Is your small business developing a team of customer service agents? Or does your large enterprise have multiple call center locations?

Either way, you'll need a robust call center software solution to help your agents efficiently provide the best service to your customers. We've developed this buyer's guide that details the software's common features and benefits, as well as the necessary steps on how to purchase it.

The global call center software market is expected to grow to$47.8 billion by 2025.

Source: Grand View Research

67% of contact centers feel providing a great customer experience willcontinue to be a high priorityover the next two years.

Source: Deloitte Digital 2019 Global Contact Center Survey

30% of contact centers will actively pursue cloud-based deployment in the next two years.

Source: Deloitte Digital 2019 Global Contact Center Survey

Call Center Software Buyer's Guide

What is Call Center Software?

Call center software is a tool that helps agents contact prospects or customers over the phone. It's also referred to as contact center software when it supports multiple channels, such as phone, email, live chat or social media. Legacy call center solutions were deployed on-premise and required the purchase of phones and other hardware. These days, more vendors offer cloud-based installation so users can access the software through a web browser. Although some companies strictly handle either inbound or outbound calls, many others take care of both. In turn, some vendors have dedicated outbound software or inbound software, while other vendors provide software that incorporates both inbound and outbound features.

Types of Call Centers

Call center software is most commonly used by companies with two types of call centers:

Inbound

With an inbound call center, a customer contacts the company directly regarding an order, issue or other query.

Outbound

With an outbound call center, a customer support or sales agent reaches out to the prospect or customer (e.g., telemarketing, B2B sales).

Common Call Center Software Features

Call center software includes any features that can boost companies' customer service and efficiency. We've listed some of the common ones below.

Automatic dialer

Mainly used in outbound call centers, an automatic dialer is programmed to dial phone numbers, so the caller doesn't have to do this manually. Then it connects the caller to a live person or plays a recorded message. There are three types of automatic dialers. The progressive dialers only connect calls to an agent when a person answers the phone. Predictive dialers use algorithms to predict when an agent is free to take another call and then dials the next number. Preview dialers let agents look over the customer's information prior to the call and decide whether or not to make the call.

Interactive voice response (IVR)

The IVR feature provides a voice menu that gives a caller a series of prompts and instructions to help them connect with the right department or agent. The call center manager can configure the messages, menus and prompts based on their requirements. They can also use prerecorded message greetings rather than their own voice.

Workforce scheduling

Scheduling shifts in a call center environment is important for supervisors. This easy-to-use tool helps them measure busy and slow times in order to prevent under or overstaffing. Supervisors can also create shift schedules that employees can access anywhere, even on their mobile devices.

CRM integration

Depending on the software, CRM features may be standard, while others may integrate to a dedicated system. CRM functionality allows agents to quickly find and access a customer's or prospect's information while on a call.

Automatic call distribution

Also known as call routing, this feature routes incoming calls to specific agents more efficiently. It organizes the call queue and connects the caller to the appropriate agent, based on criteria that's set by the call center (e.g., customer payment queries will be routed to a billing department).

Call monitoring, call barging & call whispering

All three of these features help call center supervisors monitor an agent's performance on each call. Call monitoring refers to a supervisor listening in on the call without the agent's or customer's awareness. Call barging means that the supervisor can join in on the call and speak with both the agent and the customer (e.g., if an agent is having issues resolving a customer support problem). With call whispering, the supervisor provides guidance to the agent while on the call without the customer's awareness.

Reporting and analytics

Supervisors and executives can monitor both real-time and historical data to measure the call center's performance. Common metrics include agent's call performance, length of call, abandonment rate and call volume. Users can view and analyze metrics via a dashboard or turn them into reports. Most software has standard templates, but users can build their own as well.

Top Benefits of Call Center Software

Using call center software comes with many benefits, including:

Improved customer service

Keeping clients and customers happy is one of the most important goals of any business. Therefore, if a customer has a question about an order or a complaint about service, having to hunt down relevant information makes it hard to solve the problem. With call center software, all the customer's information is stored centrally, especially if integrated with a CRM, for easy access so the customer service rep can pull it up quickly.

Higher efficiency and productivity for agents

Call center software helps agents become more efficient in handling calls. They won't need to memorize and manually dial each phone number, and they'll have the customer's information in front of them. And since call center software includes routing features, the right calls go to the right person.

Increased flexibility for companies

Most software is scalable and hosted on the cloud, so call centers can easily add or remove the number of agents or features without having to make expensive purchases. They can also hire remote agents who can access the software from their web browsers.

Improved reporting and analysis

Having reporting and forecasting features within the software helps supervisors better manage agent performance and other call center metrics. Executives can find trends within the data that shows whether a telemarketing campaign is successful or if they need to add agents. And because users can create the reports themselves, they won't need to worry about asking IT staff to do it for them.

How to Choose a Call Center Solution

There are many software vendors out there that vary in features and pricing. It's key to research all of your options before purchasing a solution. We've listed four important steps below.

1

Knowing your company's needs

Before researching vendors, you must consider your needs and requirements. Does your business handle both inbound and outbound calls? Do you provide omnichannel communication for your customers? What systems do you currently have that will need to integrate to the call center software?

You'll also want to ensure that your IT staff and top executives are on board with implementing a call center software.

2

Creating a shortlist

Once you've established your objectives, create a shortlist of vendors that best fit your needs. We recommend listing out the must-have features as well as the nice-to-have ones to help determine the type of solution you're looking for.

In addition to features, you'll need to consider the vendor's implementation processes and customer support.

3

Contacting vendors

When you've created your shortlist of vendors, it's time to reach out to them. Explain what your objectives are and what features you require in a solution. You'll also want to request a demo of the software with real-data scenarios, if possible. Vendors offer virtual demonstrations, but it can also be useful to ask if a vendor is willing to meet with you at your office. Another way to test the software is to participate in a free trial, if there is one. Most vendors offer a 14-day or 30-day free trial.

And be sure to compare different price quotes you receive. We explain more on pricing in a separate section below.

4

Conducting due diligence

After you've selected your top two or three vendors, ask for references from their current or previous clients. While vendors tend to give you the clients with the most glowing recommendations or experiences, ask to speak to clients that are in the same industry or are the same size as your company. You'll want to see not just the positives of the solution or vendor, but any issues the client has experienced as well.

Pricing

One of the most important factors in selecting call center software is pricing. Here are a few questions you should consider regarding pricing.

  • Is there a clear plan to judge return on investment?
  • What features do we really need?
  • How many users will require access to the software?

As noted, legacy call center systems were deployed on-premise and provided perpetual licenses that last for the life of the software. These days, more vendors offer cloud-based solutions, where businesses only need to pay a monthly subscription cost.

The most common subscription pricing is the per agent, per month (or per user, per month) strategy. It's based on the number of users that access the software. The price could either be an all-inclusive figure or offered in tiers (typically, from two to five tiers) with specific features or services. For example, Genesys PureCloud's pricing ranges from $75 per agent, per month to $140 per agent, per month.

Regardless of deployment, you'll also need to consider additional costs, such as phone usage fees. Some software vendors may charge a per agent, per month fee, while others may charge a monthly flat rate or a per-minute rate.

cloud

Challenges of Call Center Software

While call center software has many benefits, it also comes with challenges, including:

Getting buy-in from key players

The challenge for any business is figuring out the goals of using a software. For instance, a small business may not really need all the robust features of some call center solutions. Or an inbound call center that focuses mainly on help desk support may benefit from using a help desk solution instead. The key to combat these challenges is to come up with a list of necessary features and evaluate each vendor thoroughly.

man with checklist and giant pen

Figuring out what type of call center software is best for a company's needs

The challenge for any business is figuring out the goals of using a software. For instance, a small business may not really need all the robust features of some call center solutions. Or an inbound call center that focuses mainly on help desk support may benefit from using a help desk solution instead. The key to combat these challenges is to come up with a list of necessary features and evaluate each vendor thoroughly.

man at desk thinking

Implementation issues

Cloud-based software tends to have shorter implementation times than on-premise solutions. However, expensive issues can still come up and delay the go-live date, such as unclear business goals, data transfer issues or software that isn't adequately customized. Similarly, companies may find that the software doesn't successfully integrate with their CRM or other business systems. It's important to tell the vendor your budget, goals and requirements for using the software, as well as get a detailed timeline of the implementation process and what happens at each stage.

man with checklist and giant pen
Aircall
VENDOR NAME: Aircall
READ REVIEW

GOOD

Power Dialer that saves agents time on making calls, integration with over 60 business tools, accessible for both in-house and remote workers.

BAD

Omnichannel features aren't offered, occasional glitches in call quality.

BOTTOM LINE

Cloud-based call center software that helps businesses strengthen their customer relationships.

READ REVIEW

GOOD

Scalable per-user pricing strategy, agents can access software from anywhere, speech analytics features.

BAD

Only supports the English language.

BOTTOM LINE

Robust solution for small and midsize call centers that want to migrate to the cloud.

READ REVIEW
Five9
VENDOR NAME: Five9
READ REVIEW

GOOD

Gamification feature to motivate agents, robust omnichannel capabilities, integration with most CRM software.

BAD

Not always user friendly, initial learning curve.

BOTTOM LINE

Contact center solution that empowers agents to provide exceptional customer service from anywhere.

READ REVIEW
Genesys Cloud
VENDOR NAME: Genesys
READ REVIEW

GOOD

Customer self-service functionality, agents can manage their customer interactions in a single view, text/speech analytics.

BAD

Initial learning curve for new users.

BOTTOM LINE

Contact center solution that accommodates inbound and outbound environments with omnichannel capability.

READ REVIEW
RingCentral
VENDOR NAME: RingCentral
READ REVIEW

GOOD

Ability to communicate with customers in any channel, integrated collaboration tools, optional workforce optimization solutions with enhanced performance management features.

BAD

Occasional technical glitches, interface tends to look dated and is not always intuitive.

BOTTOM LINE

Cloud-based contact center solution that accommodates a mobile workforce.

READ REVIEW
Talkdesk
VENDOR NAME: Talkdesk
READ REVIEW

GOOD

AI functionality that automates customer self-service, low-code IVR designer, ability for companies to migrate to the cloud at their own pace.

BAD

Dropped calls and other connectivity issues, limited customizable reporting options.

BOTTOM LINE

Cloud-based contact center software that helps organizations provide a better customer experience.

READ REVIEW