Call center software: Transforming agent and customer experiences

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Reaching out to a company isn’t always a thrilling experience for customers. With the persistent stories of long wait times, unhelpful agents, and unsatisfying resolutions, they may end up consulting friends instead.

This scenario is very real. But it’s something you can avoid by having a sound customer service strategy to go with your good intentions. Otherwise, you’ll send the wrong impression and ultimately deliver bad experiences not just to your customers, but also to your agents.

A team of agents answering customer inquiries
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Before we dig deeper into that, let's define what could be the centerpiece of your customer service strategy: call center software.

What is call center software?

Call center software is technology that enables direct communication between a business and its customers. With the right features and functionality, it automates the process of receiving and addressing customer concerns via phone.

The goal is to deliver five-star customer experiences as you present a professional image. So whether you have thousands of agents in several call centers or one designated agent to handle customer service for your family-owned business, you need a good call center solution in place.

Then again, a lot of customers aren’t fond of going through the entire phone experience. They’d rather reach out to a company on their own terms, which has been made more convenient by newer communication channels like chat, text, and social media. But can a typical call center platform handle all these?

Maybe and maybe not—this depends on how you understand the phrase “call center.” We’ll introduce you to the concept of a contact center and use it to help explain what we mean.

Diagram showing how a mobile device can be used to call, email, and chat with customers

What is the difference between call center and contact center?

A call center is a facility that manages inbound and outbound customer calls, whereas a contact center is omnichannel in nature. That means aside from phone calls, contact centers can also handle customer contacts via email, live chat, SMS, and social media.

But here’s the thing: Most businesses today are already handling customer contacts through different communication channels and not all of them are ready to drop the term “call center.” This pretty much explains why it’s still often used interchangeably with “contact center.” So far, the industry doesn’t have much of a problem with it. For our purpose here, let’s use “call center.

What software do call centers use?

There are numerous call center software solutions available in the market and each of them has its pros and cons. Before getting one, you must first decide whether you want your system hosted on-premise or in the cloud.

What’s the difference?

On-premise call center software

Traditionally, call center systems operate through in-house servers, software, hardware, and all other associated infrastructure kept within the premises of a building. That includes the call center software, which uses phone lines to manage both outbound and inbound calls.
In this setup, you have full control over your infrastructure. Your IT team handles implementation as well as repairs, maintenance work, and upgrades.

Cloud-based call center software

Call centers can also be hosted in the cloud by a third-party provider. Here, the software is installed on servers hosted in the Service Provider DataCenter. Agents can access it from anywhere as long as there’s an internet connection.
The provider handles the implementation and keeps all the necessary infrastructure in their data centers, so you don’t have to worry about the upkeep.
A cloud-based call center can handle not only phone interactions but also the likes of emails and live chats (remember our definition of contact center?).

RingCentral is a cloud solutions provider that delivers enterprise cloud contact center software for any business size. It offers a comprehensive suite of features that will allow you to manage customer interactions better and resolve issues faster. See how it works for your business by viewing our demo.

Why get a cloud call center solution?

Deciding to use cloud call center solutions means resolving to move your customer engagement platform to a place of greater flexibility, reliability, and scalability—good for you!

Are you keen on providing accurate answers to your customers every time? Do you want to make things simpler for your agents so they stay engaged and primed for work? How would you like the ability to quickly adapt to changing customer demands?

Take a look at some of the benefits cloud call center software provides:

Reduced costs

Cost savings come in different forms when you use a cloud solution. You don’t need to pay upfront for licensing fees nor do you have to shoulder implementation, maintenance, and upgrades. Without having to get the services of a full IT team to do all these, you also save on labor expenses.

Fast deployment

Because on-premise call center systems are installed on local servers, full deployment of new tools and features can take months to complete. Your IT team must first provision resources, apply configurations, and conduct tests.  With a cloud solution, it only takes a few clicks to add new sales tools or enable new functionality.

Unmatched reliability

While it’s true that on-premise call centers offer great reliability, it doesn’t necessarily mean that cloudservices aren’t on par. The truth is that top-grade cloud-based contact center solutions, like the one offered by RingCentral, provide the highest level of reliability. We’re talking about a guaranteed uptime of as high as 99.99%.

RingCentral makes this possible by keeping their infrastructure in geographically redundant data centers maintained 24/7 by highly trained and qualified engineering specialists.

Strong disaster recovery and business continuity

With on-premise systems, you would have to spend on redundant hardware and software licenses to effectively handle disaster recovery. Otherwise, be prepared to go offline for hours or days in the event of natural disasters or power outages. If you have to install new hardware or software, expect even longer downtimes.

This isn’t a problem with cloud solutions since they keep their data centers in several locations, so they have a failsafe from disruptions. And with an internet connection, agents can instantly failover to any backup data center and continue working from anywhere.

Improved first call resolution

It’s common for customers to defect to competitors if their issues aren’t resolved at the first point of contact. With a cloud-based call center, your agents can follow every customer’s journey from one channel to another (and even from one issue to another), giving them a better understanding of the customer.

This only means call centers that leverage the cloud are better equipped to address customer concerns more efficiently and in real-time. Apart from improving first call resolution, it can help lead to overall customer satisfaction.

Enhanced agent performance and engagement

Modern cloud contact centers come with an array of rich open RestFull APIs, a type of application program interface (API) that enables easy integration with many customer relationship management (CRM) and back office solutions to retrieve valuable customer data and increase personalization, agent productivity, and customer satisfaction.

Seamlessly integrating with many business tools, RingCentral allows agents and supervisors to easily access essential information and analytics without having to leave the app.

Call center supervisors and managers can use available data to identify which agent can better handle a specific customer interaction. This will allow them to assign agents to customers based on their skills (skills-based routing).

With their work getting easier and their talent being maximized, agents are happier and less stressed.

Enterprise-grade security

For many businesses, maintaining the technical resources needed to maintain security over their on-premise system simply isn’t practical. This is why more businesses are moving their call centers to the cloud.

With a cloud cloud call center software provider, you’ll be dealing with a company that has the infrastructure to keep your customers’ information secure—we’re talking about tier 1 data centers with top-level physical and network security.

Key call center software features

A typical cloud contact center comes with advanced features and call management software solutions. Here are some of them:

  1. Interactive voice response (IVR)

    -IVR systems evaluate human voice or touch tones from a dial pad to help customers get routed to the right agents.
  2. Automatic call distribution (ACD)

    - This telephony system receives incoming calls and automatically routes them to the right team and agent.
  3. Auto dialer

    - An auto dialer or power dialer is an outbound call center solution that automatically dials customer phone numbers. Once answered, the dialer software plays a recorded message or transfers the call to a live person. There are different kinds of auto dialers, namely preview dialers, progressive dialers, and predictive dialers.
    • Preview dialer

      - Manage your agents’ call list and present leads and relevant information to agents while letting agents click to launch the call once they’ve reviewed the information, leading to the most personalized experience.
    • Progressive dialer

      -To drive even more productivity than via preview dialing while still optimizing the customer experience, manage your agents’ call list and automatically call when at least one agent is available while presenting the respective information to the agent, ensuring no dead air when the customer picks up.
    • Predictive dialer

      - Use sophisticated algorithms to predict customer connect rate and agent availability, and dial multiple calls in parallel per agent to maximize productivity. The goal is to dial as many leads as possible.
  4. Computer telephony integration (CTI)

    - The technology responsible for linking the functions of your computer system to your business phone system. CTI allows agents to perform call-related tasks directly from the agent desktop, and more importantly, deliver any relevant information about the call to the agent via a screen pop (A window that autonomously appears or “pops” on the desktop).
  5. Call monitoring

    - This tool allows supervisors to listen in on and record calls for the purpose of analyzing call duration, costs, and other metrics. Insights they can get from the data will help supervisors make informed decisions for streamlining processes.
  6. Historical reporting

    - This tool allows supervisors to gather hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, and annual statistics to perform a more detailed analysis of team productivity.
  7. Caller ID

    - This familiar display allows agents to see customer contact details before getting on the call. In the context of a call center, the caller ID is integral in keeping all calls routed to the appropriate agent—crucial when agents have specific accounts assigned to them.

    Ultimately, it identifies the caller, retrieves extra information about the call from a CRM or back office system, and routes the call to the appropriate agent
  8. Call queueing

    - When customers reach out to your call center and all your agents are busy, they are placed in a call queue.

    In case wait time is too long, a queue call back (also known as virtual hold) can be offered to the caller. It allows the call center to call back a caller when the estimated wait time is too long. The caller can choose to be called back on their current phone number or enter a different phone number. They can also stay on the line, listen to the hold music, and wait for the agent

    With customized call routing, (also known as skills-based routing), calls will be routed to the next best available agent
  9. Workforce optimization (WFO) tool

    - A platform for gathering and evaluating data associated with agent productivity, the WFO tool can help your business achieve workforce efficiency.

    WFO as a business strategy covers various functional aspects of running a call center, including quality management and workforce management.
  10. Omnichannel routing

    - Let's not forget that cloud call center software not only handles inbound and outbound calling but also email, chat, text, and social media.
RingCentral’s highly intuitive dashboard

RingCentral’s highly intuitive contact center dashboard

These are just some of the common call center features your business might need. If you’re convinced that a cloud call center solution is right for you, you’re probably wondering how much you would shell out to get one.

Be forewarned: pricing can get a little tricky (you’ll see why).

How much does call center software cost?

Each vendor structures their pricing differently. For example, some vendors charge a monthly per-agent fee while others charge a flat monthly rate that varies based on features. That means your business size, number of agents, and set of preferred features will determine which option would make the most sense for your organization.

RingCentral, for example, offers contact center solution plans covering inbound voice only; inbound voice and omnichannel; and inbound, outbound, and omnichannel. It’s better to contact their sales teams for more information.

Unfortunately, not all vendors clearly present their pricing structure when they publish them online. You’d have to contact potential vendors and ask which features are included in their plans and which ones cost extra.

Knowing your customers are satisfied every time they contact your company is priceless. But to make that happen, you need to invest in the “best” call center solution.

What is the best call center software?

The best call center software solution is the one that makes the most sense for your business. Sure, you may find a product with the most sophisticated call management system or the best CRM integration. But until you see how these features empower your customer service operations, you won't be able to see their true value.

Why don't you take RingCentral Contact Center for a spin? Find out how this omnichannel contact center solution can help you build customer relationships and maximize agent performance.
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