by Apoorv Bhatnagar
A brilliant product or service alone will no longer guarantee a business’ success. Customer experience trumps everything when it comes to what drives a business’ success. If customers could be satisfied with merely a quality product or service, a lot more businesses would be successful.
A critical element of customer experience is customer service, and the majority of customer service occurs in call centers. Organizations that establish call centers for dedicated customer care benefit by retaining their customers and building customer loyalty.
The role of technology in call centers
With the importance of customer service, call centers have grown in prominence. There is always a drive to make call centers more automated, more productive and efficient. Accordingly, demand for call center software is high.
Software has made it possible for customers to be given almost-seamless customer service. Call center software boasts reduced call hold time, improved efficiency and productivity. The software used in a call center is its backbone.
Factors to consider in choosing a call center software
Choosing the technology for a call center should be taken in a structured manner. Many businesses make the mistake of rushing through the evaluation phase too fast. Without proper planning, their investment will not yield rewards. Below are the considerations to be kept in mind when selecting a call center software:
• Evaluate business goals and requirements – Having the wrong software can be counterproductive. It can be a waste of time and money and then drain the resources of the company. Take some time to figure out how having a call center is going to help your business reach its goal. What is the business’ core activity? How often do customers reach out with problems? What are the communication channels the business primarily uses? What are customers’ needs and expectations? Will the software under consideration lead to better customer service?
• Type of call center software – Every call center has different needs based on size, structure, industry and business goals. There are four types of call center software based on mode of deployment: on-premise call center software, hosted call center software, cloud-based call center software and browser-based call center software. Each of these types has its own advantages and disadvantages in terms of cost efficiency, security, integration, customization and reliability.
• Features – This step should be undertaken, again, before even considering the alternatives available to you in the market. The call center software should have features like call telephony integration, automatic call distributor, interactive voice response, predictive dialer etc. These features will be based on the articulation of business needs. Consider the vision for the call center and the requirements of the business in deciding what features the call center software must have.
• Multiple channels of communication – Customers interact with businesses through many channels: telephone, e-mail, social media, live chat, and text messages. So it should come as no surprise that businesses must approach customer service on multiple levels. Certain channels would be more important to the business than others.
• “Virtual” contact center – Many call centers are built with a workforce that is remote and flexible. With just a laptop, headset and Internet connection, employees can work from home or while they are traveling. Browser-based call center software can be configured for this capability within a matter of minutes. This can save a ton of costs but also requires the institution of a monitoring mechanism. Using a browser-based call center software is a good option for businesses who wish to structure their call center in this way.
• Integration with other business systems – Call center software that integrates well with Customer Relationship Management (CRM), chat, social media function, sales and marketing etc. is a must-have call center feature. When there is integration between systems, updates in other business systems can be configured to reflect in call center software.
• Scalability – Can you add and remove agents quickly and easily? Can the software support your current call volume? Can maintenance be done in-house or does the vendor have to do it for you? Can you customize your software on your own? How often does the software need to be updated? These questions and more should be considered to ensure your software can be retained as you scale up.
• Vendor evaluation – When evaluating the vendor, consider factors like their customer profile, testimonials and years in the business. They should be responsive and available with regard to technical support. Inquire with fellow business people about the software and their experience, if any, with it. Request the vendor for a free demonstration as well as a free trial period.
• Ease of implementation and usability – Deployment should not take inordinately long. In fact, most call center software, after the planning and analysis undertaken by the business, take no longer than a few hours to go live. Some go live within a few minutes. Another essential feature is usability. Although some training and support may be required, the software should be user-friendly and intuitive. Take feedback from users during the trial period. Customer service executives should be able to handle the software within a few hours.
• Training – Executives will need to be trained and training will have to be included as part of the on-boarding of new employees. Ask the vendor for support with training. The vendor should ensure their availability and support to assist during the transition and help new employees.
• Availability of phone numbers – Phone numbers are the one of the basic building blocks of a call center. While choosing a call center software, ask for the availability of phone numbers that fulfil your business needs. For instance, imagine that you are a Boston-based business, look for the availability of phone numbers with 617 area code. You can take it one step forward by looking for vanity numbers specific to your business — 617-FLOWERS.
• Price – If a business is hesitant to spend on call center software, think of the cost of losing a customer due to faulty software or lack of access to customer information. That being said, a business should not spend more than necessary. Get clarity about the financial outlay: upfront investment, implementation fees, training fees, price per agent/minute/ hone number and price of additional features. Ask whether any hardware is required to be purchased for the software to work.
• Reporting and monitoring capabilities – The two capabilities are a must-have for your software. Monitoring must be undertaken with respect to call logs, call history and actual interactions over calls. Reporting is essential with respect to call history and maintenance of information related to agent activities. The call center software should have a system of performance management. A software with analytics features will help in monitoring performance by defining goals, communicating with team members, setting metrics and measures of success.