Setting up your call center may seem as easy as hiring a few knowledgeable agents and providing them with a phone line—but nothing could be further from the truth.
Even basic call centers have a variety of software requirements, from essential call center operating software to software for security and recruitment. Of course, understanding which software you need, which platforms to choose, and what features to look for can be easier said than done—which is why our team of experts is here to help.
If you’re outsourcing your customer service to an expert team, your software choices will be easy—your provider will already have best-in-class technology, and an expert team to manage, use and streamline it to provide effective and quality service for your company. However, if you’re running an in-house team, or if you want to ensure your call center provider has quality technology to support your goals and deliver results, you’ll need to understand the basics of call center software.
In this article, we’ll break down the 8 types of software every call center needs, along with key features to look for.
Call Center Software: The Basics
Before you get lost in fancy call center softwares with endless features and cutting-edge technology, it’s important to understand the basic call center software features and platforms necessary.
Best Call Center Software Platforms
When it comes to getting your call center up and running, the most important type of software to begin with is a foundational call center software. Our favorite call center software platforms include:
Platforms can provide basic solutions with call center software—allowing agents to handle inbound and outbound voice calls—or can provide robust contact center solutions for omnichannel support with AI assistance, knowledge bases, and more. Basic call center software should provide support for IVR, ACD, auto dialers and automated callbacks, call queueing, and call recording and reporting for quality assurance.
What Features Should Call Center Software Have?
Since call center software typically has dozens of different features and components, it can be difficult to know which are essential and which are optional. For call centers focusing on voice calls and looking to win in the customer service space, look for the following features:
Interactive Voice Response (IVR)
Interactive Voice Response (IVR) is an automated self-service feature that allows customers to select from a list of pre-determined call menu options to connect with the appropriate department or service representative. The call options may be around selections such as preferred language, type of account, reason for calling, or other variables.
However the menu is designed, IVR systems help ensure that callers are connected with an agent who has the right skills and knowledge to solve their concerns. In addition, some IVR systems allow you to set pre-recorded answers for things like store hours, billing and fulfillment questions or account issues, allowing the customer to get the solutions they need on their own. Whether the customer speaks to a representative or reaches a pre-recorded message, IVR systems help reduce call handle time and improve first contact resolution rates.
A knowledge base (sometimes called knowledge management software) is a self-service solution for agents to find service- and product-related information. Your knowledge base software—whether it’s a standalone product or included with your call center software—should offer the following features:
- searchable, so agents can quickly find the answers they’re looking for
- editable, so agents and other staff can keep information up-to-date and relevant for common customer queries
- search optimization or AI, to enable faster and smarter searching
If you’re using a live chat or help desk software as well, ensure that your knowledge base will integrate with your live chat platform to ensure quick and effortless searching during the conversation.
The best call center software provides Customer Relationship Management (CRM) integrations to connect your CRM to your call-center software, providing seamless customer management for agents. Rather than switching back and forth between programs to gather and understand customer background and data, agents will be able to see all customer data on their screen as they take a call.
CRM integrations within call center software not only allow agents to be more efficient, but also enable them to provide higher-quality and more personalized customer experiences. Customers won’t have to repeat themselves or their situation again and again, because their historical data will be on the screen for the agent. The agent can also have access to things like call history, purchase history or other customer preferences to provide personalized recommendations, upsell skillfully or provide advanced solutions.
Workforce Management Software
Workforce Management Software (WFM) enables call centers to improve productivity and efficiency with their workforce and processes. The best WFM software offer features such as:
- Workforce Optimization (WFO)
- Performance Management
- Workforce Analytics
- Workforce Forecasting
- Agent Scheduling
- and more!
Ultimately, WFM software is a must for call centers to be able to operate efficiently. The benefits, therefore, are massive—not only can you keep everything running smoothly, but you can accurately forecast and schedule agents without overscheduling, optimize your labor costs, improve customer service by assessing performance, and optimize your own workflows through workforce productivity and schedule analytics.
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Order Management System
An Order Management System (OMS) may seem unrelated to customer service at first glance, but is actually essential in reducing call center volume and providing self-service options for customers. OMS software manages end-to-end order fulfillment, from fulfilling order requests and transaction details to managing inventory, processing refunds and returns, and providing the customer with status and shipping updates.
An OMS is an essential piece of software for call centers to manage, or have access to, in order to provide a streamlined customer experience. Not only do businesses who operate with a robust OMS reduce their call volume overall (since customers are kept updated on their order status automatically), but they also provide call center agents with valuable data on customer purchases, inventory options and more for customer concerns.
Finally, no matter how new or established your call center is, recruiting software is a must. A recruiting software allows you to easily source, interview and hire candidates, allowing you to scale your team almost effortlessly to meet client demands. For contact centers with clients who often need to scale up in busier seasons, recruiting software can make meeting this demand easy.
For recruitment software designed specifically for call centers, we recommend Harver. It offers contact center specific features, such as candidate screening, language fluency testing, data-based candidate matching to find the right roles for each candidate, interviewing and hiring tools and business intelligence so you can continue to optimize your process.
Not only will recruiting software make the sourcing and hiring process easier, but they also offer a host of concrete benefits, such as:
- decreasing hire times
- ensuring your hiring the best candidates available
- reduce employee turnover by ensuring candidate fit—before they start the job
- improving candidate and employee satisfaction
Going Beyond The Phone: Contact Center Solutions
A contact center needs solutions and software for more than just voice calls. Thankfully, many of the best call center software on the market today provide options for contact center solutions as well, making it easy to scale up from providing voice customer support to multi-channel or omnichannel contact center support without having to switch platforms.
When considering software and platform features needed as a contact center, ensure you have the following features within your existing software, or find a secondary software to provide these capabilities.
Today’s customers don’t just want customer service, they want immediate customer service. Think you’re already keeping up? Take a look at the data:
- 77% of customers say that “valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide them with good online customer service.”
- 90% of customers rate an “immediate” response as important when they have a customer service question
- 60% of customers who have a customer support related question define “immediate” as 10 minutes or less
Clearly, then, customers have a need for speed—and providing immediate responses to inquiries with a team of agents can be difficult, especially during peak periods. The solution? Chatbots.
These AI-powered chatbots allow customers to ask basic questions and get an answer pulled from your knowledge base to solve their question or concern immediately. As self-service options become more and more popular—and necessary—to provide excellent customer support, chatbot software is a must for contact centers. Many call center platforms, such as Five9 and Genesys offer chatbot capabilities.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Artificial intelligence (AI) tools are a must for contact centers who are juggling large volumes of customer data and communications. AI features within call center software can be used both internally, to support agent workflows and processes, or externally, for customer service solutions.
AI can help you optimize processes for your agents, as well as provide more personalized and streamlined experiences for customers. For example, conversational AI solutions can assist live agents, allowing them to be more productive and efficient, or can automate answers for repetitive questions and conversations. Internally, AI software can be used to help automate or optimize almost every part of the customer service process, from managing sales leads, integrating softwares and systems, streamlining after-call tasks and more.
Reporting & Analytics
For any contact center looking to improve and provide standout customer service, reporting and analytics features within their call center software is a must.
Agile contact centers should look for reporting and analytics software that provides:
- real-time reporting
- historical reports
- custom dashboards and analytics
- omnichannel metrics
- IVR and queue views, both real-time and historical
- agent and departmental views
Your reporting and analytics software ultimately gives you the data you need to understand what’s working and what’s not and develop a plan to grow and improve—so the better your software, the better you can be.
Security Software for Call Centers
Finally, you not only need to have the right contact center software—and ensure your different software is integrated properly—but you also need to have the appropriate software to manage security and compliance. A trusted call center partner can—or should be able to—manage this effortlessly for you. Whether you’re managing your own call center or evaluating partners, there are three main areas of security software that are a must for contact centers.
Firewalls protect your networks, systems and customer data from would-be hackers, cyberattacks, malware or other threats. Ultimately, a firewall keeps your—and your customer’s data—safe, and aids in compliance with US laws and regulations around customer data protection. Your contact center’s firewall software or hardware also needs to integrate with your enterprise security software—that way, your call center agents will have access to the CRM software and customer data needed, without causing internal security concerns.
Whether you’re outsourcing or have a call center in-house, workforces are becoming increasingly remote. As a result, antivirus software is more important than ever. An antivirus software manages protection for your employee’s devices and your company systems for you to protect your company software and data from cyberattacks or virus threats. Employees don’t need to manage updates or protection for their devices, and your IT department doesn’t have to manage updates for employees that may be in-house, outsourced, or located around the world.
Finally, all modern contact centers should have redundancy tools and plans in place to provide customer support and ongoing services during planned or unplanned outages. Your call center software should guarantee at least 99% uptime, meaning less than 1% of downtime during the year. However, even with the best software, updates are necessary and not all downtime can be prevented.
This is why redundancy software and tools are essential—you can’t let your customer down when your software is. Redundancy software for contact centers allows you to keep customer service running smoothly, even when your main systems encounter an unexpected outage.
Of course, all of the best software in the world does nothing for your business without a team of experts actively managing it. The right tools are important—but the right tools need the right people managing them to be truly effective.
As a result, it’s essential that you focus not just on which software you’re using, but also that you have the right team partnering with you—who understands both the software and your business—and that you properly integrate your software for ease of use and efficiency.
Nothing slows down a contact center faster than a variety of software tools that aren’t integrated. Disintegrated systems create inefficiencies, messy data, redundancies and poor quality service. On the other hand, integrating all of your software together allows you to:
- personalize customer service with integrated CRM and call center software
- use AI and automation with live chat and voice call support
- automate analytics and reporting dashboards for increased efficiency
- use WFM and AI in tandem to gain a stronger understanding of employee engagement and productivity
- and so much more!
At the end of the day, focusing on software is only a small piece of the puzzle—you also need the right team to manage it, integrate the different pieces, and use it effectively. If you don’t already have a team of customer service experts in-house—most companies don’t—outsourcing your customer service can be a cost-effective way to manage customer service and support.
For example, our customer service experts at Global Response specialize in customer experience management and customer satisfaction. With a unique strategy that’s powered by technology and perfected by our customer-obsessed Brand Specialists, we understand your customer journey and integrate your systems seamlessly for enhanced efficiency and streamlined omnichannel experiences for your customers.
Ready to provide a more streamlined experience for your customers, improve agent efficiency and know exactly how to improve your customer service quality? Reach out to an expert from Global Response today.