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15 essential contact center software features

Looking for the best contact center software features? We review some of the most useful capabilities including data reporting, speech analytics, routing methods and AI.

Selecting contact center software is a daunting task. Contact center software is the heart of an organization, handling all inbound and outbound contacts, and it's critical for driving efficient and effective business performance.

To choose the right software, organizations must first understand what's required to meet the unique needs of their business. The business must specify these requirements when they create a request for proposal (RFP) and then determine which contact center software features are required to meet those needs.

You may have determined that your existing phone system or support software does not meet your current business needs or, perhaps you've decided that it's time to move to a cloud-based contact center tool. Whatever the reason for the effort, the most important metric when evaluating contact center software is reliability.

The gold standard of support is 99.999% uptime, and any software vendor that balks at that level of reliability should not make the shortlist. In addition to uptime, there are a number of key features and functionality that your organization might want to optimize its investment. Aligning features and functionality with business goals and objectives are vital to this process.

In this guide, we'll explore all the most in-demand contact center software features to help you make the decision and ensure your contact center meets the demands of today's business.

1. Reporting features

Reporting features provide insight into real-time and historical data and metrics. These features can help a business examine how key performance indicators (KPIs) are tracking against business goals and objectives.

Contact center software should have pre-built reports that an organization can customize, as well as dashboards with real-time trending information so that managers can monitor customer support trends.

Strong reporting features are essential because they help organizations make decisions and resolve issues in the contact center quickly. Contact centers use these capabilities to track agent performance and ensure a high level of service.

Key elements of reporting include the following:

  • Benchmarking data. This provides the ability to compare performance across specific points in time, which helps organizations manage changes in the contact center without poorly affecting the business.
  • Agent reports. These reports specifically focus on metrics related to your support teams, such as average speed to answer, average wait time and average handle time. Again, this type of reporting is critical for organizations to assess agent performance.
  • Channel reports. These reports ensure that service teams can measure and compare performance across communication channels such as phone, VOIP, email, chat and SMS. Channel reports are an important feature if an organization wants to make changes to its channel partner offerings.
  • Custom reports. The ability to create personalized reports is an important contact center software feature because it allows organizations to focus on what matters to the business specifically. Companies use custom reports to filter by groups, phone numbers, agents, departments, customer groups or products.

Learn more about important contact center KPIs and the metrics that best measure success.

2. Speech analytics

As contact centers focus on using technology to improve customer experience, the adoption of features that provide intelligence based on speech has grown.

Speech analytics can benefit call and contact centers by replacing the manual process of listening to and processing information by a human. Instead, software automatically analyzes the content of customer calls.

Inbound call monitoring features give a customer service organization the ability to evaluate language and voice inflections to monitor emotions related to a product, service, business or even the agent.

This can include analyzing how fast a customer is talking, or whether customers have stress or emotion in their voices. 

Speech analytics can also identify keyword patterns, product feature words and competitor names, allowing for quick reporting on trends and customer experience issues.

Speech analytics is vital in compliance-based organizations that must follow strict security protocols and procedures. This feature allows the contact center to proactively engage with customers, mitigate compliance issues and build customer loyalty.

3. Sentiment analysis

Different types of sentiment analysis can help organizations determine and categorize opinions about a product, service or idea.

For example, contact centers use sentiment analysis to listen for keywords that express customer satisfaction and mitigate customer issues before they get worse. This mitigation could include an escalation or an automatic pop-up for an agent to offer an incentive to the customer.

Sentiment analysis features can even look at patterns related to support issues with a channel or agent, which allows the business to gain insight into channel performance and solve problems around agent performance.

Types of sentiment analysis
Different types of sentiment analysis can help organizations determine and categorize opinions about a product, service or idea.

Contact center software can transcribe sentiment analysis data automatically. Sentiment analysis tools are available as standalone products, but are also an especially important part of contact center software suites.

Learn more about sentiment analysis and how it can improve customer experience.

4. Call transcription

Real-time transcription of phone calls provides insight into customer and agent behavior by recognizing patterns. Call transcription allows for faster analysis of data to find trends in behavior and customer experience, as well as revenue-focused trends such as offer rate acceptance.

Like other features that offer automation, call transcription helps organizations move past paper- or manual-based processes and speed up the time required to log and evaluate calls.

5. Text analytics

Similar to call transcription, text-based conversations from surveys, interactive voice response (IVR), SMS and emails can be digitally transcribed to find behavior and customer experience trends.

6. Monitoring features

Monitoring features allow a contact center to track, assess and analyze customer interactions, behaviors, words and documentation in real time.

An effective contact center monitoring program can reduce training time, increase productivity, supervise agent activity and decrease customer experience issues.

Organizations can use monitoring data and other information as input for quality assurance programs. Monitoring features can help organizations easily assess agent performance to ensure that quality standards are met, for example.

7. Call recording

Call recording is a small but not insignificant feature for contact center software. The application can store recordings in the cloud or on premises.

This feature is especially important for organizations that have compliance requirements and may want to access recordings for review and quality assurance.

8. Call routing and queuing features

Routing and queuing features are critical for contact center software.

These features focus on capturing the data, information and contact center "work" -- for instance, questions, issues, support and sales needs -- and sending it to the right agent, at the right time, for the right answers.

Intelligent routing systems in the contact center can send incoming calls to the next available agent, or through skills-based and predictive methods.

It's critical to have all the key features listed below because these allow a contact center to truly guide customers through the customer journey to resolve issues and questions more efficiently and effectively.

Without these features, customers become frustrated due to a lack of control over the process, and agents become less effective.

Call routing methods
Call routing systems in contact centers include next-available agent, skill-based and predictive methods.

9. Automatic call distribution (ACD)

With this feature, calls and additional contact methods are automatically routed to specific agents based on a combination of contact type and agent skills.

ACD also serves as a foundation for many other call center software features and processes such as skills-based routing, call monitoring and acquisition of call metrics. This feature allows businesses to solve problems where customers may be sent to the wrong agent, for example.

10. Automatic callback

This feature allows customers waiting on hold to leave voicemail messages or simply enter a telephone number to receive a callback and not lose their place in the queue.

This feature is useful for contact centers with consistent high volume spikes or for use during outages. It is sometimes performed by virtual agent technology.

11. Cross-channel experience

This offers built-in functionality for multi-channel or omnichannel experiences such as voice calls, chats and workflows that are driven by the same business rules and data integration.

This allows customers to seamlessly move from one channel to another for a frictionless experience. This functionality is also referred to as a unified desktop because it combines voice, text and other communication channels.

12. Predictive dialer

A dialer automatically dials lists of numbers and connects only live calls to agents. A predictive dialer is the modern version of autodialer technology that has been around since the 1980s.

This feature is especially important in outbound call centers, but it also has applications for inbound centers that want to do callbacks to customers.

13. Interactive voice response

IVR capabilities allow customers to interact with a contact center via a voice-activated or touch-tone keypad.

Organizations use this feature to improve the customer experience by offering self-service options. IVR facilitates customers getting to the right agent or department without having to speak to a live agent.

This feature performs the data gathering and proper routing that can aid contact center operations by cutting down time spent for both the customer and agent. Agents can receive pop-ups that give them all the information that a customer has either spoken or typed, which decreases contact handling time and can improve the customer experience.

How interactive voice response systems route calls
An IVR system processes a call using automated options to help callers find information or route a call to a human being, if necessary.

14. Business software integration

Contact centers can also integrate with other business applications such as ticketing software, quality monitoring, workforce management, collaboration and communication tools. Integrating these applications is important so that the tools work together in alignment with business objectives.

The data input from contact center software is the output to many of these tools, especially quality monitoring. Organizations that manually extract data should consider implementing business tools to integrate with contact center software to avoid this extra work. Functionality includes engaging with customer activity history in real time, pop-ups with contact information, click-to-call functions, automated identification and customer prioritization.

APIs connect different platforms together so they can communicate with one another. This integration allows different groups within a contact center to share data, information and knowledge to improve the customer experience.

Integration with customer relationship management (CRM) tools like Salesforce is particularly important. CRM integration is a vital feature that ensures the contact center software will integrate with the existing CRM or even a future CRM. Organizations should ask for referrals and validate the ease, cost and resources needed to integrate with these tools.

Learn more about connecting contact centers and applications across environments and in the cloud with a clear integration strategy.

15. AI and bots

Many of the software features above use AI customer service elements to support predictive capabilities and other automated actions that help organizations to enhance productivity and create a more streamlined experience for customers.

Chatbots are a significant part of contact center software and can help improve workflow, but call center agents must have thoughtful transition rules for bot-to-agent transferring.

This type of AI functionality allows for quicker and more accurate handling of customers by agents. Furthermore, the ability to streamline and automate tasks saves valuable time and creates a more efficient process for the customer.

Learn more about how contact centers are using AI to improve efficiency.

Conclusion

Organizations must assess all these factors and determine which features they need to help improve customer access to agents, increase loyalty, drive revenue and create overall positive customer experiences.

Understanding the business needs and the customer experience will result in a focus on features and functions that provide the most value to the business.

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