Contact center software is a communication and collaboration application that enables companies to manage high volume of inbound and outbound customer communications across a range of channels. Many currently available contact center software solutions are omni-channel, or multi-channel, and allow businesses to handle and integrate customer interactions across all potential channels and touchpoints, including voice, VoIP, email, fax, chat, video, SMS/text and social media platforms.
Over the recent years, contact center technology has considerably evolved enabling new software functionality and capabilities. Rapid advancements in CRM, integration of machine leaning and AI into business processes are anticipated to have a major impact on the contact center software industry and accelerate its growth in the following years.
Historically, contact center software was an on-premises based service, meaning the software was downloaded and maintained in-house, and required significant upfront and ongoing investment. With the movement to the cloud, contact center software has become more affordable to a broader range of organizations. Cloud-based contact center software solutions are now widely preferred by businesses due to low implementation and maintenance costs, greater scalability and flexibility.
Unlike call centers, contact centers are broader in their scope and encompass a larger set of services and capabilities. Core components and features of a typical contact center software include:
Automatic Call Distribution is the backbone of any contact center software – it allows to effectively manage the flow of incoming calls, emails, chats, texts by queuing and routing them to the most appropriate agents or departments, based on agent availability, matching expertise or other routing options.
Interactive Voice Response enables customers to interact with a company’s voice self-service system via telephone keypad or by speech recognition. It can identify and segment callers to resolve queries without human assistance, or pass them on to live agents, if further help required.
CTI is a technology that allows computers to interact with telephones and other channels of communication. For contact centers, CTI enables connection of these communications with customer data stored in CRM platforms and provides pre-call authentication, so the agents get caller information even before picking up the call.
Outbound dialer automates the process of dialing numbers to maximize outbound call volume by allowing agents to increase the number of outbound calls they can make while also decreasing the time it takes to place them.
Real-time call monitoring enables listening to agents’ calls in real time in order to monitor their performance and ensure the quality standards are being met. It also assists in training of new agents, both working from home or in the office.
Reporting features allow tracking various call data including the number of calls pe agent, average call length, agent downtime, etc. to get a full view of daily statistics and track contact center KPIs over the long term.
Multi-channel contact centers enable businesses to offer a unified, seamless and consistent service experience across different channels customers are using – including email, voice, text, social media and the web – by streamlining all interactions into one centralized location.
Workforce Management capabilities help to ensure a contact center is staffed with enough employees with the right skills to effectively handle customer queries. That includes forecasting customer call demand, predicting agent staffing numbers, agent work scheduling, performance reviews, timekeeping and day-to-day management.
Though the two terms ‘call center’ and ‘contact center’ are very often used interchangeably, yet they are two distinct models for business communication and customer service. When it comes down to it, the primary difference between the two is that call centers handle voice communications, while contact centers handle all communications.
Contact centers are basically the evolution of call centers, that appeared with the proliferation of digital communication channels to meet the growing demands of consumers. Today, call center software often comes as an integrated part of a contact center software or a help desk software. Some of the key differences between call centers and contact centers are the following:
Voice vs. Digital Service Channels
Call centers are focused on inbound and outbound voice calls, either on traditional phone lines or over VoIP, and are designed to handle a massive volume of calls. Contact centers are able to interact with customers over a variety of service channels, including traditional voice, email and live chat, as well as emerging channels like social media, video, bots, in-app, SMS/text.
Reactive vs Proactive Service
Traditionally, call center’s default strategy for providing customer service is to reactively respond to inbound requests and complaints as they arise. Though today’s call center software solutions allow keeping track of customer information, contact center software complies all customer data from across all channels into a single customer profile, giving agents a more comprehensive view of customer behaviors and preferences, which enables them to deliver more predictive and proactive service.
Both call centers and contact centers use automation through IVR systems that operate via spoken responses and/or keypad entries and allow customers to resolve issues in a self-service mode, often without involving a live agent at all. Contact center software solutions, however, usually offer additional self-service capabilities with AI and bots that can be used across all channels in a contact center.
Choosing between a call center software or a contact center software solution depends on your goals, requirements and complexity of your business processes. It’s also critical to take into account which channels your customers actually prefer to use to engage with your brand.
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