- Call center systems can have major benefits for businesses that take large volumes of calls on a daily basis.
- These systems are equipped with features that make customer service and client management much simpler for large, midsize and some small companies.
- Some systems' capabilities include analytics to monitor your agents' performance and even a lead's interest level in your company.
Call center systems are a way for startups and other businesses to bring their communication systems into the 21st century. Once you've delineated your basic needs and decided on the type of hosting you require, you'll want to specify the added features you'd like to have. Try to identify those you definitely require, those that will be advantageous but not critical, and those that are unnecessary.
Some basic features can make a big difference when it comes to running a call center, such as being able to measure the time operators spend on calls or which operators take the most calls. Here are some of the most useful and common features available in call center systems.
Automatic call distribution (ACD)
Some form of ACD is now a must for a typical call center. A system that automatically routes callers to the relevant individuals cuts down on wasted time and resources. ACD systems distribute calls according to user-specified criteria, such as sending the call to a phone that is idle, or sending calls about billing to the accounting department. Nearly all call center systems have some form of ACD. They range from simple push-button virtual operators to those that use caller ID or voice recognition.
Call center monitoring and analytics
This is an essential feature for call centers. Being able to scrutinize call durations, costs, and other useful metrics can help supervisors and managers make informed decisions on issues such as staffing and employee performance and training needs. Some of the best systems provide real-time statistics, letting you know what's going on in the call center second by second. Historical reporting allows you to compile hourly, daily, weekly, monthly and annual statistics for detailed long-term analysis.
Useful for training and monitoring, call recording allows supervisors and operators to record and store phone calls as audio files on the server. However, the storage requirements for call recording can be quite large. Third-party hosted systems and cloud-hosted systems are better suited for this function, because they make it easy to upgrade the size of your storage space without buying new hardware.
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Call transfer and three-way calling
Being able to transfer a caller to another department, or permit access to a third party, is essential for virtually all call centers. Few systems are sold without this feature, but it's worth checking just in case.
These systems enable different calls to be tagged and stored with relevant information attached to the call file. This permits better management of customers, as it provides historical records of all calls by an individual account holder.
Computer telephony integration (CTI)
CTI systems use desktop PCs as telephone systems. These software packages enable a desktop computer to serve and display all call-related functions, such as providing caller information, routing calls to other workstations, and controlling the phone system. Most call center systems utilize some form of CTI. Usually a simple USB headset is all that's necessary to turn a standard PC running CTI into a complete call center workstation.
Understanding the needs of your operators is another way of streamlining a call center and making it run more efficiently. Workstation data recording enables you to make a movie of what's happening on an operator's screen. You can analyze the recording to learn how operators are using the system, what tricks they know that could help others, and what problems they're having that could be addressed.
Interactive voice response (IVR)
IVR uses voice-recognition software to allow callers to route themselves to specific departments. IVRs vary in sophistication from the very basic, which enable simple routing functionality, to intricate systems that allow customers to access their accounts. At the high end, IVR empowers customers to serve themselves, reducing the workload for human operators.
Live call coaching
This allows a third person to interact with an operator without the caller hearing, which helps with training and mentoring.
By monitoring an operator's performance, you can identify gaps in training and areas where they need improvement. Call center systems with this type of evaluation can create reports, graphs and other data while scoring an operator's performance.
For call centers that make a lot of outbound calls, a predictive dialer enables a list of phone numbers to be called simultaneously. Operators are connected only when someone picks up. These systems can save a lot of time and prevent operators from having to wait for a call to be answered. Predictive dialers also monitor the availability of operators to ensure that calls aren't made when there are no operators available to route the call if someone answers.
This is a sophisticated system that can analyze customers' voices and interactions to identify whether they meet certain specific business criteria, such as being genuinely interested in an offer or merely being polite with no intention of buying. It's an inexact science, so this method isn't always reliable, but some call centers that have used it have had success identifying the most promising leads.
This is a given for a system hosted by a third party, but for self-managed and cloud-based systems, technical support can be anything from nonexistent to extremely generous. Before you purchase a system, ask the company about 24-hour phone support, 24-hour web chat support, and virtual management (where technicians can fix problems remotely).
Call center systems allow agents to play music while a customer is on hold. Although it may seem trivial, hold music can play a big role in keeping a customer on the line while a request is being fulfilled. Dead silence can be quite jarring, and a customer is more likely to hang up and file a complaint if there is nothing to fill the void.
Voicemail to email or text
Some call center systems allow voicemails to be translated into text and forwarded as a message or email. If a caller makes a request, it can be forwarded to the appropriate representative immediately, even if they are engaged in another activity. This allows for faster conflict resolution and better overall customer service for your business.