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Buying Guide for Call Center Software
Call centers today are often called "contact centers" because they do so much more than simply route calls. Today's call centers are capable of working through multiple channels to ensure customer inquiries are handled quickly and efficiently.
Also, because call centers today exist all across the world, the overhead they bear is declining sharply. Call center representatives may work from home as opposed to in a big corporate call center office. Both domestic and overseas call center options also exist, which can substantially lower your costs even further.
If you are considering what advantages your company may realize by outsourcing some or your entire call center functions, this Buying Guide will help you decide if now is the right time to make that move.
One of the main reasons that companies today choose to upgrade their call center technology is because it just makes good business sense. There are both cost advantages and service advantages that can be measured fairly immediately.
Whether you choose to bring in call center software for your in-house customer care staff or you decide to outsource the entire call center function to a provider, happy customers whose needs are handled promptly translates into better branding and sales in the immediate future.
Another great benefit for today's call center technology is an improved ability to communicate with hearing impaired or deaf customers and customers who may be speech impaired. Through texting to speech translation, TTY numbers and text telephones, you can make their experience interacting with your company much easier.
But perhaps the most compelling benefit to upgrading your call center function is the cost savings to you. You can improve your agents' ability to handle calls quickly and enable them to handle more calls in the same amount of time. You can identify how each agent performs so you can arrive at the optimal number of call center staff for peak and non-busy times. And you can view reports in near real-time to analyze calling patterns for your company and plan accordingly.
Features & Extras
Before you can shop effectively for the call center solution that is right for your company; you need to know what your options are. Here are some common features and extras that may quickly become invaluable for your business:
Automatic call distribution (ACD):
By accessing stored customer information linked to certain telephone numbers, your system can route incoming calls to the appropriate department without having to even talk to the caller first.
Call center reporting tools:
Many systems today have a very useful set of out-of-the-box reporting tools, and some systems also give you the ability to customize reporting functions for your specific concerns or goals.
Computer telephony integration (CTI):
CTI tools give you the flexibility to improve agent productivity, customize the customer experience and integrate computer use with phone use. These tools can save you a great deal of time and money.
Interactive voice response (IVR):
If you have ever spoken to an automated system, you have experienced IVR in action. IVR can really reduce the burden on your agents, allowing them to focus on the calls that most need their attention.
You can set up these tools to issue alerts whenever call drop rates or hold times increase. This can be very helpful in identifying training as well as staffing needs for your call center.
If your call center handles a large volume of both inbound and outbound calls, call blending is an essential "extra" you might want to have. Here, your agents can switch between one type of calling and another to maximize productivity during any slow periods.
- Auto dialing:
With auto dialing, you can pretty much automate certain routine tasks like issuing appointment reminders or make other types of routine calls. You can even program your system to respond in different ways based on if a live person picks up or not.
Finally, if your company is active on social media, email, texting or mobile software, you can wrap those communications into your call center with this feature. With this feature your agents will always have something to do.
If you have agents who work from home or you outsource your call center, you can use this feature to make it possible for them to access your software remotely.
When you seek out quotes for call center software, you want to work with an agent who can help you identify real cost savings that can come from using this type of software (for instance, staffing reduction, better upselling, faster call handling).
Here you have two options: on-premises and hosted. Here are some ballpark prices for each:
- On-premises: $2,000-$4,000 per agent plus 10-20 percent maintenance fee (annual).
- Hosted: $95-$200 per user.
Finally, be sure to consider these buying tips before making your final decision.
Consider the long-term.
If your company plans to operate into the distant future, opting in now for an efficient, effective call center solution just makes good business sense.
Keep prompts manageable.
If you plan to use IVR, try not to over-use the auto-prompts. This can result in increased dropped calls and very unhappy customers.
Test drive a new system for a trial period.
If you are on the fence about a software solution, start with a hosted solution so you can evaluate the results before committing fully.
Distributed systems make sense.
This amounts to a "virtual" call center where there is no central office online or offline. This can be quite economical.