The feature also allows you to identify the problem areas based on the online feedback and then use it for improvement.
Disposition codes: This functionality allows users to choose a disposition code and add a note regarding the content of the call, indicating the status of the call such as transferred to IT, not interested, and issue resolved. The notes are added into the caller’s individual activity and the recent calls list for everyone to see.
Key question to ask your vendor before you buy: What are the other advanced software configurations you offer that are beneficial for small businesses?
AI, machine learning to enhance agent productivity: Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning can make your agents more efficient with a better understanding of the customer and their needs.
The benefits of these technologies are twofold. On one hand, AI offers customer self-service options to provide the right information at the right time. On the other hand, it predicts customer behavior on the phone and provides recommendations to agents on how to deliver messages so that issues are quickly resolved.
Fifty-three percent of small and midsize businesses are already using, or plan to use, AI technology by 2020-2021. Keeping this in mind, small businesses should start utilizing AI data insights and combine it with personal customer support from agents. It will give them the much-needed competitive edge in the market.
Key questions to ask your vendor before you buy: How are you planning to further integrate AI and machine learning into your software?
We referenced the following documents while creating this guide:
Getapp call center software catalogue (Date accessed: 2/18/2019)
5 Tech Trends for Small Business, Capterra (Date accessed: 2/18/2019)