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New to Call Center Software? Start Here.
- What is Call Center Software?
- Outbound Call Center Features to Consider:
- Essential Call Center Software Features
- What to Look for in a Vendor
- Frequently Asked Questions
What is Call Center Software?
Call center software is a phone system designed to efficiently handle inbound and outbound calls, which is typically used by sales and customer support departments. This software is designed specifically for managing high volumes of calls with tools like auto dialers, interactive voice responders, auto attendants, and call recording.
It also provides tools and features for monitoring and coaching call center agents. Supervisors listen in, whisper to agents, and assist agents with customer issues. This software also stands out because of its omnichannel expandability. Most call center software vendors will help you tackle voice, email, SMS, chat, and video contact with customers. This helps your agents contact customers on the platform that they are most comfortable on.
There’s even CRM integration with popular solutions like Salesforce, Zendesk and Microsoft Dynamics, so that your agents have precise information about the prospects and/or customers they are calling. This includes historical information, notes about customer personalities, and also provides incidental info that can be used to personalize the call.
Outbound Call Center Features to Consider:
With any contact center solution, the type of communication system that is used affects productivity and efficiency. When an agent dials manually, their overall contact for the day decreases when compared to an automatic calling system. This is why most businesses that handle a multitude of outbound calls consider call center dialers. There are four different types of automatic dialers to consider:
Predictive – Predictive dialer software is designed to help a contact center place the highest number of calls in a shorter period of time. Algorithms in the system are used to reduce downtime and remove all of the unproductive calls that prevent an agent from reaching a live respondent. This can include busy signals, voicemails, disconnected phone numbers, and more.
These create a pause when the respondent picks up the phone as it connects the person to an available agent. If there is not an agent available, the customer could hang up before the call is connected to an agent. Predictive dialing works well for companies with sales teams that do cold calling because it narrows down the calls that agents get to possible leads.
Progressive – Progressive systems make calls from a list of individuals that have opted into being called by your company. With these calls, there will always be an agent available to talk to the respondent. Calls are slower, and calls are not made until an agent is free to take the call. With that being said, CRM integrations include caller information on prior connects so that customer connections are more personalized.
Progressive is ideal for research companies, collections, and sales and support teams will benefit from using this type of system. It will also help reduce the abandonment rate when customers are being connected to an agent because there will be little or no wait time.
Preview – Preview systems also draw leads from a predetermined list of respondents that the company had contact with in the past. Before an agent connects with a customer, information about their account, previous phone calls, and prior sales will be accessible so that the agent can personalize the call and make suggestions on which products the customer may enjoy.
Businesses that want to follow up on potential leads or get sales from previous customers will benefit from this model. Research companies may also find this type of system a great way to contact individuals who meet the criteria for the subject that’s being studied.
Power – A power dialing system is often used to increase the productivity of a business. These only call new customers when an agent has finished the prior call and is done with any post-call note-taking. Out of all of the systems, this is perhaps the most simple as they “power” through a list of numbers and assign new calls to available agents.
Essential Call Center Software Features
There are tons of providers out there with a bevy of features that you’ll need to mull over. Some providers offer niche features that will fit specific industries, but which ones are best for a more well-rounded and functional system? Software of this type has come a long way, but it’ll never outgrow these essential features.
ACD: Compared to other routing systems, an automatic call distributor (ACD) is fairly simplistic, but it often works as the core of call center call management. It works with computer telephony integration (CTI), and routes calls to specific agents based on criteria that your company sets. For example, you can set your system to prioritize agents based on skills so that more experienced reps get the calls first.
IVR: The magic of a good call center interactive voice response (IVR) system is that, when done right, your agents will manage fewer calls. These routing systems are intelligent enough that they often provide a fully self-service experience for callers. IVRs are menu systems – we’ve all heard them, “Press 5 if you’d like to pay your bill” or “Press 8 for the accounting department.” These systems are fully automated, and they use either voice or touch tone input to route your customers properly. An effective IVR call flow manages and assists callers before the customer even reaches the agent, so transfer rates are reduced, and calls become more productive.
Intelligent Routing: Intelligent routing, which is also called skills-based routing, is a more nuanced version of the routing-by-skill during call distribution. For example, if you have a customer that has repeated needs, intelligent routing will route the caller to an agent that has worked with them in the past. Intelligent routing works best when combined with CRM software because it stores information about the customer. For example, if your team is working with a legacy customer, the rep can pay special attention that will make him or her feel more appreciated.
Customizable Call Queuing: To reduce call abandonment rates, which are often fueled by long hold times, it’s best to customize your queues so that customers won’t feel inclined to hang up without resolution. Call queues are inevitable when you’re running a successful center, but adding features like hold music, more personalized greetings, and department-specific queues can reduce the discomfort of waiting for a response. Even funneling some of your customers to your voicemail and setting up a callback can help relieve some queue-related stresses.
Dedicated Extensions: Rather than having your routing systems determine where to send your customers, dedicated extensions grant your customers a direct line to get help. Rather than explore menus, the caller simply dials in an extension at any time to reach their needed department/rep. This is a timesaver that most customers will appreciate when they deal with your brand.
Real-Time Analytics: Managers need to track the performance of their centers consistently, and real-time analytics allow them to do this seamlessly. How many calls are receiving first call resolutions? What is the current or average occupancy rate (the amount of time spent on live calls vs time idle or note-taking)? To run a successful center, your team will need to track specific key performance indicators (KPIs).
Coaching Tools: Every minute that an agent spends on calls in a day is a training opportunity. Coaching tools help you listen in on agent calls to identify issues or reward quality customer service. Standard coaching tools include:
- Call Monitor: With this, the supervisor simply listens in without the agent or caller being aware.
- Call Whisper: With whisper, the supervisor sends messages via text or voice to help the agent along. The caller can’t hear or see these interactions.
- Call Barge: This feature is more of an “emergency button” for supervisors that they use to enter a customer interaction. This virtually makes a call a three-way conversation where the supervisor helps with an issue.
- Call Takeover: This feature actively removes the member of your customer service team from the interaction entirely and enables the supervisor to take over the call.
Omnichannel Routing: In the business world, customers are catered in order to make sure that they get the best experience possible throughout the customer’s lifecycle. Doing this will help to keep customers coming back and make them repeat customers that you can rely on making a sale to at least once a month. Because of this, it’s essential to provide several channels for the customers to contact your business. Most customers will use three or more communication channels when contacting a business, so having the channels that your customers prefer becomes crucial. Here are some customer support channels to include in your omnichannel strategy: Social Media, Email, Live Chat, Voice, SMS Messaging, Video Conferencing, Helpdesk Ticketing.
What to Look for in a Vendor
In addition to the essential features that your business will require your call center software to have, there are several other things to look for when you are searching for a provider.
Enhanced View of the Customer: In business, big data is unavoidable, and it’s become increasingly important in call center environments. This is especially true if you want to have a strong experience in customer engagement. For a better view of the customer before the interaction begins, you’ll need software that pulls information about each caller from several different sources. This enhanced 360° view of the customer helps your agents appear more knowledgeable and also may provide historical information that the rep can use to upsell new goods and services. CRM software usually provides all of the information, which includes social media, previous transactions, customer satisfaction, and location information. Here’s what it looks like: (image from original article)
Security: Based on a report by the Ascent, there were 650,572 cases of identity theft in 2019. Call centers are often responsible for managing terabytes of customer information, which is why any software you use should have several protections. Remember, CCaaS software is vulnerable to VoIP security issues, which is why your business needs to find a solution that protects your caller’s information. This includes being HIPAA compliant if you’re dealing with electronic protected health information (ePHI) and encrypting data while it is at-rest and in-transit in all other cases. Often, much of the data that centers deal with is highly regulated, and breaches due to negligence are a sure way to incur expensive fines.
SLA: To commit to a certain amount of uptime, most providers extend a service level agreement (SLA) to their customers to provide a reliable service. If the agreement is not maintained, some providers, like Vonage, will give the customer a 5% discount on their next payment.
Reliability and Uptime: Uptime is one of the most critical metrics to consider when you are looking for a provider. A provider’s uptime is a number that will let you know how much downtime you can expect over the year. In general, most providers have a 99% uptime or more, but there is a big difference in a 99.99% uptime and a 99.999% uptime guarantee. Let’s take a look at how much downtime you will get with each uptime guarantee:
- 99% uptime guarantee gives you 3 days, 15 hours, 39 minutes, and 29 seconds of downtime a year.
- 99.9% uptime guarantee gives you 8 hours, 45 minutes, and 56 seconds of downtime a year.
- 99.99% uptime guarantee gives you 52 minutes and 35 seconds of downtime a year.
- 99.999% uptime guarantee gives you 5 minutes and 15 seconds of downtime a year.
Remember, finding the right solution will take significant due diligence. It’s critical to look at the pros and cons of each provider so that you can determine if they fit your specific business. For example, what size is your center going to be? Larger centers may want an unmetered dialing plan so that per-minute charges don’t get out of control. Conversely, some businesses may have limited or seasonal dialing requirements where a pay-for-what-you-use plan may be more appropriate.
Also, remember that not every provider will meet compliance requirements, so if you’ll be dealing with sensitive information, take the time to review provider policies on encryption, data warehousing, and security features.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is there a difference between contact center and call center software?
Yes, there is a very important difference. When looking at the two center types, it’s important to understand that call centers focus on voice communications and contact centers expand into other means of contact. These means of contact include SMS, MMS, RCS, social, email, video chat, and chat programs like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.
Are software-based contact centers expensive?
No, especially compared to traditional centers. Still, this depends on the type of software you’ll be using. With a CCaaS provider, all of the features are managed at the server level in data centers, and you can add new features easily. These have subscription-based payment structures in most cases, so it’s less of a financial burden.
What is a blended call center?
A blended center has agents that make outbound calls and also work with incoming calls. Outbound call centers will need tools like automatic dialers and outbound interactive voice response systems, and an inbound call center needs software for routing calls. A blended center, as an all-in-one option, requires all of these and more for calls.
Is there call center software that’s designed for remote work?
Yes. Several providers have solutions that bring modern center features to remote devices like smartphones. There are softphone and mobile apps that also work for agents working remotely from desktops and laptops.
How much does call center software cost?
Most providers charge monthly rates per agent. Call and contact center software has multiple types of options that businesses can consider. Some charge a metered rate for businesses that don’t make a lot of calls. Most charge per-month or per-year subscription fees. Virtual and in-house systems usually charge license fees.
We have a useful guide on call center software pricing, and each provider that offers the service typically charges via credit card. For example, a solution like Five9 charges based on the features you want in your center starting at $100/mo per user, and a solution such as Genesys will charge anywhere between $75 and $140/mo per user for their service. Typically, these prices are based on your user count as well as your commitment level, which can range from month-to-month or multi-year contractual agreements. Learn more about Five9 vs Genesys.
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