If your customer service team is the heart of your business, then your call center is its backbone and your call center phone system is its nervous system. Your call center is often the first point of contact between your business and your customers, and is a direct reflection of your commitment to their care. And the phone system you use provides your team with the tools it needs to deliver exceptional care.
A small business can live or die based on how well it supports its customers, and despite most businesses offering multiple ways for their customers to contact them — email, social media, online chats, etc. — the phone remains most people’s preferred method.
Ready to purchase a call center phone system? We recommend Nextiva because of its comprehensive list of features, economical pricing, and exceptional customer service — something that is of particular importance to small businesses. Read more in our guide to the best call center phone systems.
While your standard phone system, whether landline or VoIP-based, may give you the basics for that phone support, taking advantage of optimized call center phone systems can help you deliver higher levels of customer care more economically and efficiently.
Benefits of Call Center Phone Systems
Call Routing and Queuing
As the volume of calls you receive increases, so too does your need to triage them. It’s in your business’ best interest to route each call to the representative who is best able to help with your customer’s needs. This could be because of particular skill sets, product knowledge, or access to systems. If each call is routed to the representative who is best able to assist with it, then average call and wait times will decrease.
A good call center phone system system will include the ability to place calls in queue following pre-defined logic, whether in simple sequence or based on the specific issue or the severity of it (account cancellation requests may receive priority, for example). And as your customer service team grows, that logic can become more complex. For example, you can create sub-teams that specialize in specific products, types of inquiry (like billing or technical assistance), or even by the geographic region that the call is originating from.
Some of the factors that can contribute to how an incoming call is routed may include any or all of:
- How the customer navigated through the phone tree or IVR
- Demographic information about the customer, such as where they live
- Any previous interactions that the customer has had with your business, particularly if they are sensitive
- Any specific knowledge or skill sets of the representative receiving the call
- The customer or agent’s language
- Any other logic that may be important to how your business services your customers
Call center phone systems can determine whether a call should go to a given extension based on other factors as well, such as whether an representative is on break. A representative can either log out of their phone system or change their status to unavailable, and this will exclude them from the system’s call routing. Their supervisor will also be able to see who is available to receive calls, who isn’t and why, and adjust the sub-teams that calls are routed to on the fly.
The ability to route incoming calls based on the intersection of the customer’s information and the representative’s abilities will help your business optimize their service delivery. Your customers will be more satisfied with the service they receive and your call center’s metrics will improve as a result.
Computer Telephony Integration
Computer telephony integration (CTI) software systems allow your customer service representative’s computers to interact with their telephones — or to replace them altogether. Most advanced call centers leverage CTI functionality; it helps them to gain a competitive advantage because of the more data-driven approach to interacting with their customers.
CTI systems can also be integrated with third-party applications, such as your business’ CRM software. For example, when a representative receives a new call, the caller’s account information can automatically appear on the representative’s computer screen so they can quickly scan it before accepting the call. If your call center is an outbound one, then the representative could click on a customer’s phone number on their account to make the call.
Integrating your CTI system with your CRM software will give your entire business the ability to provide 360° service across any touchpoint. Documenting every interaction means that your customer service representatives can provide help more efficiently, your sales team will have full visibility into your customer’s experience with your business, and your technical team will have a summary of any previous or ongoing issues. This helps with routing your customers through any internal case resolution processes and keep them informed of its progress.
Russ Fordyce, Managing Director at Broadview Communications, spoke to the benefits of integrating your CTI system with other productivity software when he said:
“Businesses are also seeking platforms that have APIs, plugins and integrations available for CRM solutions and other business applications. The desire to have critical software systems integrate with business communications stems from the need for richer reporting capabilities like number of calls made in a day, better customer service, and more seamless workflow for enhanced employee productivity.”
CTI software integration also helps to authenticate your callers by automatically comparing the phone number they called from to the account details in your CRM software. This helps to reduce call time and avoids the customer’s annoyance in having to repeat their personal and account information to your representatives.
Other functionality that your CTI will typically add includes:
- Automatic dialing and computer-controlled dialing, such as power dial, preview dial, and predictive dial.
- Phone control, including call controls like answer, hang up, hold, and conference.
- Feature control, including do not disturb, and call forwarding.
- Coordinated phone and data transfers between parties within your call center.
- Administrative functions, such as representative login and changing their state from ready to busy, available to take calls, on break, and logout.
Sophisticated call centers have full-time supervisors and multiple tiers of support teams. If your business is one of them, then you will want your supervisors to be able to silently listen in and monitor calls for coaching and quality control purposes. Call center phone systems will allow you to do this, which gives you more qualitative data than the metric-driven reports. Also, they give supervisors the opportunity to relieve representatives who may be confronted with abusive customers or other difficult situations.
In addition to call monitoring, call center phone systems may also offer supervisors the ability to whisper or barge. Whispering is when a supervisor listens in on a call and coaches the representative, but only the representative can hear the supervisor — not the customer. Barging occurs when a supervisor immediately joins the call they’ve been monitoring, either to assist with a difficult situation or to take over an abusive one.
Metrics and Reporting
There’s an old axiom that says that if something is worth doing then it’s also worth measuring. And the best way to improve and optimize the effectiveness of your customer service call center is to collect comprehensive metrics, evaluate them, and adjust your service delivery to meet any changes.
Call center phone systems have the ability to collect these metrics and generate reports on them. This can help you monitor your call center staff’s performance, understand why and when your customers are calling, and better forecast your staffing needs so that you have enough representatives available to manage the call volume but not so many that some are sitting idle.
The metrics that your call center’s phone system’s provide should include a minimum of call volume, call length, call abandonment, hold time, and customer satisfaction for each individual representative and the call center as a whole.
These metrics will help inform any decisions you make, form the basis of employee performance evaluations, and help you to learn from the better representatives to help coach those who may be underperforming. They can also arm you with quantitative justification in case you have to take any unfortunate disciplinary actions.
Interactive Voice Response
Interactive voice response (IVR) capability, known to many as voice prompt systems, will help your customers to direct their calls to the appropriate team of representatives. It allows the computers behind your call center to interact with your human customers via the tones from their phone’s keypads or voice recognition. IVRs will then respond with prerecorded or dynamically generated audio to further engage with the customer and either respond to their inquiry or route their call to the representative who best can.
Often confused with an auto attendant, the purpose of an IVR is to take the customer’s input, process it, and return a result, whereas an auto attendant simply routes calls.
A more comprehensive IVR can even help answer your customer’s inquiries without the need for a representative at all (for example, checking their account balance). They do this by operating on a strategically developed call flow that’s continuously refined based on your customer’s interactions with it. This often means that your customers will receive a faster response and you can reduce the number of representatives required at any given time.
Assuming that your call center isn’t open 24/7, your IVR can even help your customers when you’re closed or greet them with a message confirming when you will be back open to help them.
An IVR is included as a standard feature with most call center phone systems and software, allowing you to easily record your own greeting or to choose from prerecorded options.
The Bottom Line
Call center phone systems are built on the same technology as business phone systems, and offer many of the same features. Where they differ is in the additional features that call center phone systems offer, which can help you to deliver exceptional service to your customers and optimize your call center’s operations.
IVR capabilities, call routing and queuing, call monitoring, comprehensive metrics and reporting, and CTI and CRM integrations all contribute to an elevated customer experience and equip you with the tools you need to allocate your resources more efficiently.