What is Call Center Software?
Call center software is a phone system that offer dedicated features specifically for high volume contact center operations in either inbound or outbound call center environments, providing agents the necessary tools to efficiently make and receive large call volumes, route callers, assist customers and clients right over the phone in the shortest possible time.
In the first few decades of call center technology, phone banks were connected to a computer, called an Automatic Call Distributor that would direct calls. While that part hasn’t changed, a call center has evolved from rows of telephone operators answering blinking lights into multi-lingual voice recognition cloud-based software connecting customers to agents throughout the world based on matching needs by skills. Virtual call center software makes it easy to open up new paths of communications, while empowering agents and call centers with the tools and technology they need to maintain a high level of efficiency and service.
Today’s call center technology are better known as contact center software and are cloud based, meaning rather than physically connecting to the ACD, the virtual call center software is designed to connect via the Internet to the provider’s data centers. All the hard work like maintaining hardware and updating software is done by the service provider, so that you can focus on your business. All you need is an Internet connection, a call center software provider, and some sort of phone (physical of web based). With modern call center software, contact centers can expand beyond phone based communications, and even allow for email, live web chat, and or video communications, empowering customers to utilize a method of communication of their choice.
Top 5 Benefits of Call Center Software:
1. Integrate Your Call Center Software with Your CRM -
Track your successes and failures and analyze the data to determine the best time to pick up the phone. Add new customers to your database with every call.
2. More Respect for Your Customer's Time -
No one likes waiting on the phone. And having to explain the same problem twice, or connecting with an agent who can't help is even more frustrating. Contact Center Solutions properly direct the call and pass on the information to the next agent.
3. Integration with Social Media -
Today's customers/callers Tweet, Like, and Chat more than making calls. Today's contact center software solutions can monitor and filter social media and detect who needs special attention and why. You can direct your customers on any social media platform right to your agents.
4. It's All About Experience -
Contact center software let a supervisor monitor a call and gives the option of either “whispering” into an agent's ear without the customer hearing, or “barge” into the call and take over. Either way, the customer will get the benefit of the more experienced agent, and have a better call/customer experience.
5. Highly Customizable Distribution Rules -
With call center software, the order that calls are directed can be completely customizable based on tracking and analyzing data on success rate, length of calls, skill sets, and more. You can also make sure customers get the same agent every time.
What to Look for in Call Center Software Providers:
1. Service Reliability & Uptime -
No other metric is as important as reliability. If your call center is down for even a minute, you're losing lots of money every minute. Your contact center software provider of choice should have at least 99.99% reliability. You can even get as much as 99.999% uptime from a company like Five9. Unlike on-premise solutions, hosted contact center software solutions are geographically redundant to improve dependability.
2. Ease of Use, Admin Portal Access, Dashboard Simplicity -
The best features in the world are useless if the agent ends up writing everything down on a piece of scrap paper. Make sure the complex features of your potential contact center software are still easy enough to learn and use.
3. Provides a 360 Degree View of Your Customer -
Your call center solutions need to pull information about a customer from several sources and put that information in front of the agent, so the agent can better serve the customer. Knowing the customer's past actions and present concerns will help predict their future needs.
4. Customer Self Service Features and Automated Tasks -
Let your agent do the important stuff, but the boring tasks can be done for you. A good call center software will make the most of your agent's time.
5. Security Measures -
In today's age of identity theft and leaked emails, you need the proper amount of encryption to keep your data safe. In addition, all financial and medical communications/data are tightly regulated. Be sure that your customers will feel safe giving private information to your agents.
Types of Call Center Software:
- Traditional Hosted Call Center Software:
When most people think about call center software, they are likely thinking about an inclusive call center call handling platform that provides inbound, outbound, and blended calling, as well as a number of features that are useful to call centers such as agent efficiency, agent reporting, analytics, IVR, call recording, voicemail transcription and more. Although most providers will bundle there call center features up with voice service, there are some providers that offer stand-alone cloud services that can integrate with existing phone services. Pros: Get everything you need, right away and ready to go. Convenient. Easier to get quality customer service when you need it so you don’t need to necessarily have an IT staff. Cons: Not very customizable or flexible. Providers will often charge for their solutions on a monthly basis and additionally by the number of users, or sometimes even file space. This can make it difficult for organizations to budget and scale their technology.
- Open Source Call Center Software:
Open Source Call Center Software allows users (usually with the help of their IT department) to purchase all of the elements of call center software, for example, call tracking software, call recording software, and autodialers, separately, and put them together into a completely customized platform. Open source call center software have emerged as a way for call centers to not only really customize and modify their systems and functions, but to integrate them into the systems they’re already using to bring everything together.Purchasing all of the elements separately and putting them together yourself may seem inconvenient and expensive, and it is, but only in the short-term. In the long run open source software is actually far less expensive than traditional call center platforms and more convenient too.While many of these call center tools can be sourced directly through dedicated providers, the problem is that this can often add extra (and recurring) costs. Pros: Only pay for what you need. Customized solution that works with the way your center is already working. Cheaper in the long run. Easy to scale. Cons: Large upfront costs. Initial setup will take time and require a team of experts.
- Call Center Automations:
Call center automations are the latest trend for call centers to save time and increase in efficiency and quality of service. Call center automations handle the repetitive and tedious tasks to free agents up so they can focus more on actual conversations, and best serving their clients.
Automations generally come in 6 types: Automated interactions such as chatbots, forecasting automations, workflow automations, automated agent guidance, sales automations and scheduling automations.
- Contact Center Software:
Contact center software generally includes everything you would get with call center software with additional features to enable different avenues of contact. Contact center software is more of an omni-channel solution that integrates the call center service with web chat, email and social media.
Auto Dialers to Consider for Outbound Call Centers:
Outbound call centers will benefit from an increase in productivity, and high level of efficiency. One of the easiest ways to ensure this high level of productivity and efficiency is through the use of call center software that integrates automatic dialers. Automatic dialers remove the burden of manually dialing out each call from your agents, putting in place automated systems to handle lead and call management. Included in most call center software solutions, it is important to look out for these dialers when comparing providers, as not all come packaged together.
1. Preview Dialers
Preview dialers make calls from a predetermined list of leads for your agents, and will quickly provide an overview of the current caller’s information prior to placing that call. This allows agents to see any previous calls, sales, or account information relevant in order to build context around the call. Preview dialers will sequentially dial out from this list to continue a steady stream of calls.
2. Predictive Dialers
Predictive dialer software are designed to place the maximum number of calls possible in a shortest period of time. Predictive dialers will collect data such as average call length, the number of agents available, and the average number of calls it takes to successfully connect with a contact. These dialers utilize statistical algorithms to determine the necessary information to reduce agent downtime. Time that agents would normally spend weeding unsuccessful calls before they eventually reach a live person is severely reduced.
3. Power Dialers
Power dialers are simple yet still offer a significant boost to productivity. These will only dial out to a new call when an agent has finished their previously call and is available to move on to the next. When placing their calls, power dialers will also consider the priority and skill of all agents, or any alternative departments, available to help determine the efficient match.
4. Progressive Dialers
Progressive dialers combine the functions of both power and preview dialers into one solution. These dialers will automatically call out from a list of leads one after the other to help maintain that constant flow of calls and reduce the downtime in between, while also providing the relevant call information and history to the agent. However, this information is displayed when the call is being dialed.
Important Features to Consider for Inbound Call Centers:
With inbound call centers, improving productivity and efficiency comes through properly routing your incoming calls to the agent best suited for the scenario. Back in the day, calls had to be manually routed to agents, or were simply dropped to the next available agent regardless of skill or priority. Now, with the adoption of contact center software solutions, you can ensure your contact center has an automated system in place to ensure callers will get the right agent, every time. No more blind call shuffles, with features like automated attendants to help guide your callers, or skills based routing to properly redirect the calls everyone will reach the department they need on the first try so your agents do not have to be bouncing callers around.
1. Automatic Call Distributor (ACD)
Commonly utilized by contact centers that handle high volume of inbound calls, Automatic Call Distributor (ACD) systems redirect and route incoming calls to the proper agent, with the specific skill sets or priority to handle the call. These systems will take into account information such as the caller’s menu selection, telephone number or even the time of day. Automatic Call Distributors are one of the most important aspects of maintaining efficiency in an inbound contact center. More on ACD systems here.
2. Interactive Voice Response system (IVR)
To even further boost the benefits gained by an ACD, combining this automatic system with an Interactive Voice Response system ensures your callers will always receive the proper agent, department or assistance that they need. IVR systems asks callers a series of questions to decide where they would like to have their calls routed. These can also allow contact centers to manage their own custom menus, greetings and prompts to direct and inform callers.
3. Skills-based Routing
Again working in conjunction with the previously mentioned features, skills-based routing will help your ACD and IVR systems to properly direct callers to the department or priority level they need, or have specified. Skills-based routing will direct callers to the most appropriate agent for the situation based on the caller’s IVR selection, the agent’s skill set and priority level, as well as the caller’s interaction history. This feature can also take into account other factors like language spoken or geographical location.
4. Customized Call Queues
Even with all these systems in place, all contact centers – high or low volume – can and will experience call queues. But it is important to manage these queues to ensure minimal wait time, and high satisfaction of your callers. Between music on hold, personalized greetings, separate queues for each department, and even the ability to set maximum queue size, contact center software solutions allow centers to help minimize the time spent waiting for callers. Some solutions even allow the option for an agent to callback instead of waiting on hold.
5. Dedicated phone numbers/extensions
Dedicated phone numbers or extensions allow your contact center to break up its call queues, and departments. With dedicated numbers or extensions given out to specific departments, or even high skilled or management positions, your contact center can be better organized and truly take advantage of skills-based routing and ACD systems. With direct lines, your callers can also bypass the IVR if they know exactly who they need to speak to.
6. Agent Voicemails
In combination with dedicated phone numbers, providing voicemail systems for either specific agents, or department wide can help maintain a high level of efficiency, and professionalism. If an agent is unavailable, whether that be due to a current call or other priority, you can provide your callers with an option to leave a voicemail so they can be dialed back when the agent becomes available again. This will also allow customers to contact centers even out of their hours, leaving a message to have their call returned once the contact center opens for operating hours.
7. Real-Time Metrics/Analytics
With a real time, dashboard in place to monitor your agent’s activity and data, managers have the ability to make quick decisions and priority shifts to ensure the highest level of efficiency and productivity, as well as satisfaction level for the inbound callers. Managers can monitor information such as average wait time, average handle time for each call, the longest wait time, and the number of agents available, just to name a few.
8. Historical Reporting
Real time statistics can be helpful for short term changes, but empowering your contact center with historical reports will allow managers to collect long term data to understand how your contact center operates over a large period of time. Monitor campaigns, priorities, tactics and department performance to develop a deep understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of your contact center.