Call center software originated in the 1960s, when the UK-based tabloid The Birmingham Press implemented a system that used a simple algorithm to filter calls and assign them to the best agents available at any given moment. Fast-forward over 50 years, and the call center has expanded vastly in scope and has developed rapidly to incorporate every piece of new tech available. Now encompassing voice calls, email, video chat, SMS/text messaging, and even chatbots, the modern call center has expanded far beyond the simple phone routing algorithm that it once was.
With how rapidly the industry evolves, it is easy to get lost in all of the new technology and lingo that is thrown around by call center software vendors. In this blog, we will explore the evolution of the call center, discuss the trends and tech, and show you what features you need in your call center solution to keep up with the competition and make your customer experience (CX) as modern and cutting-edge as possible.
EVOLUTION OF THE CALL CENTER—A BRIEF HISTORY
Initially, many companies saw value in providing customer service. Call center solutions saw new innovations in call center technology, including being able to more efficiently distinguish between types of calls and giving agents quicker access to customer records.
THE FIRST USE OF CALL CENTERS: INBOUND CALL CENTERS
With these innovations, call centers geared toward customer service began popping up. They focused on receiving inbound calls and handling routine requests via Interactive Voice Response (IVR)s. These inbound call centers used voice-based call center technology to minimize the volume of calls, reducing operational costs and increase efficiency.
THE OUTBOUND CALL CENTER
With the advent of the predictive dialer, outbound call centers emerged. The telemarketing industry grew substantially, going from employing half a million agents to 4.5 million. These call centers reached out to the customer in an automated manner and only engaged an agent once the call was connected. This allowed for greater agent efficiency and productivity as agents no longer had to manually dial or wait for answering machines. The number of outbound call centers grew rapidly, widening telemarketing and giving companies new ways to market their products. Inbound call centers and outbound call centers were used together by companies for maximum effect.
BLENDED CALL CENTER
With inbound and outbound call centers working side-by-side, the distinction between the two began to blur. Agents were finding themselves doing both inbound and outbound calls to increase efficiency, utilizing both inbound call center software and outbound call center software simultaneously. This led to call centers becoming blended over time, combining the roles of inbound and outbound. Blended call centers provided many advantages over separating inbound and outbound calls. These advantages include improved flexibility, increased efficiency, increased revenue, and increased customer satisfaction.
Blended call centers bridged the gap between the two different types of call centers and provided a more streamlined experience for the consumer.
THE SHIFT FROM CALL TO CONTACT — MULTICHANNEL CONTACT CENTERS
Originally, call centers were primarily voice based. Today, customers want to be able to communicate on the channel of their choice. Text messaging, social media, email, webchat, in-app, and video chat have all become important channels of communication with customers. This emergence of new channels guided the evolution of call centers into multichannel contact centers.
Multichannel contact centers allow agents to interact with customers over several communication channels. Multichannel contact centers give customers more flexibility and options than ever before. However, since most of these multichannel contact center software solutions were originally designed for voice calls, and these new channels were bolted-on afterwards, creating siloed channels. While customers could communicate across multiple communication channels, these channels were often segregated resulting in a poor customer experience.
These difficulties have created the need among companies to pursue a solution. Many companies are now attempting to evolve from multichannel contact centers into omnichannel contact centers.
OMNICHANNEL CALL CENTER SOFTWARE—A SEAMLESS CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE
If there is one piece of technology that every call center has to have, it is omnichannel contact center software. Lately it seems like every contact center software vendor illegitimately boasts about their omnichannel capabilities and claims to have omnichannel functionality. But What is true omnichannel capability and why is it so important for the modern call center?
Omnichannel is derived from the Latin word Omnis, meaning all. Omnichannel was first termed in the retail industry and refers to a sales approach that provides the customer with an integrated shopping experience with all channels of communication being connected with one another. An omnichannel strategy ensures that no matter which channel customers choose, the message or experience will be seamless. When applied to the world of call centers, this means that a conversation with a customer that is happening over the phone can be transferred easily to SMS, video call, or any other channel of communication without the context of the conversation being lost. The customer data from previous interactions is stored in the software and available to the agent, so there is no need for customers to repeat themselves as they transfer across channels.
Cloud computing has become one of the hottest trends in the tech world. Many of the world’s largest tech companies, like Google, Amazon, and Adobe are providing cloud storage and cloud computing options for their consumers. If you’ve used products like Google Drive, Amazon Web Services, and Adobe Creative Cloud, you have participated in cloud computing. Much of the world’s most cutting-edge software is now sold as a service online, giving rise to the term software as a service (SaaS). But what exactly is the cloud and how does it work with call center software?
The cloud is a metaphor for the Internet, where you’re able to store the data online rather than on your own computer. Cloud computing involves delivering hosted services through the Internet, while cloud storage refers to being able to store data on another server that isn’t your own. Cloud computing and cloud storage have made it easier than ever to store large amounts of data and added flexibility in the way we sell software or store data.
So how does this tie in to call center software? Rather than relying on an on-premises data center that is expensive and hard to maintain, cloud call center software offers much more flexibility and scalability. The move to cloud call center software is happening rapidly and more customers have moved their software to the cloud.
AI INTEGRATION—CALL CENTER AI
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is another hot topic among the tech savvy today. From the newest Siri updates to the self-driving cars that are roaming Silicon Valley, AI has gradually become integrated in our lives and we have utilized AI to assist us with day-to-day living. But can AI be used to assist you in the call center? How has AI been integrated into call center software?
AI and the call center first came in the form of bots, which many companies used on their websites to provide basic support to their customers. These bots came preloaded with a list of questions and preprogrammed answers to weed out the most basic questions that customers had.
Today, AI is used not only as a customer facing bot to handle routine tasks, but is also being tailored to help call center agents interact with customers. With the latest technical innovations such as text/speech analysis, emotion and sentiment analysis, AI is slowly becoming a necessary feature for many call centers. A combination of increased efficiency through automation and better quality customer service through AI analysis has set apart the call centers that implement AI from those that don’t.
CALL CENTER QUALITY ASSURANCE—A HAPPY CALL CENTER CREATES A HAPPY CUSTOMER
The call center is one of the most important strategies for your company. When your customers have an issue with your product or have inquiries about your business, your call center is often their first point of contact. A call center often leaves the first impression on your customer, who may judge your entire company on interactions they had with your call center agents. As a result, more focus needs to be put on managing the call center and ensuring quality interactions with customers. But how can you go about managing hundreds, possibly thousands of call center agents?
This is where quality management software comes in. Quality management can be automated to help call center supervisors ensure their agents are performing well and their customer interactions are exceptional. Many call center solutions focus their call center quality management solely on phone calls. Because they rely on outdated “sampling” techniques, managers and team supervisors can only monitor less than 2% of calls by listening in on the calls. The addition of newer channels of communication is only exacerbating the problem, spreading resources thin and leaving managers scratching their heads on how they can monitor so many channels.
Through the use of sentiment analysis and data collection, AI-driven quality management has the potential to allow managers and supervisors to monitor agent performance efficiently on a widespread scale.
MODERN CALL CENTER SOFTWARE PRICING—HOW EXPENSIVE IS IT?
With how advanced call center software has become, has it also gotten much more expensive?
Implementing advanced call center software can actually be very easy and affordable. Call center software pricing varies dramatically depending on the vendor you use and the features available. Cloud call center software is usually more affordable and paid monthly by the number of concurrent agent seats. This means you only have to pay for what you use. Omnichannel contact center software can also save you lots of money by decreasing the amount of separate software applications used to provide all the channels your customers are using. Rather than having three different software applications to support voice, chat, and email, omnichannel contact center software can downsize it to only one communications platform. Contact center software pricing also can be affected by professional services. Some technologies are harder to maintain and require a lot of professional services. Onboarding and professional services fees may also apply.
HOW TO MODERNIZE YOUR CALL CENTER SOLUTIONS TODAY
The market today is saturated with call center vendors who boast about having the best call center software, but which ones are actually mature and provide all of the latest features? Which call center software can provide true omnichannel, AI integration, and AI-driven quality management, all in one package?
Bright Pattern provides all three, and more. With Bright Pattern, your call center can be adapted to any situation and provide exceptional service across any channel. Modernize your call center with Bright Pattern’s cloud-first omnichannel contact center solution and stay ahead of your competitors!