Every year, Software Advice talks with thousands of buyers searching for call center software. These conversations provide us with unparalleled insight into the needs of call centers and the industries that use them.
We recently analyzed a random selection of 385 of these interactions to identify call center software buyer trends, including demographics, most common pain points and what features buyers desire most in new call center software.
- A significant portion (46 percent) of buyers are buying call center software for the first time.
- Call recording and computer-telephone integration (CTI) top the list of desired software capabilities among buyers, ahead of call routing and interactive voice responders (IVRs).
- Sixty-one percent of call center buyers we sampled have 10 or fewer users and 79 percent have annual revenue of 25 million or less, indicating a significant demand for call center software among small businesses.
Nearly Half Are First-Time Buyers
Forty-six percent of the buyers we spoke with had no call center software in place, and were looking to purchase for the first time. Most of these buyers were using manual methods to place, receive and distribute calls. They were using spreadsheets, word processors or pen and paper to track call information.
Percentage of First-Time Buyers
Buyers Prefer Web-Based, Best-of-Breed Systems
Forty percent of buyers expressed no preference in deployment model. However, of buyers who specified one deployment model over another, the majority were interested in “Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)” or Web-based systems. SaaS systems are hosted on off-site servers owned and managed by the service providers, rather than on the company’s own servers.
Deployment Model Preferences
Though call center software buyers expressed a preference for Web-based software solutions, they were less interested in integrated software suites (only 16 percent preferred them). Integrated suites are software platforms that contain multiple applications in addition to the primary application. For example, an integrated suite for call center software might also have extensive customer relationship management functions.
The vast majority of buyers—71 percent—expressed a preference for best-of-breed software. Best-of-breed software is a single application, such as one just for call center capabilities.
Buyers’ Integration Requirements
Buyers Want Call Recording and CTI Features
Most of the buyers we spoke with were looking for specific features in their call center software. The most common feature, call recording, was requested by 42 percent of buyers. “Quality assurance” and “employee training” were the most frequently cited reasons for wanting this feature.
Computer-telephone integration (CTI) links a company’s computer database with its phone system, allowing, for example, customers’ information to automatically appear on-screen when they call. As the second most popular feature, CTI was requested by 39 percent of buyers, who frequently explained wanting it for “tracking customer interaction history” and “note taking” purposes.
Buyers Seek Better Efficiency and Organization
Though some buyers had simply outgrown or “exceeded the capacity of their current system,” others were looking for software to address specific deficiencies with their existing methods. A large portion of call center software buyers are seeking to improve efficiency (67 percent) and organization (61 percent).
Reasons for Purchasing Software
Even Mix of Buyers From Inbound and Outbound Centers
The call center software buyers we spoke with represented a very even mix of inbound and outbound call centers, as well as call centers that perform both functions.
Inbound vs. Outbound Call Centers
Buyers From Diverse Markets
Though it’s common to speak of a monolithic “call center industry,” the reality is that call centers play a role in many industries. The common thread is that they each have a large B2C (business-to-consumer) component, and therefore require frequent calls to and from customers.
Companies in the medical, consulting and IT industries represented nearly 30 percent of the software buyers we spoke with. The largest percentage of our sample was made up of buyers from disparate industries, such as manufacturing, advertising and banking. Each of these industries alone comprised between 4 and 5.9 percent, but did not represent a significant proportion of the total.
Prospective Buyers by Industry
This chart shows the annual company revenue of the call center software buyers we included in our sample. Over half of buyers were businesses with $5 million or less in annual revenue. Nine percent were large enterprises with annual revenues greater than $100 million.
Buyer Size by Annual Revenue
This chart shows the number of users, or agents, the call center software buyers in our sample had. Interestingly, over half of all companies were seeking call center software for 10 or fewer users.
Number of Users
Implications of Research
This research highlights several important trends in the call center industry. The first is that, like many other industries, the call center industry is shifting towards a preference for SaaS (Web-based software). SaaS is attractive to call center buyers for its advantages of scalability and convenience. There’s generally no need to install anything, the software is updated automatically and most technical issues are handled by the vendor.
SaaS also comes with an attractive price tag: while advanced call center software was once too expensive for small businesses, that’s no longer the case. The second trend we’ve identified is that more small businesses are opting to handle their own call center needs. This is in line with a larger and ongoing national trend: the onshoring of call center jobs. (In the 1990s, call center jobs were shipped to the Philippines and India en masse—but this trend has been largely reversed in the past five years, with many of these jobs being brought back to the U.S.)
We found evidence for this trend in the relatively large proportion of small-business software buyers in our sample: two out of three buyers were from companies with 10 or fewer users. Further, nearly half of the buyers we spoke with were buying call center software for the first time—suggesting that many might be choosing to handle call center tasks in-house that were once outsourced to third parties.
The detailed methodology for this report can be found here.