What is call center software?
Call center software are tools designed to help you handle your business’ inbound and outbound telephony. In plain English, that means making it easier to send and receive calls.
Your teams can use it to make calls, set reminders for call-backs, automatically call multiple numbers, track leads and manage metrics for the data they pull from calls.
Why do we need call center software?
It’s easy to think that in today’s digital world, everything can be solved with emails, text messages and webforms. While that might be true some of the time, many customers still prefer an old-fashioned phone call for sorting out more thorny issues.
Talking to another human being gives a sense of immediacy and familiarity that’s perfect for customer support, making call centers agents your front-line agents in the war to build a positive corporate image.
As a direct result of this, however, phone support and phone marketing is time-consuming, expensive and hard to measure an effective return-on-investment for.
Delivering a consistently excellent customer support experience used to mean staffing your centers with massive amounts of staff to ensure no one customer was left hanging; thankfully, our modern digital world has a better solution.
Call center software supports your service team by routing calls to the right agents, providing your agents with the context they need for each lead and giving managers the data-driven insights they need to execute mature, omni-channel strategies.
What kinds of companies should use call center software?
Compared to other tools, call center software has relatively little overhead when it comes to installation and setup. This means that it’s usually still a good return on investment to use it when you have only a small number of employees. And, of course, the more employees you have, the more the efficiency of the software will shine.
Even if you only take a few calls a day, the management and organisational features of call center software make it useful for planning calling campaigns and gathering insights for future decision-making. This means that even with a start-up that’s just started trading, using call center software can lead to substantial improvements in efficiency.
Efficiency, as we all know, is the easiest way to boost any company’s profits: time is money.
What kinds of call center software are there?
There are two main kinds of call center software. The core difference is where the software ‘lives’ – your company’s computers, or the computers of the company who develop it.
With an on-premise system, you have to install the call center software on your own local machines, usually after buying license keys.
On-premise systems give you a greater degree of control over the software, but also added responsibility. You have to figure out how to get it to work with your existing systems, which might be outdated or incompatible, plus updating the call center software to keep it stable.
Another issue to consider is that if you manage multiple call centers, you’ll have to co-ordinate the installation of the software for each of them. Different centers using different versions of the software might lead to errors when trying to pass calls between departments and other issues.
If you’ve not heard of cloud-based software, first of all, welcome to the 21st century. It’s an exciting place.
Rather than hosting software on your own machines, your team simply connects over the internet to programs hosted on the servers of the company who developed it. This means that you don’t really have control over what they do with it, and if your internet connection dies, so does your call center.
But on the other hand, it means you don’t have to worry about installing, maintaining or upgrading the software. It’s all covered in your subscription fee. Even better, you can have as many computers as you once all connect to the software’s web portal, meaning that scalability simply isn’t an issue.
You can even use cloud-based software to promote remote working. Your teams can use the software just as well from Majorca or New York as they can from your offices.
How long does call center software take to set up?
It depends mostly on whether it’s on-premise or cloud-based.
On-premise software needs to be installed manually on the computer of each agent you want using it. Even with mass-installation tools, this can take a long time, and it’s something you have to repeat when the software needs updating.
With cloud-based systems, there is no installation. The only set-up required is opening accounts for your team members and giving them authorisation to access the app online. Once you do that, all they have to do is open their web browser and head to the right page.
Does call center software have any hardware requirements?
No. There are zero telephony requirements to using call center software, meaning things like telephone cables, extension leads or desk phones just aren’t necessary.
Well… that might be a white lie. You will need hardware in the form of computers, like laptops or tablets, plus a stable internet connection. This is because call center software typically uses VoIP to send calls over the internet, rather than through physical cables.
It’s very rare, however, for a company to not already have access to these resources.
Do agents need training for call center software?
The creators of call center software put a lot of time and effort in making their product easy to use – it’s in their best interest, after all.
As such, most software will require only minimal training, if any at all. The controls are typically well-labelled and the core functions of the app displayed in a logical manner.
The main issue that can arise is learning how to integrate the tool into your team’s existing workflow, or how to adapt that workflow if necessary. These programs do, however, almost always come with extensive documentation and support centers that make the onboarding process much less stressful than you might otherwise assume.
How do you buy call center software?
Most call center software works off the software-as-a-service (SaaS) model, which means that you pay a monthly subscription fee to continue using the app.
This is most common with cloud-based software: on-site programs might instead work with one-off payments and license keys.
What is the difference between a call center and a contact center?
As digital means of communication become more and more prevalent, especially among younger consumers, the idea of a customer-facing communications center that only deals with phone calls is starting to seem hopelessly antiquated.
That’s the core difference between call centers and contact centers: in addition to handling inbound and outbound phone calls, contact centers also manage customer communications through mediums such as text messages, live chats, social media and email.
Contact centers are part of a broader push from many businesses to move to a more centralised operating model, especially when it comes to customer-facing communication.
Rather than having separate teams to manage separate channels, which can easily lead to inconsistent messaging or branding, having agents that multitask and manage all of your targeted channels leads to much more consistent user stories and customer journeys.
Of course, there are potential downsides to using contact centers over call centers. By branching out and becoming more general, they lose their focus on taking phone calls, which can be an issue if you regularly receive a high volume of them.
Deciding whether to establish a contact center or a call center for your business – or both! – depends heavily on your specific circumstances. What channels do your customers prefer, and what age ranges do they skew towards? Younger generations prefer digital platforms, whereas telephones are increasingly used mostly by older customers.
What’s the difference between inbound and outbound call center software?
Call centers run on thin margins and can’t afford to be a jack-of-all-trades. In other words, you need to specialise based on the kind of calls you’re dealing with, and that means your software has to be specialised as well.
The key thing you have to decide is whether or not the center will be inbound-based or outbound-based. Analyse how many minutes are spent dealing with inbound calls versus outbound ones: if the ratio is more than 70:30 in favour of inbound calls, you’ll want specialised, heavy-duty inbound software.
Inbound call center software comes with extensive routing capabilities designed to handle as many incoming call scenarios as possible. This kind of setup is most common among SaaS, B2B and eCommerce companies, as they usually have to deal with more orders and customer queries than outbound requests.
If that 70:30 ratio swings the other way, you’ll unsurprisingly be in the market for outbound call center software.
Companies in the banking, financial and insurance sections typically need this, as they spend more time following up on leads than fielding queries. Indeed, the number of leads available at any one time usually outpaces the number of free agents, meaning your call center software has to be able to call a large number of customers at once.
What call center software should you buy?
Finding the right call center software for your team depends on your goals and what you need to accomplish them. If you’re solely concerned with outbound calls, for instance, features that only help with inbound ones are of no use to you whatsoever.
To make the best possible choice, then, you have to understand the kind of features that call center software solutions typically offer, and how they map onto the common goals of a calling campaign.
It’s quite rare for a company to offer a phone line as the only way for customers to contact them. Instead, there’s usually multiple other communication channels they can use, such as emails, social media, live chats or even physical letters. (Some people still use them!)
You don’t want one experience to be markedly better than the others, and you also don’t want the transition from one channel to another to be stressful for the customer. Imagine a scenario where they talk with an agent on live chat, who then recommends they go into a phone call for a more in-depth discussion – only to never call the customer due to an error in switching channels.
Focus on finding call center software that makes it easier to establish and maintain an omnichannel customer service pipeline. This can comprise multiple smaller features, like incoming calls being logged to a help desk where agents can compose follow-up messages via email, or letting everyone on a team see the context of past interactions with a customer, regardless of where it took place.
An omnichannel approach to customer service is a lot more effort to set up, but it’s worth it. It makes it far easier to deliver consistent customer journeys which lead to improved satisfaction down the line.
When someone calls your team, they don’t know – or care! – who they get connected to, just so long as it’s the right person. How do you ensure that happens, and that it happens quickly?
How routing works often differs wildly between each call center software package, and they’re usually hard to update on the fly. Make a point of reading the documentation for whichever package you’re interested in to make sure there’s no nasty surprises, and consider going so far as to set up a workflow during its trial period to make sure customers get directed to the right agents at the right time.
This isn’t a feature in the strictest sense, but it’s important to know about for obvious reasons.
While most call center software packages work off of a subscription model, meaning you’re charged a flat fee every month, you might also be charged more than you expect for each minute your agents spend on the phone.
This goes to show that it’s always worth reading the fine print. While companies won’t try to hide these charges from you, it’s important to make sure there aren’t any extra prices you’ve missed waiting for you down the line. It could easily be the difference between your choice in software solution returning a positive or negative return on investment.