How to Choose the Best Call Center Software Solution
Looking for the right contact center software for your business? With all of the options out there, this guide can help you make your decision.Learn More
How to Choose the Best Call Center Software Solution
Although many businesses communicate with their customers by email, the call center is often where the most direct, and personal, customer interactions take place. Today, most call centers are powered by software, rather than telephone hardware systems. If you’re looking to upgrade your call center or build a new one, there are many options available. This article will help you choose the right call center software for your business.
But first, let’s clarify what call center software is and what your call center will do.
What is Call Center Software?
Call center software, also commonly referred to as contact center software, is a solution that powers inbound and outbound communications for businesses and organizations. Agents use this software as a tool to provide customer service for inbound communications and to reach customers through outbound communications. The software supports agent productivity by providing features such as intelligent call routing, predictive dialer, speech recognition, analytics, and more.
Historically, call center platforms connected calls to an agent through a piece of hardware called an Automatic Call Distributor (ACD). With the advent of software-based call centers, the ACD moved from hardware to software, bringing with it more integrations with CRMs through Computer Telephony Integration (CTI) interfaces. However, today’s call center software is based in the cloud, meaning it connects through the internet to the software provider’s data centers. Physical telephones are no longer necessary, as connections happen over SIP and WebRTC softphones, which enable agents to make or receive calls directly from a browser or CRM. The traditional image of rows of agents in cubicles is no longer accurate — because they are connected via the cloud, call center agents can be based anywhere in the world.
The Multichannel Contact Center
Modern contact center software does much more than power telephone interactions because today’s contact centers do much more than make or receive phone calls. Today’s businesses connect with their customers over multiple channels such as SMS, in-app chat, video, messaging apps, and more. Contact center agents may communicate with the same customer via SMS, web chat, or video. They might even switch between channels during an interaction, letting customers use the channel that’s convenient for them.
As call center software evolved, many disparate systems came onto the market. The ecosystem that powers most contact centers today is an alphabet soup of complex components. There are off-the-shelf systems as well as highly customized technologies available from multiple vendors. Many cloud solutions provide certain limited functionality, but they remain siloed from other systems and offer limited customizability.
How do you choose among the plethora of available options? Your next step is to determine what you need the software to do.
What Does Your Contact Center Do?
Before you choose a software solution, you’ll need to think about how you want to communicate with your customers. Will you only be receiving inbound communications, like requests for tech support or product orders? Will you focus solely on outbound communication, like sales or marketing calls? Maybe your contact center supports both types of communication. It all depends on the nature of your business. Also keep in mind that your needs may change over time.
The software you choose should empower your 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. You’ll want your call center software to give your agents the right tools they need to succeed. Different software options offer different features, so you’ll need to consider what your priorities are.
Important Features for Inbound Call Centers
For inbound call centers, quick call resolution times and agent productivity are the key success metrics. Before advances in call center software, calls were simply passed to the next available agent regardless of priority or skill. However, with the right intelligent routing in your software solution, calls or other tasks are routed to the right agent based on any parameters you set, such as agent skillset, customer/task attributes, or priority level of the call. Look for software that offers intelligent routing such as TaskRouter, which routes, monitors, and escalates tasks to the most appropriate available agent.
In addition to an intelligent routing feature, if you’re operating an inbound call center, interactive voice response (IVR) will be a very important part of your call flow. Most call centers send callers through an IVR system before they are connected with an agent. According to research by JDPower, customers spend 30% of their time interacting with a call center in an IVR system—as opposed to speaking with an agent. To make the IVR process as quick and efficient as possible, your IVR should integrate with all of your data sources so you can provide a tailored experience for each customer.
Important Features for Outbound Call Centers
For outbound call centers, productivity and efficiency are key metrics achieved through knowing when and how to reach customers. Your software should absolutely integrate with your customer relationship management (CRM) software, which agents use to track and manage their interactions. Armed with analytics and integration with your CRM, agents can track their progress, learn from their failures, and amplify their successes.
To increase efficiency in an outbound call center, agents will benefit from software that integrates with an automatic dialer. Automatic dialers allow agents to automate the dialing process, giving them complete control over call flows and routing logic so they can spend their valuable time with customers rather than dialing numbers. Although this feature is included in most call center software products, it’s important to compare the dialers and their capabilities, as they vary widely.
Important Features for Any Contact Center
The objective for all contact centers in today’s business world is to improve the customer experience. There has been a tremendous shift in customer expectations when it comes to company communications. In a recent consumer research study, 41% of consumers stopped doing business with a company after a poor communication experience. With the rise of social media, this matters now more than ever.
Improve Customer Experience
Your call center software can help you constantly improve your customer experience with features like:
- Surveys: Take post-call surveys over voice or SMS to measure and improve your CSAT scores.
- Analytics: Create a single set of reports that you can act on, with information from all your channels and data sources.
- Recordings: Gain a deeper understanding of your customers through voice call recording, sentiment analysis, and keyword spotting.
In addition, look for features that let you scale elastically as you expand and contract your contact center needs, such as:
- Phone Numbers: Skip the negotiations with carriers and get instant multi-region connectivity and on-demand phone numbers around the world from one platform.
- SIP Trunking: Go global in minutes and say goodbye to capacity planning with a SIP trunking service that provides unlimited concurrent call capacity.
- WebRTC: Communicate from within your web interface rather than a phone. See the most relevant details of the person you’re speaking with, and provide a much better customer experience.
Present Multiple Channels
Next, look for the ability to connect to your customers via multiple channels. Your customers probably don’t talk on the phone with their family and friends as often as they connect by SMS, chat, and messaging apps. Chances are, they want to connect with your business that way as well.
- Video: Enable face-to-face conversations for identity verification, content sharing, or visual problem resolution—all within your app.
- Chat: Complete transactions and transfer rich, context-aware data over secure web chat.
- SMS: Provide direct messaging between customers and agents for quick resolution.
- Voice: Let customers reach you by phone, or schedule a call back from your website or app.
- Social media messaging and more: Look for a software option that allows you to add new channels as they become popular, such as Facebook Messenger, Twitter, and whatever new trend is right around the corner.
Maintain Reliability and Uptime
Reliability is the most important metric for your call center. You can’t afford for your system to go down. So it’s important to look for software with “five nines,” or 99.999% uptime. This means the software is down for just minutes a year.
Provide Ironclad Security and Encryption
You can’t be too careful in this day and age of security leaks and identity theft. Make sure the call center software you choose uses top notch encryption and the latest in security measures to keep your data safe. You also want your customers to feel safe giving private information over the phone or other communication channels. One way to ensure your software complies with the best available security and privacy practices is to look for a company that is compliant with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
Facilitate Reporting and Analytics
What’s the point of collecting data from your customers if you can’t use it to improve your business? Look for software that gives your agents a data rich dashboard that’s user friendly enough that they’ll actually use it instead of writing notes on a sticky pad. You’ll want to monitor things like call times, satisfaction ratings, and average wait times. You’ll also want the ability to generate historical reports, track marketing campaigns, and gauge department performance. Be sure your software can give you the data you need to constantly improve.
Contact Centers: The Build vs. Buy Debate
While there are “off-the-shelf” contact center products available from telecoms and other vendors, it can be hard to find the flexibility to create the exact contact center you need, when you need it, in these products. Buying an off-the-shelf option may seem like a quick and easy solution, but the product you choose may not offer the flexibility you’ll want down the road.
The rise of APIs have made it possible for many businesses to build their own contact center capabilities. For businesses that value customization, reporting capabilities, and ownership over the entire customer experience, it’s become easier and cheaper than ever to build a custom solution using pre-existing APIs. Additionally, as customer expectations are constantly changing, it really isn’t possible to build a perfect customer experience and then stop. An agile business must flex and change alongside customer demand, by constantly A/B testing and improving on the customer experience.
The API-Based Contact Center Solution
When you build your contact center with communication building blocks, or APIs, you have the freedom to build the exact user experience you want with the precise capabilities you need. You can roll out new ways for your customers to contact your business by adding voice, messaging, video, and other new channels. Because building your own contact center with APIs is so simple, you can start iterating right away, with the infrastructure and web languages you already use, until you get your product right.
With APIs, you aren’t attached to one vendor’s roadmap or stuck with systems that don’t integrate with each other. All you have to do is set up an account and press "go" on your prototype. You pay for what you use, and scale up on demand. Building your desired user experience with communications APIs offers more than consistently updated technology; it creates powerful new possibilities for how contact center software can drive your business’s success.
The Programmable Contact Center Platform
There's also a new option on the market: the programmable contact center platform. This contact center is 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, a customer 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.
Choosing the right contact 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 goals and the expectations of your customers shift and change over time. Most importantly, your software should empower your agents to provide the best customer experience possible.
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.