call center software checklist

How to shortlist call center software for small businesses?

Written by on April 4, 2018

Questions wake people up. They prompt new ideas. They show people new places, new ways of doing things, says Michael Marquardt when asked as to how to shortlist a call center software from the generous list available on the internet :D.

It can’t get truer. More so when trying to make decisions that might cost you big if not done well—literally too. There is so much to question and so much more to get answers for before pushing the button on a call center software. And the key to it is using the power of curiosity and asking the right questions at the right time—diving deep till you find the right pebble.

The signal from the noise!

How to pick the right call center software for small businesses?

The digital era has given us more than what it’s taken away. But on the flipside, have you tried to reason out as to why we are all over the place even to just pick something as basic as a pack of tissues?—scented, frilled, meshed, colored, patterned and what not!

Owing to the exposure and level of the digital freedom that we are bestowed with, getting carried away by an overkill of choices is quite the norm these days.

What we really need, often gets buried deep within this abundance.

And it’s no different when it comes to taking more serious decisions like choosing  a call center software for our business too!

In the rush to wind up and get onboard with our choice, we end up compromising on one or both of these — time and money.

Pondering over this paradox of wanting to choose the best software without compromising our business goals and ambitions, overwhelms our mind.

So, how then can we make the right decision and choose the call center software that fits our business?

What to ask even before deciding to trial a call center software for small businesses?

A week or two of trialing and exploring the options at hand could help. Testing the waters before plunging in head first is a safe bet.

Sounds sorted right?

Open up your favorite search engine or Google and type in call center software for small business. In case you are an enterprise you can search for an enterprise call center software. Start by searching smart so that you try the best call center software for your business. However, despite being smart with our search, we are bound to be torn between choices.

Pro-tip: The very first search result need not be the right fit for your business

However, you still need to do away with the irrelevant options and start looking at the more viable ones. There is certainly a need for a much more concrete approach. A strategy to help you drill down the vast pile of options and land on a bunch of relevant ones that are worth being tried for trial.

Clearly, understand your business’s demographics—All the specifics that count!

No one knows your business as much as you do. If you fail to derive the right target audience for your business, no one else can! Click To Tweet

call center software - business demographics

Know your business’s demographics to choose the right call center software. From the time when you were a small bunch in a tiny room of an office space to scaling up to an entire floor or two full of employees, the number of changes that would’ve molded your business is sure to be plenty.

If there is one thing that these changes would’ve made evident to you is that no one size fits all.

A blind choice based on a friend’s suggestion or a competitor who is doing great by using a specific call center software might seem like a glamorous and time-saving option to go with. But it’s that little bit of contemplation on your business’s demographics that gives you clarity on what fits your business the best.

Here are some basic questions to get you up and running on the right track.

1. What’s your business’s most used channel of communication?—phones, live chat or social media

While some businesses love talking to customers over a call, others might find convenience in texting over a crisp chat or typing out a precise tweet. Every business has a unique way of handling their customers, organizing their routine functions and sharing their resources across horizontals. While some may see using calls as the most convenient way of handling the customer operations, others might prefer a chat or social media to up their game. This clarity and distinction drive you to choose what you need best for your business.

Let’s say, day in and day out, most of your agents are seen hooked to a phone conversation against replying over a chat thread or a twitter post.

Certainly means your business demands personal and heartfelt conversations over the convenience of chatbots. It could be the other way around too. But these observations paint a better picture of what you need to choose—a call or a contact center software.

Takeaway:

So looking out for a call center software or a messaging software or an all-in-one contact center for your business depends to a great extent on the most frequently used channel of communication for your business and the comfort of your customers.

2. How big is your team that handles your business call center?

Not all businesses operate from a common ground of action. And this difference to a great extent is based on the size of a business. With changing size and growth of a business, it’s complexity, priorities, basic needs and strategies to handle everyday operations evolve in parallel. Many a time, what best fits an enterprise business might be overwhelming for a small business.

Takeaway:

The size of your business—small, medium or enterprise plays an undeniably vital role in choosing a call center software with the most relevant bunch of features.  

3. How geographically diverse is your business?

Businesses that operate across the globe with a need to connect with diverse cultures alike have a lot of challenges to sail past. The biggest of them all is missing calls that come in hours outside their business timing.  

So, businesses with branches spread across the globe can deal with one less challenge by choosing a call center software that allows the comfort of setting up business hours and time zone specific activities.

Takeaway:

When in a business, where your teams operate from different geographies and have customers calling in from across the globe, certain call center features like local numbers from different countries and an option to route calls based on business hours can be of great help.

4. What type of customer calls does your business bank on?—outbound or inbound

Sales and support are like two storylines with the same climax in mind. They may differ in the way they gain customers(audience). But the end goal is always to have enough customers using your product/service. And the storyline that seems positive in gaining customers is preferred in any business.

Your business might be more aligned towards making calls against receiving them. It just means that an outbound approach works best for you. For a business where answering customer queries makes up most part of their day, an inbound call center is the best bet. What really matters is, having clarity on what works best and choosing a call center software that’s biased towards your preference.

Takeaway:

Always choose a call center software that has more features to support the type of calls(inbound or outbound) that your business revolves around.

Ask your team of call center agents—the right set of questions.

The answer to most of your ‘whys’ often resides in the nitty-gritty details of an agent’s typical workday. Starting from the number of calls that comes your call center’s way, to the nature of calls and many more such factors that compliments your decision, a lot is unveiled from a simple empathetic conversation with your call center agent.

call center software — agent's roadblocks
Understand what can improve your agent’s productivity

Your agents are the ones to spend most of their work hours with the call center software. That’s why it’s fitting that their opinion and feedback is quite valuable.

1. What is the one thing that your call center agent would love to have extra help with?

A call center agent needs to be great at multitasking right from juggling between customer calls, helping colleagues to answer some complex queries, sending out follow up emails, looping in the outbound team on demo requests and so much more; a call center agent needs some supernatural powers to have a comfortable day. So, when asked as to what’s the most burdening part of their work, you’ll have an instant response from their end.

Let’s say one of the agents feel that he is unable to spend quality time in each call owing to the sizeable volume of calls in queue for the day. Despite wanting to do a great job, the lack of a good support system to distribute calls smartly is seen to take a toll on him.

This is just one such possible roadblock. With more interactions and genuine conversations, almost all such backlogs will surface up.

Takeaway:

Taking note of that one issue that was mentioned repeatedly by a majority of the agents gives you a good pivot to substantiate what’s needed. Eventually, that one feature becomes a must while shortlisting a call center software to trial.

2. Is there a routine task that takes away most of your agent’s time—a task that can be automated?

Any call center agent is often seen racing against time. Even so because of the unexpected calls and problems that pop up through their workday. That’s why every extra minute they spend on repetitive tasks tampers with their productivity and peace of mind. Something as basic as repeatedly receiving calls meant for another department or region might in itself annoy them to a great extent. Or let’s say, after every call that they attend to, they end up manually logging it in a separate excel sheet. Oh boy! What a waste of time. A couple or more calls could have been attended at that time. I am sure that a call center agent can add on to this list even better.

Based on how your business rolls and the work style that your team follows, their answers might vary. So, just picking their minds in a casual team huddle would help you to get better clarity and direction to move forward with your choice.

Now with this piece of info at hand, you can easily narrow down the scope of your search.

Takeaway:

While searching through the sea of call center software options, all you need to do is to check if the software has the features that can automate the time-consuming tasks pointed out by your team.

Align with your customer’s needs—they are your best critics! So just ask them upfront.

A satisfied customer is the best business strategy of all. - Michael LeBoeuf Click To Tweet
call center software — customer issues
Know what makes your customers happy

And that’s why involving them, their opinions and feedback when trying to strategize your business for the better(choosing a call center software) adds so much value to your decision.

All this hustle around onboarding a call center software and leveraging technology to improve productivity and revenue is nothing but an attempt to satisfy your customers as much as possible. Involving their thoughts at a stage as early as pre-trial can help you compare and comprehend the effect and credibility of your decision later on(post-trial).

1. How often do their calls go unanswered?

One of the most crucial but often near impossible aspects of offering kick-ass customer service is zero missed calls. The least that a customer expects from a business is for their calls to be attended.

But given the volume of calls coming in and a shortage of ample resources, this scenario often gets out of our control. But by knowing the extent to which these missed calls are affecting your customer’s happiness can help you prioritize on the mandatory features to look for while choosing a call center software to trial.

Takeaway:

Shortlisting call center software that has automatic reminders on missed calls and voicemails is a good way to solve this gap.

2. Does it take more than a single call to get their queries answered?

Customers take to calling your support for quick responses. Unless the problem put forward by them is extremely complex or technically challenging, solving it in a single call is the general expectation. Too much of back and forth in solving a given issue just annoys a customer and reflects poorly on the expertise of the support team.

Leaving it unnoticed for a long time just puts you in a bad light and makes the customer think twice before wanting to call you for help. The only way to know where you stand as a business in this aspect is personally asking them in during a general conversation.

Takeaway:

Selecting a call center software that has an option to route calls based on the expertise of an agent will help minimize the back and forth.

While all your takeaways and realizations from this post are still intact and fresh, remember that these are only a handful of questions to help you start with. The deeper you analyze and spend time touching upon all important factors, you are sure to take a much better decision.

Here’s an exhaustive checklist that we’ve compiled on the possible questions to be answered before choosing a call center software to trial with.

Download the checklist from here!

We are sure there is to more to add to it. Use the comments section below to add to this list. We’d be more than happy to hear from you 🙂

P.S – Micheal did not really say that while talking about shortlisting call center software :p

Illustrations by Nikhil Kanda, Graphic Designer, Freshworks.

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