Throughout the course of a given day, call centers agents make use of a seemingly endless number of solutions, tools and applications in an effort to better address the needs of the customers they work with. Generally speaking, a trend has emerged over the last few years that has seen the functionalities of these applications combined into single, seamless platforms.
Yet there still exists (and there will likely always exist) a sizable user base that is searching for alternatives to traditional call center software, specifically independent applications to empower their efforts. They’re looking for solutions that support the way they like to work, rather than being forced to change the way they work to make up for certain absences in the technology they have in front of them.
For those people in particular, open source applications have emerged as one of the single best ways to enable businesses and their IT departments to not only customize and modify their tools and functions, but to transform and integrate them into the systems they’re already using to bring everything together.
Why Use Open Source Solutions?
As stated, this need for easily customized-yet-powerful technology is an interesting case for call centers in particular, who naturally utilize and require a vast number of applications throughout the course of any given day. Certain solutions are dedicated to improving and empowering productivity, while others are aimed at efficiency and the idea that employees should always be taking advantage of every opportunity to “do more with less.”
Over the last few years, a strong alternative to this has emerged in the call center space in the form of open source software. At its core, the term means exactly what it sounds like: software where the original source code of those applications is made freely available so that they can be distributed and modified in any way that the users see fit.
Open source options are ones that can naturally be modified, used and enhanced as needed. For example, we took a look at a number of open source PBX alternatives, all of which are capable of intense customization and flexibility. Because of this, organizations are able to unlock a host of unique benefits, essentially all at the same time:
- Companies can save a tremendous amount of short-term costs on their initial investment by way of cheaper or (in many cases) free software licenses.
- Open source also enables IT teams to build and fully customize the solution in question.
- But more than anything, open source provides a much-needed peace-of-mind for security conscious businesses everywhere.
It’s the difference between walking into a big box electronics retailer and buying a new desktop computer versus buying all of the parts you need to build one of your own.
The former is (arguably) more convenient in the short-term, but is far more expensive in the long-run – particularly when you consider that you’re talking about a machine that was designed to appeal to the widest possible audience and, as a result, was never intended to support the unique way you need to work.
The latter situation gives you everything you need to create something that was designed for you and you alone.
How Does Open Source Benefit My Call Center?
Regardless of their use, all of these applications bring with them the most important advantage of all: improved quality of service across the board.
While many of these tools can be sourced directly through dedicated providers, the problem is that this can often add extra (and recurring) cost that bring unnecessary stress to already-thin profit margins.
Many times, providers will charge for their solutions not only on monthly basis, but additionally charge by the number of users, or sometimes even file space for solutions like call recording. This can make it difficult for organizations to budget and scale their technology as their call center does.
The Best Open Source Call Center Platforms
With regards to the best open source call center platforms for any type of organization, there are a few key options available for you to choose from depending on your needs.
Each brings with it its own unique advantages over the rest and to make the best decision possible, you need to start with your business and work your way to a solution instead of starting with the solution and trying to build a bridge to your business.
That is to say, only by understanding your unique needs as they exist will you be able to properly identify the option that is right for you. There is truly no “one size fits all” solution to open source platforms by their nature.
Regardless of which one you choose, each of the following solutions enable organizations to finally have complete control over their entire call center platform and the functionality that this technology brings with it.
|Call Back in Queue||Yes||No||No|
|Built-in CRM Integration||Yes||No||Yes|
Elastix is a fully integrated call center solution designed to help you and your agents maximize productivity wherever possible. Elastix can of course effortlessly integrate with any number of the popular CRM solutions that you’re likely already using.
The platform also gives you better insight into interactions by way of a collaborative-based wall board, call reporting, statistics and more. Truly, it’s designed to let you monitor your call center activity in real-time giving you ever chance to enhance customer service you need.
Avoxi’s Smart Queue Virtual Call Center solution uses open source technology and provides features that are comparable and functionality that is virtually identical to all of the major proprietary platforms – all at just a fraction of the cost.
The major benefit here is that because Smart Queue is a virtual solution, you don’t have to worry about upgrades and maintenance – all of that is handled by the Avoxi team. Likewise, Smart Queue is built to be fully scalable with your call center, allowing you to easily add new users and increase the productivity of your existing ones at a moment’s notice.
GOautodial is another fully featured and very user friendly call center solution that includes a number of advanced features in one effortless package and can be combined with other solutions. JustGoCloud, for example, is an on-demand call center platform that comes with a predictive dialer, inbound ACD and IVR and much more.
JustGoVoIP allows you to take your productivity to the next level, offering VoIP services designed for environments with high traffic volume. Even Go Support makes sure that someone is always available to get you the help you need when you need it the most.
The Best Open Source Dialers
An auto dialer, like a power, predictive or preview dialer, is a powerful solution that automatically dials telephone numbers and, because of that, is invaluable to call centers in particular. Instead of dialing one number, waiting to see if someone picks up the phone and moving onto the next, you can automate this functionality to modern technology.
Once the call has been answered, the auto dialer automatically connects that person with an agent – thus allowing those agents to contact far more people in a day than they would have been otherwise able to.
Open source dialers enable organizations to once again have complete and total control over their dialing campaigns by way of fully customized, organic solutions built with the needs of their business (and their users) in mind.
|Agent Auto Dialer||No||Yes||Yes|
|Auto SMS Blast||Yes||Yes||No|
|Auto Email Blast||Yes||No||No|
|Auto Fax Blast||Yes||No||No|
|Live Lead Generation||No||Yes||Yes|
ICTDialer is an open source, unified auto dialer that can be scaled in a way that allows it to blast literally hundreds of simultaneous calls using any technology you need – from VoIP to FoIP to PSTN and beyond.
Faxes, emails and even voice recordings can be sent to not only groups of contacts depending on what you’re trying to accomplish, but also individual people as well. But the most important thing of all is that all of your campaigns can be utilized for sending these types of messages in bulk, allowing you to reach the maximum number of people in the most effortless way possible.
Newfies-Dialer is an auto dialer and voice broadcasting software rolled into a single solution, one that is intended to scale on a distributed architecture that grows and evolves as your call center does the same. The voice broadcast functionality, for example, allows you to send voice messages and reminders to hundreds, thousands or even millions of contacts at an exceptionally high rate of speed.
Voicemail detection allows you to automatically leave a message after the tone, allowing your agents to free up their valuable time to focus on bigger and better things. But the best part of all is that it also allows you to build interactive voice apps using recordings or TTS for a decidedly more personal touch to your efforts.
VICIdial is an auto dialer that is highly recommended and, because of its robust array of features and sophisticated graphical user interface, is currently employed by a wide range of different enterprise organizations in nearly every industry that you can think of. VICIdial is available on its own or as a part of a larger, more complete platform that also happens to include dialing features – whichever you prefer.
VICIdial includes skills-based routing and queue prioritization, which lets the system automatically forward calls and emails directly to the agents who are most likely to handle them successfully. Likewise, everything you need – from calls to inbound email to customer website chat sessions – are all handled together through the same simple, sleek web-based interface.
The Best Open Source Call Recording
Call recording is an essential part of any call center, especially when it comes to the purposes of quality control. If you’re able to refer back to specific instances of both successful and unsuccessful calls, you put yourself in the best position to identify what is working and – more importantly – what can be improved.
This allows you an opportunity to conduct better and more informed training of agents, thus improving work quality moving forward.
But the important thing to understand is that call recording offers more than just a simple audio file that represents a call. You can also capture all relevant call details, too, in the form of comprehensive metadata that tells you when that call came in, who answered it and much more. All of this information is absolutely essential to the larger improvement of your operations, allowing you access to the actionable intelligence you need to truly make the best decision possible in each situation.
In terms of open source call recording, most platforms will usually include standard recording capabilities – but the additional features that are offered are typically built using other existing open source tools. This means that instead of trying to find a single provider that does everything you need, you can essentially skip the middleman and build one of your own.
|Mobile Phone Recording||Yes||No|
OrecX is a fully open source audio/call recorder that is quite popular – in fact, its core code is actually used by a lot of business VoIP providers to offer a deeper array of services to their own clients on a daily basis. One of the major benefits here is that the system is modular and cross-platform, allowing for both the recording and retrieval of audio streams in nearly any manner that you may need. We actually took a close look at OrecX’s solutions and were impressed by the functionality.
All metadata from recordings can be easily stored in almost any mainstream database. The retrieval of captured streams is entirely Web based, meaning that you can gain access to what you’ve recorded from literally any device or location on planet Earth with an active Internet connection – provided a Web browser is present. OrecX also includes a unique passive recording method that allows you to record VoIP RTP sessions just by passively listening to network packets.
VTLogger is a unique solution in that it essentially allows you to build your own call recording, tracking and logging solution from scratch – all by putting the software and hardware resources you need right in the palm of your hand. If you’re unable to find a call recorder that meets your specific needs, terrific – now you have everything you need to effectively and inexpensively build the one you’ve been searching for.
VTLogger is nothing if not versatile, allowing you to record the audio and capture all relevant call details from voice communication across ISDN lines, analogue trunk lines, PBX extensions and more. Using the VTLogger software, you can also build your own multi-channel voice logger or primary rate line call recorder using hardware that is inexpensively available for as little as $50. All this, and you are able to log into your system securely, configure parameters to support both global and local network operations, and set up users and groups with appropriate permissions that can easily change as the need arises.
*Note that depending on the state of the person you’re calling, you may need both party’s permission to record a call. If your request is denied by the other party, any open source call recorder you use should allow you to stop the recording at the press of a button. Both of the aforementioned solutions allow you to do that.
Embracing a Different Approach
There was an era that is now thankfully over wherein, if your call center wanted to make the most out of modern technology to better empower and support its employees, you were a lot more limited in your options than you realized you were.
Typically, your choices were made up of only a handful of major vendors – each offering solutions that were strikingly similar in nature. The problem is that because software development is a for-profit enterprise, these vendors had to make solutions that appealed to the widest possible audience. Oftentimes, this led to situations where programs would become something of a “jack of all trades, master of none.” They did a lot of things, but they didn’t do any of them particularly well.
Likewise, there’s no one size fits all approach to running a call center – every business is a little bit different from the next in small-but-critical ways. However, you wouldn’t know that to look at the software they were using, which often required you to change your workflows to make up for what you were being presented with. To that end, many of these options weren’t “solutions” at all – at least not in the strictest sense of the term.
The Bottom Line
Open source call center solutions and applications, however, have opened up a bold new era in terms of productivity and efficiency alone. Instead of paying for technology by the user or by the file space, companies can save a tremendous amount of money with dramatically cheaper (and, in many cases free) licenses.
Instead of changing the way you work to make up for your technology, you can now change your technology to support the way you like to work. You’ll never be trapped inside someone else’s idea of what a call center should look like ever again.
But more than anything, open source software provides critical peace-of-mind for security conscious businesses out there. You don’t have to depend on someone else to make sure that all vulnerabilities are patched and all loopholes are closed. You can take the initiative yourself and create the right solution for the right task at exactly the right time.
Truly, open source solutions and applications have created a new frontier in terms of what a call center is able to do and how it is able to do it. With advantages like these and options like those outlined above, it should now be clear that the “good old days” weren’t really as “good” as we may have thought they were in the moment.