Contact centre and customer experience technology is a fast-evolving landscape, and the sea of suppliers can be overwhelming. The easiest way to find the most suitable solutions and suppliers is to enter your needs in our free online matching tool. You can specify the type of application, number of users or budget, cloud or premise deployment, channels (e.g. phone, chat) and any other criteria you may have. Let’s look at the most popular types of contact centre (or call centre) and customer experience technology.

Call centre / contact centre software

Contact centres operate on technology platforms which allow them to efficiently manage communication with customers through a variety of channels, including phone, email, chat, video and social media. More often than not companies are requesting cloud rather than on-premise as the preferred method of deployment. Cloud-based solutions offer greater ramp-up/ramp-down flexibility, virtually no capital investment, and put the line of business rather than IT at the wheel. A large number of vendors operate in this space, with some specialising in inbound and others in outbound contact management. Another point of differentiation is the “channel approach” – many Tier 1 vendors offer “all-in-one” solutions, unifying all the possible ways a customer can communicate with an organisation in a single platform, while others focus intensely on one particular channel, for example web chat.

CTI (computer telephony integration) is the middleware that links telephony and computer systems to pop customer records on the agent’s desktop at the moment the call arrives, delivering a better customer experience.

IVR (interactive voice response) is the pre-recorded menu of options presented to a customer before they reach a live agent (“press 1 for…press 2 for…”) and is a standard feature of most platforms. More complex is speech recognition, which allows a caller to speak their request into the system, routing the call to an agent with the required skills.

Live chat software

Whether it’s for customer service or proactive lead generation, web chat (also known as live chat) is one of the fastest growing channels used by contact centres. It is also highly rated by consumers in comparison to phone or email – numerous research studies reveal higher net promoter scores and lower customer effort than other methods of communication. Chat allows for deeper and faster customer engagement than email, while helping the growing segment of consumers who simply don’t like calling call centres.

Multi-tasking is also easy with chat for users (who can be preparing the dinner or surfing the net while waiting for replies) and for agents (who can handle 2-4 sessions simultaneously). A plethora of companies provide web chat software, with a wide gap in functionality and support – the most basic open source web chat software can be found free online, but most companies opt for a paid solution to access rich features, comprehensive reporting and round-the-clock support. Proactive chat, which is used to engage anonymous visitors on your website and generate leads, is growing fast – it’s no wonder when you consider an average of just 1-2% of visitors on a corporate website ever initiate contact.

Note the trend is starting to move away from chat on a corporate website into social media messaging and chat within a mobile app.

Diallers

Diallers take away the manual work of dialling phone numbers, resulting in significant productivity gains within an outbound call centre. Diallers automate the dialling to different degrees, known as preview, progressive and predictive modes, as they allow a company to upload a file of phone numbers or integrate with a sales CRM. Predictive dialling may double or triple the amount of time agents spend engaging with prospects or customers, and therefore has a strong ROI. Preview dialling allows the call centre agent to review the customer record before clicking dial, so is the least automated option.

Cloud-based diallers are usually charged as a subscription model at a monthly per licence price, with little or no upfront costs.

Sales, lead generation, surveys and collections are ideal environments for a dialler.

Workforce management (WFM) software

In mid-to-large-sized contact centres, WFM software has replaced Excel spreadsheets as a way of forecasting contact volumes and rostering agents in the most efficient manner. The software also allows managers to track employee adherence to schedules, while inviting employees to participate in the scheduling process creating more flexibility with shifts. WFM software not only forecasts the number of agents needed to meet service levels based on historical data, it also provides a real-time view so managers can adjust staffing and scheduling on the fly when activity is not as expected.

Knowledge management software (KMS)

Knowledge management software for customer service is quite different to knowledge management used by other departments, such as IT or Research, which require a deep level of collaboration. In a contact centre environment, the key driver is getting the right answer to the agent instantly, so they can resolve the customer’s inquiry at first point of contact. The business benefits are clear: better customer experience, reduced call handle times and cost of service delivery.

At the enterprise end of the market, the trend is towards personalising the customer experience through knowledge platforms that “know” the customer and can interpret their intentions and the context of their request. In a self-service environment, the FAQ page is often the core of knowledge management. Some suppliers offer solutions for both agent-side and customer-side knowledge management, others offer one or the other. The evolution of FAQ is virtual agent software which automates customer conversations. This chatbot / virtual agent white paper provides a useful introduction.

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