Call Center Software is an application that manages customer conversations from numerous channels and sources. It assists agents in making outgoing calls, managing incoming calls, measuring call metrics, and managing the workforce.
Call center systems are similar to both traditional business phone systems (also known as PBX systems) and customer service/help desk solutions.
Simultaneously, call center software provides a number of specialized features for both agents and supervisors that are not available in other types of business communications solutions.
This buyers guide will go over the major differences and overlaps between these software categories to help you decide which one is best for you. We’ll also highlight the unique functionality found only in a true call center solution.
Simply put, this is a catch-all term for applications designed for use in a formal or informal call center. The term “contact center software” is often used interchangeably, but it also refers to features used in call centers that handle multiple communication channels in addition to voice (e.g., email, instant messaging, SMS text, social media, and live chat).
Call center software assists agents who assist customers over the phone or through one of the other channels. It also assists the supervisors who oversee the operations of the call center.
The following are some common features you can expect to find in a typical call center software package:
Incoming calls are routed to a queue, where callers must wait until an agent is available.
Most call center systems support a type of ACD known as skills-based routing, which assigns calls to agents based on rules that consider agent skills and performance metrics.
Simpler ACD modes are available in standard business phone systems.
The technology that underpins voice menus and allows callers to complete actions over the phone using voice or keypad input.
IVR systems are similar to auto attendants, but they are much more flexible, allowing callers to do things like pay a bill or check an account balance.
Inbound call center solutions are defined by IVR systems. IVR is unnecessary for businesses that only need to direct callers to the appropriate extension; a standard business phone system and an auto attendant will suffice.
A jargon term for phone system and customer relationship management (CRM) system integrations. CRM and call center systems both benefit from CTI integrations.
CRM systems gain click-to-dial functionality, which allows agents to dial out by clicking on a customer’s phone number in a database of contacts.
When an inbound call arrives, contact center systems gain “screen pop” (screen population) functionality, which allows displays to appear on contact center agents’ screens immediately.
Screen pops retrieve information about the inbound caller from the CRM system to assist the agent in better managing the interaction.
Applications that dial numbers automatically from a list or at random. There are three main types:
When an agent becomes available, progressive dialers automatically dial a new number.
Predictive dialers dial multiple phone numbers simultaneously and route answered calls to agents based on availability and wait time.
Preview dialers are progressive dialers that allow agents to view information about an upcoming call in the dialing list and accept or reject it.
Enables forecasting of staffing requirements based on historical data.
Information about agent interactions is captured and analyzed (frequently via integration with a call recording application for easy retrieval of problem calls).
This data is used to generate agent scorecards and reports on team-wide statistics like abandonment rate and average time in queue.
Supervisors can use this feature to program agent scripts for sales and customer service calls. Allows supervisors to control call operational rules and generates fields that feed call data into the CRM system.
Call center supervisors use the following three standard call control features:
Call center systems use the same technology as business phone systems and provide many of the same features. Furthermore, help desk and customer service solutions can be considered a subset of contact center software.
Here are the main distinctions:
There is one critical decision to make before constructing your contact center. Will a PBX phone system or contact center software be required?
The ability to make and receive phone calls is shared by both systems, but that is where the similarities end.
A PBX phone system will suffice if you need a way for your employees to communicate with one another, make occasional outbound phone calls, and answer inbound phone calls.
After all, it is the traditional analog style of phone system that has been used by businesses for many years.
PBX phone systems have the following features:
If your goal is more customer service or sales/productivity, contact center software will provide a dynamic range of features that will keep your customers satisfied and your team operating at peak efficiency.
Contact center software enables businesses to handle customer inquiries via any communication channel (e.g., chat, email, phone, social), to be more efficient with outbound campaigns, to improve agent performance, to analyze data, to achieve customer experience, and to meet sales goals.
We’ve already seen that call center systems, business phone systems, and customer service systems have a lot in common. Different types of solutions will be required by different types of buyers:
Small businesses that require call queueing can usually get by with a standard business phone system. (Examples can be found here.)
Outbound call centers with a sales focus will require a dedicated call center system, such as the examples on this page.
Support-focused inbound call centers can use either:
For trouble ticketing, a call center system integrated with a separate CRM system.
A customer service or help desk system that includes trouble ticketing capabilities.
Collection agencies must collaborate with vendors who specialize in deployments for this industry sector. These vendors provide tools to help maximize debt recovery rates and ensure that call centers adhere to applicable regulations.
Virtual contact centers, which rely heavily on remote workers, will require solutions that include robust mobile apps and softphones.
As mobile devices and social media have increased customer expectations and needs, contact center software has evolved. When choosing a solution, the following trends should be taken into account:
Multi-channel contact centers: As more customers seek to interact with businesses via channels other than voice (e.g., SMS text, live chat, and email), contact center software has evolved to allow agents to interact through these additional channels. In a multi-channel system, interactions across all channels feed into a unified agent queue.
Contact center software vendors are increasingly providing modules that enable agents to manage interactions via social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook.
New analytics tools also enable businesses to mine social media for signs of potential customer issues before the phones ring.
Virtual queuing/web callback: Previously, callers had to wait on hold in order to maintain their position in an ACD queue.
Web callback or virtual queueing is a new technology that allows callers to “virtually” hold their place in the queue after they hang up in order to receive a callback later.
While this technology has become popular among consumers, it is still not a standard feature in call center systems. If this is a must-have feature, you’ll need to narrow down the vendors who provide it.
Call center reporting has traditionally focused on metrics such as call length and call abandonment. Now, systems that can analyze audio data to detect anger, frustration, and other emotions in callers’ vocal tones are emerging. The findings of this analysis can be used to identify trends in agent and contact center performance.
Text analytics is used to search textual interactions (such as emails, SMS text messages, and instant messages) for specific keywords that indicate customer frustration or satisfaction.
While powerful, these tools are still uncommon when compared to standard applications like ACD and call recording.
Check out the full review of the best call center providers below, to make it easier when choosing the best call center system for your business:
Aircall is a cloud-based business phone and call center system that assists in the management and optimization of customer service and sales engagement operations.
It is intended for remote offices and teams, and it allows users to integrate the software with client relationship management (CRM) and helpdesk systems, as well as manage calls directly from it.
Voicemail, queueing, recording, shared call inbox, contact management, assign, tag, and add comments are all features of Aircall.
It enables businesses to create employee groups based on location, responsibilities, skill set, and other factors, and to develop business strategies to improve team performance.
It also provides phone numbers that can be used to make calls from anywhere and receive real-time updates on processes.
Aircall integrates with over a hundred third-party applications, including Salesforce, Zendesk, Pipedrive, and Slack. Monthly subscriptions are available, and support is available via email, phone, and chat.
LiveAgent is an online Help Desk solution for small and medium-sized e-commerce businesses. The platform provides live chat, ticket management, online self-service portals, and change and license management as standalone or in-suite applications.
In collaboration with a number of third-party software companies, LiveAgent provides a variety of broader customer relationship management (CRM) applications, such as marketing and sales force automation.
It is a customizable solution that can grow with small businesses as their customer base and online services expand. The software includes a ticket management system that stores the entire stream of chat messages, emails, phone calls, or messages from other communication channels between the customer and the company’s support staff.
LiveAgent is available as web-based (cloud) software as well as on-premise installations. The cloud option is priced per user by a number of agents, whereas the on-premise options are priced upfront based solely on the number of agents.
Begin with a 14-day free trial with no credit card required and no contracts.
Squaretalk is a low-cost, scalable, and easy-to-use cloud communications platform that provides your sales and support teams with powerful tools to increase efficiency and productivity.
Your sales and support representatives will be able to work effectively from any location and via the channels preferred by your customers.
With access to local, mobile, and toll-free numbers in over 100 countries and 3,400 area codes, you can quickly establish a global presence.
With our native integrations or custom API for computer telephony integration, you can seamlessly connect all of your favorite tools, such as Zoho, Salesforce, or other popular CRMs.
DialerAI is a cloud-based and on-premise predictive dialer software that helps businesses of all sizes with live call transfer, interactive voice response (IVR), and voice broadcasting processes.
Concurrent calling, voicemail detection, text-to-speech conversion, and campaign analytics are among its key features.
Users can use the application to create phone surveys and collect responses via recorded messages or multi-level IVR technology.
The solution can be used by marketing teams to autodial leads, play pre-recorded advertisements, and run campaigns. Agents can also use the system to detect faulty or silent calls and manage call volumes.
DialerAI includes a dashboard that allows managers to measure call performance, calculate the number of abandoned calls, and generate real-time reports.
The solution is available for a monthly fee, and support is available via email, phone, chat, and documentation.