Call Center Software Best Practices

Looking for the right call center software for your business? Be sure to look for these top 10 call center software best practices in the solution you choose.

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Call Center Software Best Practices

For many businesses, the call center is where important communication takes place with their customers. Although businesses may communicate with their customers by email or other methods, the call center is often where the most direct, and personal, customer interactions take place.

If you’re looking to upgrade your call center or build a new one, it can be overwhelming to see the plethora of options available. This article will investigate call center software best practices to help you decide the right solution for your business.

But first, you need to be clear about the type of call center you’re running.

What Does Your Call Center Do?

Not all call centers are created equal. Some only receive inbound calls, like customer requests for tech support or product orders. While other call centers focus solely on outbound communication, like sales or marketing calls. Others support both types of communication. It all depends on the nature of the business.

Call centers have changed dramatically in recent years, since the advent of the application programming interface, or API. They were traditionally built on legacy phone systems, which are notorious for creating a dreadful customer experience. Almost everyone has had an experience of being on perpetual hold with a business, or transferred through a complex phone tree, only to be disconnected at the end.

Today, call centers don’t just make or receive phone calls. Call center agents may interact with customers via SMS, web chat, or video. They might even switch between channels, letting customers choose their preference. Because of this, a modern call center is often referred to as a “contact center” (or “contact centre” in the UK). Before you decide which call center software best meets your business use case, you need to think about how you want to communicate with your customers.

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Choosing Your Call Center Infrastructure: From Legacy to Limitless

Businesses who still depend on legacy systems to power their call centers often struggle with their systems’ limitations to meet today’s customer expectations. If this describes your business, perhaps you can relate. You may not be able to add new channels, such as SMS or Facebook Messenger, or easily update your phone menu, for example. This is a frustrating position to be in. It’s hard to help customers when your technology works against you.

However, with the rise of APIs, call centers are evolving. Replacing a legacy premise system with call center software is now easier and faster to accomplish than ever. With modern call center software, your business can add new features and channels that progressively upgrade your customer experience.

But with all of the call center software options available, how do you choose the best one for your business? Keep in mind, the software you choose should empower your call center agents to provide the best customer experience they can, while being as efficient as possible. That may involve providing quick resolution to customer support questions or closing sales deals in record time. So, you’ll want your call center software to give your agents the right tools they need to succeed.

Top 10 Call Center Software Best Practices

Be sure to look for the following 10 call center software best practices in the solution you pick.

1. Update your IVR on demand.

With legacy call center systems, even minor changes to an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) often require updates from professional services and weeks of effort. The provider’s roadmap dictates what you can do and when, while optimizing metrics and customer satisfaction take a backseat.

But with call center software APIs, you can build or update an IVR with a few lines of code. That means you can iterate, A/B test, and continually adapt your IVR to your customers’ changing needs. When you’re choosing call center software, you’ll want to be sure you have full control to customize your phone tree and routing logic at your pace. Be sure it allows you to create greetings, build menus, and easily customize your IVR using the web languages you already know.

Look for features that improve customer experience such as speech recognition, an on-screen menu displayed on the customer’s smartphone (visual IVR), multilingual capabilities, omnichannel support, and integration with intelligent routing.

2. Include SMS support.

Nine out of ten users worldwide want to use text messaging to talk to businesses. With the right call center software, you don’t need to rip and replace your system in order to add next generation functionality like SMS/MMS. Call center software APIs that work like building blocks let you add the features you want to your existing call center infrastructure. And these days, SMS support is the feature customers request most often.

It’s no surprise that consumers find SMS to be a convenient, familiar, and immediate channel of communication, since they’re already texting with friends and family. We exchange more than 50 billion messages a day on the planet, and that number is rising quickly. That’s why more and more businesses are choosing to communicate with messaging. When you let customers text agents directly and get answers quickly using the channel they prefer, you create a real time customer experience that skyrockets satisfaction.

3. Provide a web interface.

Whether you’re opening a new call center without a PBX (private branch exchange) telephone system, enabling home workers, or expanding to a global footprint, WebRTC enables your agents to make or receive calls directly from a browser or CRM. This technology is known as computer telephony integration (CTI), and it’s the way modern call centers are structured: no phones or other hardware required. When your call center software uses WebRTC, you can gradually add additional workers in new regions without capital expense or local hardware deployment. That means zero installs or telephone contracts when you connect new agents to the phone system; just plug them right in.

Since WebRTC communications can be accessed directly from the cloud, this ensures your workforce can access communication capabilities even in the event of a PBX hardware or network outage. Virtual agents can access the platform from anywhere, giving your workforce greater flexibility. Another important advantage of a web interface is that call center agents can see context to help them provide a better experience for your customers. Agents have access to customer history, the reason for the call, and call controls all within the same browser interface.

4. Connect with click-to-call.

Click-to-call, sometimes called click-to-talk or click-to-dial, is a way to let people connect with your company by phone while they’re browsing a website or app. It works by providing a button, image, or text where the user can reach you directly, or enter a phone number and request an immediate call back. Click-to-call can make waiting on hold a thing of the past for your customers, which can make a big difference in closing more sales or resolving support tickets more quickly. It’s definitely a best practice you’ll want to include in your call center software.

While the call is being established, contextual information about the customer’s journey—such as their name, the page they’re looking at on the website, and any other relevant accessible information—is passed over to the representative who is handling the call. The customer doesn’t have to actually enter this information, the service knows it automatically. Click-to-call allows users to receive highly personalized customer service, with the easy click of a button.

5. Add web chat and video.

Digital technologies are changing communication styles. Research shows that many people, especially millennials, prefer texting or messaging to talking on the phone. When web-based chat is an option for your customers, they are connected directly from your app or website to an agent in your call center. The agent receives context to help provide better customer service.

Similarly, there are times when face-to-face conversations are better, such as for identity verification, content sharing, or visual problem resolution. Your customers are used to chatting with their friends, family, and coworkers via web and video chat applications—why not give them the same experience with your business? When your call center software allows you to add video chat, you can take your customer interaction to a whole new level.

6. Use attribute-based and omnichannel routing.

When it comes to the amount of time your customers will spend interacting with your call center, most customers and businesses agree: keep it to a minimum. Intelligent routing allows you to connect your customers to right agent faster. In a call center, the decision about who gets the call is often referred to as "Automatic Call Distribution" or ACD. Skills-based routing assesses the needs of each caller and connects them to the most qualified agent available with the skills to address those needs. When your call center software offers intelligent routing as a feature of your IVR, customers don’t only get their needs met quicker, they have an overall better experience.

Your call center software can also use routing intelligence to offer customers additional ways to receive service. Adding support channels such as SMS, chat, and video to existing IVR call flows give your customers more options to have a great experience. Be sure to choose a call center software solution that can route tasks from all communication channels to the most qualified available agents. This also increases agent productivity and ensures agents are working on the right task at the right time, instead of prioritizing less urgent tasks.

7. Provide mobile customer care.

We live in a mobile world; your customers are likely connecting with you from a smartphone. Today’s call center software best practices must include the ability to provide mobile customer care. Look for a solution that enables you to connect with customers by chat, voice, and video within your mobile app, even if you don’t have an app yet. Since your mobile app will the customer’s identity and intent for the interaction, your software should be able to use that information to route the customer to the best agent. Then, your agent can get straight to problem-solving or closing the deal.

With multichannel escalation, you can let customers engage how and when they want. Start a conversation through chat, and seamlessly shift to a call when voice is the most efficient interaction. Add video when your customers need to show details that words can’t describe alone. Mobile customer care might be something you offer as a standalone service or integrated into your call center. With the right call center software, you can control the exact mobile experience you provide and the level of integration you offer with other channels.

8. Use call tracking and other analytics.

One of the most important aspects of a call center is the ability to gather information about your customers. Who is calling and why? Are they responding to a marketing campaign that’s working? Or are they unhappy about a product glitch you didn’t know about? With the right call tracking and analytics, you can keep track of incoming and outgoing calls, measure the value of marketing spend, compile information about call times and agent performance, and much more.

When your call center is powered by legacy ecosystems or complex call center systems, making changes is often time-consuming and complicated. But when your call center software is built on APIs, it’s easy to use analytics to track, measure, and iterate so you can constantly improve the customer experience. You can provide your call center agents with analytics reports from all your channels and data sources that they can act on immediately. Track and analyze leads generated by sales calls to improve your prospects. With call center data, as in life, information is power.

9. Control your own roadmap.

While each of the call center software best practices outlined here so far are important, they all have one thing in common: they’re part of a roadmap that helps your business meet its goals. Many legacy and “off the shelf” call center software options come with a pre-defined roadmap. They offer specific features and a “one size fits all” approach that may not offer the flexibility you need to create the exact customer experience you want.

When your call center software allows you to control your own roadmap, you can make the incremental upgrades you want on your own timeline, without downtime or upfront investment. For example, add new channels of communication—like social media chat apps—as they become relevant for your use case. Incorporate new agent skills into your intelligent routing logic, or integrate app-based support with your existing channels of support. As your business goals change, you can adjust your technology to meet your new goals.

10. Choose a global, cloud-based service.

The last best practice to look for in your call center software is the cloud. You want to be sure your call center will provide a highly reliable, quality connection wherever it’s located in the world. When your call center software includes the global infrastructure for your in-app communication and omnichannel routing, you can get to market without building, deploying, and maintaining these complex services yourself. Choose an option that provides a distributed software layer so you don’t have to negotiate contracts with carriers, set up networking interconnections, or build algorithms for routing, monitoring, and failover.

By moving your communications out of legacy premise systems and into the realm of cloud-based software, you can ensure a local experience from anywhere with access to global infrastructure. Cloud platforms offer greater reliability, global carrier connectivity, and multi-function numbers. Be sure to look for uptime that exceeds the 99.95% SLA.

Choosing the Right Call Center Infrastructure

Now that you know the 10 best practices to look for in your call center software, you may be wondering where you can find them all in one place. There are “off-the-shelf” call center products available from telecom and other vendors, but they don’t offer the flexibility to create the exact call center you need, when you need it. You may be surprised how easy it is to build your call center infrastructure yourself, using programmable APIs.

When you build your call center with communication building blocks, or APIs, you have the freedom to build the exact user experience you want with the specific capabilities you need. You can roll out new ways for your customers to contact you by adding voice, messaging, video, and other new channels. Because building your own call center with APIs is so simple, you can start iterating right away, in the web languages you already use, until you get your product right. And you can keep iterating as frequently as you like, to continually improve.

Building your own call center with communication building blocks, like APIs from Twilio, is as easy as setting up an account and pressing "go" on your prototype. You pay for what you use, and scale up on demand.

Twilio Building Blocks

The Programmable Contact Center Platform

There's also a new option on the market: the programmable contact center platform. Flex, which is built on Twilio APIs, is an omnichannel contact center that’s instantly deployable out of the box and programmable at every layer of the stack. Contact center buyers no longer have to choose between the old dichotomy of build (with legacy on-premise solutions that require high costs and lengthy development cycles) vs buy (SaaS solutions with limited off-the-shelf features and functionality). Now with Twilio Flex, companies can both buy an out-of-the-box contact center and build a completely custom experience to meet their business objectives today or in the future.

Conclusion

Choosing the right call center software for your business is a big decision. It requires thinking not only about your existing needs, but also how you may want to expand in the future. You’ll want to choose software that will grow with you, as your business goals and the expectations of your customers shift and change over time.

Remember, your software should empower your call center agents with configurable features that allow them to provide the best customer experience possible. Building your desired user experience with communications APIs offers more than updated technology; it creates powerful new possibilities for how call center software can drive your business success.

Sign up for a demo of Flex and learn how to run a fully programmable enterprise contact center out of the box, without deciding between build or buy.