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It’s back to school season for many around the country. So, there’s no better time to get a refresher on a key term in the customer experience industry: call center software.
In this blog, we’ll dig into some basic details about modern call center software, including functionality, essential features and benefits, setup and deployment, and cost.
Nearly 3 million customer service jobs exist in the US. Call center software isn’t industry specific. Companies across industries, such as healthcare, financial services, eCommerce, retail, technology, business process outsourcing, business services and more, use call center phone systems.
And there are many components that go into making customer service experiences excel for businesses of all sizes. One of these components is having reliable, secure and a best-in-class call center software solution.
While “call center software” is a common term, it’s often unclear what modern call center software entails. Call center software is a program that handles inbound/outbound phone calls, usually relating to a company’s products or services.
Many of these calls can be handled by IVR systems that allow callers to serve themselves by quickly accessing certain information. Other callers require the assistance of a human agent to answer their questions or address their specific needs.
Today, modern call center software responds in real time across channels, orchestrating between customer service agents, your website, social media, live chat and messaging channels.
In most call centers, they first receive a call from a customer. These calls usually are made directly to a center using a toll-free number or by connecting across digital channels via web chat, social messaging or email.
If it’s a customer service issue or another inquiry, the assigned call center agent speaks to the caller and identifies the problem. The agent can either solve the issue or direct the caller to another department.
When certain issues can’t be cleared up in a single call, a call center software agent might have to follow up later. This means a call center will return a call to the customer in the future. Essentially, call center software helps customer service representatives stay organized, escalate issues, archive common resolutions or set reminders.
Any business with a high volume of outgoing or incoming phone calls can use contact center software to simultaneously improve the quality of their phone support service and decrease ongoing operating costs. For example, automating most or all of the processes of call handling will significantly reduce the frequency and impact of human errors.
Call center software is a great way to streamline your customer service. You can also reach customers and prospects with outbound sales calls.
Inbound and outbound call centers
Two main types of call centers are used today: inbound call centers and outbound call centers. And some call centers handle both inbound and outbound responsibilities.
Inbound call center software better aids call center agents from a specific company or organization in answering common questions or concerns. These solutions often are associated with customer service and general inquiries about a certain business.
Outbound call center software better aids groups of agents who make calls on behalf of an organization. This can range from proactive scheduling calls to telemarketing calls to collections calls.
Hosted, cloud-based, and on-premises call centers
A hosted contact center allows an organization to offer a comprehensive call center customer service experience — without having to buy most of the hardware, software and other infrastructure needed to set up an on-premises hosting infrastructure. It’s a remote version of a physical call center.
The main physical server hardware for both inbound and outbound communications between you and your customers is hosted and located elsewhere on a service provider’s dedicated back-end system. This configuration saves your company money, space and time/maintenance costs.
A cloud-based call center is a customer experience solution that integrates multiple touchpoints, including voice, text, social media and the web. Then it makes them accessible via an internet server.
You can access a cloud contact center from virtually anywhere, completely removing the need for increased physical infrastructure while meeting the evolving demands of today’s customer communication preferences.
There are several benefits to cloud call center software, including:
An on-premises call center is a contact center that’s located and runs out of the company’s physical space. There are many benefits to having a dedicated on-premises call center. But for on-premises centers to run smoothly, they require call center software to help manage inquiries and improve the overall customer service experience.
This is a trick question because the term “call center” and “contact center” should be interchangeable.
In the past, a legacy call center solution only had to support customers by phone. But, with today’s customers expecting seamless omnichannel support, a simple phone system won’t cut it. You need to be ready to respond, in real time, on your customers’ channels of choice, including your website, social media channels and apps.
Call center software helps companies create customer and agent experiences that effortlessly blend automation and human resources. Knowing your consumers and engaging with them when it matters on their customer journeys is key to delivering superior customer service experiences. Here are some other core features to look for in a top-tier call center software:
Analytics and reporting: Empower your contact center with easy-to-use analytics tools that provide relevant data. The right call center analytics help you unlock customer interaction insights, which makes it easier to deliver omnichannel customer experiences.
Artificial intelligence (AI) and predictive routing: Make your agents’ jobs easier, boost revenue and increase customer loyalty with AI and predictive routing. Look for features with bots and automation tools so customers can self-serve or are routed to the right agent, when they need to speak with an agent.
Customer journey management: Contact center journey management capabilities help to deliver frictionless experiences, at scale, to every customer. The right solution will harness the power of journey analytics, data management and orchestration to better manage, measure and optimize the end-to-end customer journey.
Digital customer engagement: Contact center software that supports digital channels is a must in today’s experience economy. Don’t make your customers wait on hold to reach you. Give them easy, seamless communication on the channels they prefer. Look for an all-in-one suite of digital capabilities — enhanced with bots and predictive AI — so employees and customers can engage in conversations across chat, email, text and social media channels.
Integrations: Third-party customer experience service tools can help enhance your call center software solution. Be sure your call center software allows for integrations with third-party applications that maximize your investments; integrate existing technologies and the skilled employees who use them.
Workforce engagement management (WEM): Creating great employee experiences has never been more important in a modern call center. Look for software features that drive employee retention and satisfaction with a unified workforce optimization tool. Give your customer service team the tools, support and growth opportunities they need to love what they do.
Voice services: The voice channel isn’t going away anytime soon. With voice and telephony services, you can be there for customers who prefer phone-based support. Look for voice services that work for your business, including interactive voice response (IVR) and automatic call distribution (ACD) features.
How you get your call center software up and running will vary depending on which call center software vendor you choose and what type of call center you’re deploying. For instance, cloud call center software can be deployed in minutes, with zero up-front capital investment.
A good first step is to sign up for a free-trial period or demo with a reputable call center software vendor to familiarize yourself with their setup process. Typically, the vendor will help get your business phone number transferred and then integrate the software with the tools your business already uses. This could include your help desk, CRM system, digital channels and more.
All good things must come to an end — even free trials. So, the bad news is that if you want a quality call center software solution, it won’t be free forever. But the good news, by the end of the free-trial period or demo, you should have a good idea if that call center software meets all your company’s needs.
Different call center software vendors have different pricing structures and ways to charge: subscription-based fees, number of agent seats required, number of calls per month. Some also offer ala carte options or add-on features for additional fees.
No matter which configuration your company uses, be sure the call center vendor you choose is transparent about their pricing model before moving forward. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution. You can often customize features in call center software, which will affect pricing. So, it’s best to speak with a sales representative to get you the best price to meet your specific business needs.
The cost of a single call depends on many factors and can range from as little as $5 per call to $25 per call. Much of that variation depends on your agents’ skill sets and how long it takes to resolve your customers’ problems.
The biggest cost for any call center is payroll for your agents. So, it’s important to equip them with technology that makes them as efficient as possible. Other ways to improve costs in the call center include quality management features that improve agent effectiveness; schedule and forecasting optimization to make the best use of your talent; employee engagement features that let your agents continuously improve their performance. Additionally, many businesses offer digital and self-service options to further improve the bottom line.
Now that you understand the basics of call center software, you can use this guide to creating a contact center RFP to compare features and functionality for various top vendors.
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