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Call center applications are the lifeblood of a high-volume contact center and important to any organization the takes inquiries from prospects and customers. These applications are often a component of customer sales and support systems. Other times they expand on the trouble ticketing functions found in departmental help desk (HD) tools. There is often some confusion as to where call center systems end and customer support software begins. We’ve written this buyer’s guide to help the software buyer better understand call center technology.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
“Press 1 for...” Some say it is the bane of modern society. But the reality is that call center software is the only way that a company can scale up services without adding a new agent for every 10 or so new customers.
Contact centers use software and hardware to assist agents who help customers on the phone or some other channel. It expands on help desk technology by adding ties to customer information systems.
A principal component of these systems is computer telephony integration (CTI), which joins information from the phone system. As a result, agents can see customer information at the same time that the phone rings. Meanwhile, interactive voice response (IVR) lets customers interact with the system directly over the telephone. These are also common capabilities found in business phone systems and software.
Other core functions include scripting, data consolidation, and logging. Support for contact channels beyond telephone and email is increasing. For example, more systems are now integrating web chat and social networking tools. Meanwhile, autodialers are critical for high-volume outbound centers and important in any center that phones customers or just dials a lot of phone numbers.
Training and evaluation tools are important to centers with high turn-over. These tools can record customer-agent interactions so that supervisors can evaluate them and provide feedback to the agent.
Before you can do a comparison of customer support systems, you’ll need to assess what kind of buyer you are. We believe 90%+ of buyers fall into one of the following categories:
The different buyers have distinct opportunities with vendors.
|This type of buyer...||Should evaluate these systems|
|High-volume buyers||Goldmine CRM, inContact, Oracle CRM, SAP, Salesforce, Chrodiant, Pegasystems|
|Industry-specific buyers||Leads360, SoftVu, Libra OnDemand|
|Enterprise buyers||Oracle CRM, SAP, Clarify, Chrodiant, Pegasystems|
|Small business suite buyers||SugarCRM, Sage Saleslogix|
These software market trends should be considered as you select a product and vendor.
A call center system must benefit both managers and communications center agents. The following are the minimum benefits that should be realized with a successful system:
One downside of highly automated centers is the customer complaint of entering “IVR hell.” If customers cannot resolve an issue or reach a helpful agent in 2 or 3 key presses, they may well hang up unsatisfied.
The other most common issue is lack of agent training. Scripting and monitoring are powerful tools, but it is still critical to implement best practices for training agents in the basics of phone etiquette.
Just like other monitoring tools, technology has a potential dark side for your contact center agents. Over monitoring leads to decreased job satisfaction. Consider using the increased information from communication center reports to create a bonus structure to accomplish the same goals.
A vast majority of customers--83 percent according to one report--prefer to contact businesses over the phone versus any other channel. But recruiting new staff when volume picks up can get expensive. Instead, developers have come out with call center solutions that automate previously manual processes.
Since the industry’s founding, this contact center technology has diversified to include such offerings as live chat software, voice recording software, interactive voice response systems and all-encompassing call center management software. As a result, the number of vendors offering such contact software has increased, giving buyers more options and competitive pricing. Below are recent events from the top vendors in the contact center solutions industry.
RightNow CX - Oracle announced on February 29th updates to its RightNow CX Suite. The additions include a knowledge API, multifactor authentication, Facebook conversation access and improved intent guide functionality. The knowledge API increases self-help opportunities using knowledge as a service capabilities. The new multi-factor authentication process increases data security and trust with customers. The social media tools allow users to subscribe to a Facebook page or RSS feed from within a monitoring tool. Finally, the Intent Guide Virtual Assistant enhances Web chat experiences with threaded interactions that gather critical information.
8x8 Inc. - On March 26, 8x8 Inc. enhanced its Virtual Office cloud call recording and integrated call center solution. The product provides users access to core communications services from any location using an IP phone, PC or smartphone. The updates included new call handling capabilities and more intuitive Web options.
Also, on April 18 8x8 Inc. announced a partnership with immixGroup Inc. The companies added their cloud communications and computing systems to one of the U.S. General Services Administration’s procurement contract schedules. The deal makes their products available to government agencies.
Telax Hosted Call Center - Telax released on April 4 the latest update to its solution. The Telax Call Center Agent version 10.2 was enhanced with such upgrades as Microsoft Lync integration. Developers also redesigned the user interface, added audible alerts for chat sessions and rolled out a click-to-dial add-on.
“Technology is always evolving, so our solution is too. And of course as it gets used, our customer’s have specific requests,” Telax President Mario Perez said in a press release. “We’re always looking at ways to improve our customers’ operations. And there are no upgrade fees for these new capabilities, because really, we’re just delivering on the promise of cloud computing.”
3CLogic - On March 30, 3CLogic reportedly released a new set of management tools that allows supervisors to view snapshots of agent dashboards. The feature is part of the software’s comprehensive set of performance assessment tools. Others include a barge call option so managers can listen in and discreet during-call coaching functions.