Mention “call center” and you think of these huge companies with thousands of employees all over the globe sitting in cubicles sporting headsets and fielding every type of customer service call imaginable. Call centers are perceived to be parts of very large enterprises. However, call centers are actually implemented in smaller companies and for a variety of reasons, not just to take customer service calls, but for business goals such as marketing campaigns.
Tim Basa, executive vice president of sales and marketing, BullsEye Telecom, also noted that companies may want to look into a call center solution for compliance protection. “Call recording helps you ensure that agents are saying the right things and complying with federal and state regulations. Protect against fees and penalties when you document every call,” Basa said.
There are some more general reasons to begin looking into a call center solution that apply across-the-board for all businesses.
You May Need a Call Center Solution If…
A call center, simply put, is an office where a large volume of calls are handled. A large volume of calls is not exclusive to a large company. There are scenarios in which a call center solution can benefit smaller organizations. Geoff Mina, CEO & Founder, Connect First, offered some great tips as to when it may be time to consider a call center solution for your business, no matter its size:
Your Customer Service Reps Can’t Manage Call Volume
If customer calls are leading to long customer wait times or unanswered calls, a call center solution may be the answer. “Not resolving customer issues, or leaving purchase-ready customers hanging on the line, can create frustration and alienate customers, leading to erosion of revenue, “ said Mina.
You’re Still Transferring Callers to Find the Right Resource or Dept
Mina advised, “If an agent isn’t equipped to handle a question, or if a customer proves them wrong, the company is liable to lose the customer.” Many call center solutions include Interactive Voice Response (IVR) which can help ensure that calls are routed to the right employee.
You Have Access to Data But No Way to Use it
Many telephony and VoIP systems, even ones tailored to the SMB, can generate tons of raw data and call analytics. But a business may not have a way to translate that data into actionable strategies for success. Mina said, “Contact center platforms are the best way to capture, analyze and leverage customer data that can be used to improve the customer relationship and the business’s productivity.”
A representative at ResponseTap, a call-based marketing automation vendor, offered further advice for SMBs on when it may be time to look into implementing call center capability as part of the telephony platform. “SMBs should look into [a call center] solution if they have multiple customer touch points and want to be to be able to track the full online and offline customer journey; or if they have a strong online presence but are experiencing many leads coming through via the phone.”
Brenda Norwwod, who runs a call center, said the time to look for a call center solution at her company was, “When we figured out that digital marketing wasn’t enough. We knew then that we had neglected direct marketing and that is when we decided to look for a call center solution for our lead generation efforts. We knew we had to start cold calling. We were interested in platforms that offered integration with Salesforce and also had their own analytics.”
Norwwod’s advice is wise: Make sure the call center solution you go with integrates with other line-of-business software already deployed or slated to be implemented. For example, Vocalcom is a cloud-based call center services that integrates with Microsoft Dynamics and other CRM systems.
Even before considering integration options though, businesses must decide which call center solution is the right fit.
The Different Flavors of Call Center Software
Implementing a call center software solution can be achieved in a few ways. There is the basic telephone answering service. This is a real old school sort of solution used a lot in the past by medical offices and struggling actors waiting for callbacks to auditions. Many of these services offer 24/7 call answering if your business lines must always be monitored. Typically, answering services charge on a usage basis like a telephone company. This is an option for a very small business, however, basic answering services usually don’t offer the reporting, analytics and IVR features as actual call center software.
There are call center solutions that are offered as add-ons by business VoIP providers. 8×8, Inc., AireSpring, RingCentral and other hosted VoIP providers offer their customers their own cloud contact center services that tie in with their hosted VoIP service.
There are vendors who focus primarily on offering stand-alone cloud services that can integrate with existing phone services. 3CLogic, is one example.
Contact center software is increasingly offered as a cloud service, but larger organizations may want to install the software on premises. Daniel Lonstein, COO, AireSpring said that larger companies generally look for robust call center features including the ability to record and monitor the call center activity and they often want “an omni-channel solution” that integrates the call center service with web chat, email and social media.
Lonstein said that a cloud contact center solution may be better for smaller organizations. He said that the size of the business depends on the number of call center agents—the actual amount of people answering phones—and that smaller typically translates into less than 25 agents. He also mentioned that cloud-based call center services removes the cost prohibitions that many smaller businesses faced before the existence of these call center cloud offerings.
Harold Mann runs Mann Consulting, a San Francisco-based IT consulting company. He cautions that smaller businesses can often have difficulty finding a good fit for a call center solution.
“There tends to be a big void in the market between the Grasshopper-like basic routing/forwarding services and the high-end ‘run your entire call center cubicle farm on this’ platforms.” His company offers Digium’s Swithvox as a “stepping stone” solution when SMBs outgrow their hosted VOIP solutions beyond just conference rooms and general dialing capability and need integration with other software such as Desk.com. Salesforce and Zendesk.
Key Factors to Weigh When Choosing Call Center Software
If your company has also outgrown the traditional call routing services provided by telephony systems and you’re ready to shop for a call center solution, take into account the size of your business and the number of agents available to take calls. A business can actually rent cloud call contact software without having to add to its infrastructure.
Also, it’s crucial to ensure that the solution you choose has the quality, scalability and agility aligned with your business’s needs. Of course, the most important factor is to select the most affordable solution that best creates an exceptional customer experience.