All businesses are using some type of cloud software these days, whether it be email, storage, CRM, etc. So why are so many companies that rely on customer experience for their business’ success still using old or on-premise call center software?
Modern call center solutions have evolved to meet shifting customer demands, meaning they include features that enhance the customer experience by providing choices, more competent agents, ease of use, faster resolutions, and more.
Additionally, the best call center software also improves agent experience, satisfaction and engagement by equipping agents with the tools they need to effectively resolve customer inquiries and manage their own performance. Research by ICMI shows that agent satisfaction is directly linked to increased customer satisfaction (CSAT). Engaged agents will go the extra mile to satisfy customers and are more likely to be retained.
And, don't worry, the best call center software also includes world-class workforce management applications leaders can use to capably manage labor costs and service levels by optimizing staffing levels. These tools simplify and improve the accuracy of core forecasting, scheduling, and intraday adjustment processes.
The best call center software elevates call center performance and yields tangible benefits that ultimately fund the investment.
How do you know you need new call center software?
There's a "moment of truth" when organizations realize they need new call center software. It might come during a crisis or a proactive planning session. Perhaps it's a result of dissatisfaction or a case of outgrowing the software's capabilities. If you're having doubts about your current solution, here are some signs that it's time to upgrade to the best call center software.
1. Your receptionists and support staff are overwhelmed by calls
For a small business, this can be a sign that you first need to establish a call center and back it with the best call center software. Perhaps the ad hoc support process you established when you were a startup worked for a while, but now things are becoming chaotic. Staff can't handle the increased call volume, voicemail boxes are full, and you have no insights into statistics around calls coming in and how they’re handled. It's time to formalize the customer support function and acquire the right tools for success. Start with a really good automatic call distributor (ACD) to route and queue calls and help you understand key information about incoming calls.
2. Low visibility into key data
If, unlike the previous example, you already have a call center, you know that successfully managing operations and quickly reacting to changing conditions depends on having easy access to real-time performance statistics. This includes data like volume by day part, abandon rates, callers in queue, and more. Older systems might not present data in real-time, making it difficult to be agile. Plus, data may be difficult to access and changes to reports may require vendor support at a cost. When you aren't getting good management data from your systems, it's probably time to consider a change.
3. Difficult to integrate
Do your service agents have to navigate a tangle of different applications just to resolve one customer issue? Do your IVR and ACD have trouble "talking" to each other? Both are symptoms that your systems might be difficult to integrate. Call center software is more powerful when the modules seamlessly integrate with each other and other business systems such as customer relationship management (CRM) applications. This allows features like a unified agent desktop, customer self-service in the IVR, and screen pops that automatically present customer information to agents. If your call center software is difficult to integrate, you're likely missing out on some beneficial capabilities.
4. No support for digital channels
There's significant consumer demand for businesses to offer support through digital channels, like chat and social media. In response, many organizations are transforming their call centers into omnichannel contact centers that seamlessly support multiple channels. If your call center is facing this type of transition, you may find that your current software doesn't support multiple channels. This can mean agents have to access different systems, your workforce management software can't handle forecasting and scheduling for the new channels, you won't have consolidated reporting, and other inefficiencies. The best call center software can help you overcome these issues, so you might need to expand your plans to include an upgrade.
5. Multiple compliance issues
All call centers need to comply with laws regarding call recording, storage, and playback. Then there are additional requirements, for example, if the call center takes credit card information or makes outbound calls. Noncompliance penalties come with a hefty price. Modern software has compliance supporting features that may be lacking in older applications. For instance, industry leading call recording software can mask credit card information and provides flexible options for how and how long you store recordings. If you're tired of spending money on fines, consider implementing a new software solution.
6. Consistently over or understaffed
Call center budgets and service levels live or die by staffing levels. When there are too many agents scheduled, it's an inefficient use of labor dollars. But understaffing causes queues to fill up and customer satisfaction to decline. Neither one is acceptable when it's the norm. If staffing levels are consistently off, it's likely due to inadequate forecasting, scheduling, or both. One of the first things to examine is the tools your workforce management team uses. It's possible they're just not doing the job anymore and it's time to switch to workforce management software that can produce more accurate results.
7. The call center needs additional functionality or capabilities
As call centers evolve their service models, sometimes their legacy systems just can't adapt. For example, adding self-service IVR capabilities might be beyond the capabilities of the existing IVR. Additionally, a call center might decide to finally implement quality management or performance management modules after years of holding out. If their existing vendor doesn't offer those applications, now they're facing a scenario of "bolting on" software and hoping all the systems play well together. It might be time to take a step back and consider a more holistic software package. When it's time to add new capabilities, but your software doesn't support it, it's a sign that it might be time to replace it.
8. Neglectful vendor
Is your software vendor just not that into you anymore? Does it take a long time for them to respond to your questions and requests? Does it feel like they nickel and dime you to death? Unfortunately, that can happen. Maybe your vendor landed some much bigger accounts and relegated you to a back corner. Or perhaps once they moved you down the pipeline from sales to support, the honeymoon was over. A software vendor should be an attentive, supportive partner to you no matter what. If they aren't, it might be time to upgrade both your software and your vendor.
9. Your software contract is up for renewal
This particular event doesn't necessarily mean your existing software isn't performing, but a contract renewal is a great time to scan the market and make sure you're really using the best call center software for your business. It's been a few years since your software selection, and in the meantime other vendors have been steadily improving their products. Doing some research might uncover software that solves some of your unique problems. Or a contract renewal might be a good time to revisit the cloud vs on-premises debate.
10. Your hardware provider is requiring an upgrade to operate
If your software is hosted on premises, you probably know all about maintaining servers and other related hardware. But did you know your hardware vendor might stop supporting your older servers? Then you're faced with significant capital expenditures, and the cycle will repeat itself 7-10 years from now when your new hardware becomes obsolete. This is an ideal time to assess moving to cloud-based software. Let your new software vendor worry about the hardware!
Cloud vs on-premises
The cloud vs on-premises debate bears further discussion. Some organizations are staunchly on the side of having all their technology on-site where they can control and protect it. The motives are understandable, but this approach comes at a cost. An on-premises solution means purchasing and maintaining servers, having IT resources on staff to support the hardware and software, and purchasing inflexible software licenses.
With a cloud-based model, a vendor hosts and maintains the software. End-users can still configure the software according to their business rules, but the call center no longer needs to perform tasks like maintaining servers and applying software updates. Additionally, cloud call center solutions are typically priced according to how many seats are actually in use, an arrangement particularly appealing to businesses with wide seasonal volume fluctuations. This characteristic often makes cloud-based software a lower cost option.
So, perhaps a tenth sign that it's time to switch to a new software solution is that your current licensing agreement is too rigid and expensive. In that case, it's time to revisit the cloud vs on-premises analysis.
Benefits of upgrading to the best call center software
Upgrading to more modern call center software is, admittedly, a significant undertaking, not to be taken lightly. But the benefits can be substantial and can far outweigh the costs. Below is a discussion of many of those benefits.
Labor cost savings.
- Reduce overstaffing. Modern workforce management software can produce better forecasts, which means hiring plans and agent schedules will be more in line with what's actually needed to handle volume. Overstaffing should become a much less frequent outcome.
- Decrease agent-assisted contacts. IVRs that enable self-service decrease the volume of calls that make it through to agents. Allowing customers to perform tasks such as checking account balances or paying bills is a much more cost-effective path to resolution. Adding self-service options to the mix lowers the cost per contact (CPC) and is good for the bottom line.
- Reduce handle times. When agents are equipped with a unified desktop (because systems are easily integrated), handle times should decrease. This is because they don't have to toggle through multiple systems when assisting callers. Instead, they can quickly get down business because everything they need is right at their fingertips.
- Reduce inbound calls. Call centers can reduce inbound calls by using proactive, automated outbound communication. Outbound dialers can push out recorded messages via phone, text, and email to notify customers about events like snow cancellations and product recalls. Customers will like the proactiveness and your bottom line will like the cost savings.
- Reduce or eliminate compliance fines. The best call center software has features that support compliance directives like PCI and HIPAA. This alone is not a guarantee of compliance, but when used in conjunction with sound policies and procedures, it increases the likelihood of compliance and decreases the likelihood of those painful fines.
- Increase conversion rates. If you're a sales-oriented call center, you likely always have an eye on conversion rates. Better quality monitoring software should help move the needle on results by helping identify and target specific behaviors that are barriers to turning prospects into customers.
- Decrease outbound abandon rates. Most people can recognize incoming sales or collections calls by that tell-tale pause before the agent starts speaking. It gives them just enough time to hang up the phone. This causes financial outcomes to suffer. Industry leading predictive dialers yield a higher connection rate by eliminating the pause and connecting people with agents right away.
- Better customer-agent matching. One of the main roles of ACDs is to connect callers to agents. Modern ACDs don’t just look for any available agent, but perform this match based on factors like agent skill sets, customer contact history, and more. Sophisticated matching routines are designed to connect callers with the agents best suited to address their issues. This should result in a higher first call resolution (FCR) rate and a better customer experience.
- Lower queue times. People don't like to wait for "the next available agent." Workforce management tools can decrease the likelihood that they'll ever have to wait very long. More accurate forecasts and schedules don't just prevent overstaffing - they also help call centers avoid understaffing. Having the right number of agents on the phones will decrease wait times, which will help customer experience.
- 24/7 coverage. Consumers expect 24/7 support, but it can be hard for small and medium-sized businesses to justify the cost of staffing the call center after hours. IVRs that enable self-service can fill this need at low cost. Even if the IVR can't resolve all inquiries, customers will have the perception that the business is more accessible to them.
- Higher quality and more consistent CX. When call centers use industry leading performance management and quality management applications, customer experience can improve. This is because the quality management process is streamlined and more effectively identifies focus areas. Additionally, performance management tools put data in the hands of the people that can have the most impact. This combination allows agents to align on organizational quality and CX objectives.
- Development-driven improvement. Who doesn't want to get better at their job? Those performance and quality tools discussed above, as well as accessible agent dashboards, create an environment of continuous performance improvement. Agents who have targeted feedback and access to their own results can team with their supervisors to up their games. For agents who care about their performance, this will lead to better results.
- Empowerment with the right tools. If you're able to eliminate that tangle of support systems and give agents a unified desktop, that will do magical things for the agent experience. Not only does it inject simplicity into the issue resolution process, but agents will feel more confident they can help customers. This will help with agent satisfaction and contribute to agent retention.
- Quicker identification of trends and root cause. We've already discussed many features of the best call center software that lead to better call center management, but one that bears further emphasis is analytics. Analytics tools take all that raw call center data and turn it into actionable information so that leaders can make decisions. For example, interaction analytics can comb through 100% of calls and identify things like customer sentiment and top call drivers. Armed with this type of information, leaders can address smoldering issues before they become dumpster fires.
- Software is always up to date. Imagine always being current with the latest software release and having access to the latest, greatest features. Cloud-based call center software offers these sometimes overlooked benefits. You may think your ten-year-old ACD is serving your needs just fine, but there have been incredible technical advances in the last decade. These advances may have enabled a capability that would be a game changer for your operation.
Did you identify your call center situation in any of the ten signs? Did many of those benefits speak to you? NICE can help you with your next steps. NICE CXone is the leading cloud customer interaction platform—100% focused on helping contact centers achieve their customer experience goals. Here’s what we suggest you do next:
- Step 1 - watch product demos of our ACD/IVR software and unified agent desktop to get a flavor of what CXone is all about.
- Step 2 - read Uncovering Cloud Options for Your Organization to learn more about if the cloud is right for your call center.
- Step 3 - contact us to find out more about upgrading to the best call center software.