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Call Center Phone Systems

June 20, 2018

11:15 am

A call center phone system is an important tool used by contact centers to establish and maintain effective communication channels with customers, suppliers and various agencies connected to your business.

The customer care team should be at the center of your customer service operations and a strong phone system is vital to ensure they can operate effectively.

The difference between a business flourishing or failing can be down to customer service standards. Providing phone support will help customers get more out of your products or services and it can be a crucial lifeline to resolve technical issues before they become a real problem.

A modern phone system can provide a basic platform to deliver customer support and implementing a dedicated call center phone system can improve customer care.

As businesses expand, their communication requirements will evolve as the company starts to change. New phone systems can introduce call waiting, automatic routing and rules to manage different types of calls.

In addition call center phone systems have the ability to generate reports allowing managers to identify strengths and weaknesses in customer service operations leading to improved standards of service.

Call Center Software Explained

Put simply, call center software provides the tools for an organization to run its call center. It handles incoming calls by routing them to the appropriate destinations, while performing outgoing call functions as well. With its myriad features and functions, the software can be used in a variety of ways depending on each business’s needs.

Call center software is used by many businesses to seamlessly manage their customer service function. There are many different types of software that can be used including on premise, hosted, cloud based and browser based solutions. In many ways, modern call center software performs the role that traditional phone switchboards originally carried out.

Onsite Call Center Software

With this type of software it simply means that the entire infrastructure is located at the same place where you run your business. The responsibility for managing and monitoring the equipment rests with your in house IT team or an outsourced IT company.

One of the major advantages to this type of software is that you have full control over the systems and data. This makes it ideal for a single or centralized team who need local data and have the resources to maintain the hardware, software and systems. This type of software system is both costly and complex requiring a large initial investment which can prove difficult for growing businesses with limited funds. Furthermore, the options for customization and integration may be quite limited and the levels of security, and privacy are not as high.

Hosted Software

A viable alternative to the onsite software is a solution which is hosted offsite, accessed through a dedicated network connection. As cheaper option, these software systems are usually managed by a third party who will manage and maintain the systems so any technical issues or other problems are not your responsibility. Still one of the more expensive options they can suffer from system downtime which is not great from a customer service perspective.

Cloud Software

As one of the solutions that is growing in popularity, cloud software is hosted entirely online and is accessed through a browser or an app. With this type of software users can access the system from anywhere they have an Internet connection.

Often with this type of software users will share resources which proves more cost effective than any of the other options. Like the hosted solutions the cloud software is managed by a third party eliminating the requirement for a dedicated IT support team.

Cloud based solutions are often the most affordable because they don’t require a large initial investment or infinite resources to set up the system as many of the previously discussed solutions do. They also have the ability to integrate with many different browser and cloud based business resources making them more effective than hosted and onsite software.

As all information is stored on the cloud, this type of software offers greater security, privacy and uptime than many of the other options. While cloud based solutions are great, they do require staff to be based in the same location which is not ideal if you have a dispersed contact center team.

Implementing and customizing this type of solution is also more involved and users must be able to update the products after each update of the application which can be complicated and time consuming, particularly when you have a large and complex customer service operation.

Browser Based Software

Perhaps the most current software solution for business owners is the browser based call center software which is all delivered directly through the internet.

Ideal for businesses with multiple contact centers, browser based software is great because staff can access it from any location where they have an internet connection.

What’s more it improves collaboration, members of the team can work remotely and managers remain connected while they are away from the office. They are also a cost effective method of managing a call center function because many browser based software offers pay as you go options and require no upfront investment.

This type of solution is very easy to implement and even easier to scale as your business expands. A call center can be up and running in a matter of minutes, agents can be added or removed easily and software can be quickly and easily customized to adapt to the business.

Browser based software can also feature on click installations allowing contact center managers to have full control over systems. Products can be accessed and up to date business information linked to the company’s website.

Perhaps one of the major drawbacks to the browser based call center software is its reliance on the internet. If the internet goes down so does your entire customer service function. Therefore if you opt for this software solution it is absolutely essential that you have a reliable and consistent internet service provider with little to no downtime.

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Benefits of Virtual Call Center Software

As cloud based and Voice Over Internet Protocol phone systems continue to grow in popularity, they bring a number of distinct advantages to businesses.

VoIP enables businesses to make calls from a desktop computer which is integrated with a VoIP telephone and it offers a number of services and benefits which are unrivalled by the traditional telephone.

Greater Flexibility

Cloud and VoIP systems offer much greater flexibility for businesses. Software programs can be integrated providing greater operational efficiency and other systems such as email, CRM, conferencing and other customer service functions can also be integrated.

Furthermore VoIP technologies allow a representative to speak to a customer while easily accessing other applications such as customer records, order history and other information which they need to answer the customers query. Improved mobility also enables these systems to be used on the move by both managers and representatives.

Productivity

Another of the major benefits to these types of technologies is the way in which it can increase productivity. Call center representatives need to access information and multi task without any interruptions or issues.

The software significantly increases productivity allowing representatives to attach documents to customer records, attend virtual meetings and share customer and business information with ease.

Improved Communications

With the technology that supports the cloud and VoIP solutions, call clarity is much better. This not only improves communications but it allows contact centers to deliver a higher standard of customer care. Issues such as distorted phone calls, dropped calls and poor connections are a thing of the past.

Cost Savings

As the solutions are not as expensive as some of the other call center technologies in terms of the initial investment and ongoing operating costs, businesses have surplus funds which they can use to invest in other areas.

Easy Installation

As all of the software is managed externally, both VoIP and browser based software solutions are super easy to install and manage.

Businesses don’t need to worry about vast telephone networks or complex IT requirements, with browser based software they can be up and running in a matter of minutes without the headache of having to worry about what to do if a technical issue occurs or how they are going to accommodate all of the system hardware associated with onsite networks.

Call Center Software Providers

Choosing the right contact center software provider for your organization can have a huge impact on both the efficiency and effectiveness of your customer service team. With a growing number of providers to choose from some businesses may find it tough to sort from which type of solutions are right for their enterprise. Below we breakdown some key considerations you should make when it comes to choosing a call center phone systems provider and then review some of the leading suppliers in detail.

How to Find the Right Provider

  1. Customer Support – Finding a provider with an excellent customer service team is a necessity for any fast paced call center team. Whether large or small there will come a time when you will need experts on hand to deal with requests related to your phone systems and finding a provider that operates 24/7 support through a number of channels can really benefit your organization when the time comes.
  2. Features – Call center software providers will offer a range of features depending on what they specalise in. These will include superb support channels as covered above and range from CRM integration through to call queuing and advanced automation of tasks that can really simplify the everyday goings on of a contact center.
  3. Cost – Depending on the type and size of the solutions you offer many providers will differ in the best price they can offer. Features will also effect the cost of your call center phone systems but ensuring you can the best deal for your money is of a paramount importance to any forward thinking modern business.

We analysed these three factors in particular for each of the providers we reviewed below so you can find the perfect solutions for your call center. Other factors to also consider include security, how easy certain solutions are to setup and management and the amount of uptime you can expect from your future provider.

Top 3 Best Software Providers

The three providers below have been chosen by our experts as the leading suppliers in the industry today. Their leading software solutions  accommodate a range of key features and vary in price depending on the number of agents and phones needed meaning you can create custom plans perfect for your call center’s requirements.

Provider

talkdesk-logoShoreTel Sky Logoring-central-logo
Founded201119961999
HeadquartersSan FranciscoSunnyvaleBelmont
No. of Employees201-500975500
Support+1 888 743-3044+1 844 746-7383+1 800 820-3676
Best Software PlanProfessionalShoreTel Connect CLOUDAdvanced
Prices From$45 /Month20 foot$99 /Month
Free Trial?YesCustom SolutionsYes
Supported Operating SystemMac OS, Windows, Web BrowserMac OS, Windows, Web BrowserMac OS, Windows, Web Browser

Provider Reviews

Support 98%
Features 95%
Cost 97%
  • Excellent Support
  • Call Queuing
  • Real Time Analytics

RingCentral offer clients a range of plans with the entry level plan being suited for four users or less, providing unlimited calling and 1,000 toll free minutes.

For something a little more advanced, the Premium plan provides scope for up to 25 users per meeting and 2,500 toll free minutes.

The third, Enterprise plan is the most advanced and offers 50 participants and 10,000 toll free minutes. Within these plans customers can benefit from audio and video conferencing as well as a VoIP service. Business owners can choose between a toll free or local number which includes fax, voicemail and a host of other features.

Support 98%
Features 80%
Cost 95%
  • Web Integration
  • Easy to Use
  • Real Time Analytics

Oracle’s call center software offers a robust and dynamic suite of features, and is best suited to any business with a heavy call volume.

Its most popular package starts at $59 per agent, per month, plus a low long-distance fee.

It features predictive dialing and call recording, unlimited IVR usage, and multi-channel integration (voice, email and chat for both inbound and outbound services). Other features include VoIP service, ACD routing, call blending, and more.

Support 90%
Features 90%
Cost 85%
  • Predictive Dialing
  • Huge Capacity
  • Easily Scalable

Like Oracle, Five9 is an industry leader when it comes to call center technology.

In addition to common call center features such as IVR with speech recognition and agent scripting, the company touts its CRM integration.

This allows agents to access customer information, and address them on a more personalized level.

Five9’s pricing plans are available on a predictable per month or annual basis. The software is ideal for companies whose agents are comfortable using advanced technology.

Support 95%
Features 98%
Cost 95%
  • IVR
  • Call Recording
  • Easy Setup

Talk Desk’s call center is ideal for businesses with light to medium call volume.

Its most popular Pro plan is $39 per agent, per month plus the cost of additional minutes. In addition to advanced controls, agent access to caller history, and inter-agent collaboration (all operated through a desktop interface), Pro offers widget integration with Salesforce and other CRMs.

You can scale your options up or down depending on your needs. Talkdesk’s other plans range from $19 to $99 per agent, per month.

Support 85%
Features 80%
Cost 80%
  • Live Agent Customer Care
  • Mobile Analytics
  • Advanced Web

To stand out from the competition, Salesforce emphasizes its call center’s multi-channel, social integration capabilities.

Rather than just providing a way to interact with customers over the phone, the software allows agents to connect with people through chat, while accessing information from their social profiles.

Additionally, it lets agents easily collaborate on a case by messaging each other, and adding accessible notes to files.

Salesforce is ideal for enterprise-level businesses that experience high call volumes, and want to explore innovative ways to reach customers.

However, smaller companies may find their vast set of features overwhelming.

Support 90%
Features 75%
Cost 80%
  • Virtual Solutions
  • Support HelpDesk
  • CRM Integration

8×8 offers a cloud-based contact center solution, which eliminates the need for investment in heavy-duty equipment and maintenance fees. The cloud service also allows companies to enlist agents from any location, at any time.

Like other major call center providers, it provides CRM integration, real-time reporting, and multi-channel engagement. 8×8 customizes its pricing based on the individual needs of the business.

Its packages include plans for small, medium, and large businesses, as well as government and healthcare.

Support 95%
Features 97%
Cost 90%
  • Custom Solutions
  • Cloud Based
  • Advanced

ShoreTel Sky provides a hosted contact center, meaning all of the hardware is stored off-site at a designated data center.

With its integrated cloud-based call center and VoIP services, any employee can monitor call volume from a desktop, and log in during peak times. ShoreTel’s contact center provides many common features such as prioritized routing and CRM integration, and is ideally suited for medium to heavy call volumes.

Support 80%
Features 85%
Cost 85%
  • 24/7 Monitoring
  • Inbound Voice Queues
  • Real Time

Telax provides hosted contact center services, and focuses on optimizing customer service. Its enterprise-level software is geared towards industries that rely heavily on customer communications, such as Finance, Retail, Healthcare and more.

Additionally, its cloud-based solution provides scalability, ease of use, and accessibility.

Support 72%
Features 85%
Cost 70%
  • CRM Integration
  • Automatic Call Distribution
  • IVR

By offering cloud contact center software, InContact lets companies easily add and control features such as multi-channel ACD, speech-enabled IVR and a list of others as you need them.

It provides a pay-as-you-go billing model, which you can scale up or down depending on your monthly requirements.

The software can be customized for small, medium, and heavy flows of call volume, and is commonly used among healthcare and financial industries, as well as business process outsourcers.

Support 92%
Features 92%
Cost 90%
  • Custom ringback
  • Voicemail to email
  • Advanced Call

Nextiva’s renowned customer service makes them the top choice for businesses. This company is best suited for those who are new to VoIP and may need a little extra support.

The most popular plan is the Office Pro Plus which is further broken down into two categories; Pro Plus and Office Enterprise. Both of these plans include unlimited faxing and calling, tech support based in the US and both local and toll free numbers as well as number porting.

With a range of advanced features, Nextiva can be tailored to meet the requirements of your business and the plans offer feature rich plans including advanced call management, call forwarding, recording and much more.

Support 95%
Features 90%
Cost 85%
  • Toll-free Numbers
  • Call Queueing
  • IVR

As a cloud based call center solution, AirCall is a system that integrates with existing CRM systems or helpdesk software to provide busineses with comprehensive caller information.

Featuring real time reporting and in depth analytics, teams can effectively monitor call activity and make informed operational decisions. This system is ideal for busy call centers featuring numerous functions such as local phone numbers, custom call waiting and messages, call reporting, click to call, the management of multiple users and numbers in one place.

Users can set up phone systems for sales or support teams in a matter of minutes and there’s no complex hardware to install.

Support 95%
Features 90%
Cost 85%
  • Multichannel
  • MiVoice Call Recording
  • Real-Time

A trusted VoIP provider, Mitel meet the communication requirements of small, medium sized and enterprise businesses through the delivery of effective communication solutions.

Mitel offer customers a number of hosted solutions such as business phones, contact center systems and hosted options.

As a technology leader, Mitel provide customers with technologies such as Bring Your Own Device and multi channel communication. For businesses, Mitel provides MiVoice Business which is a dedicated communication platform which strengthens customer communications.

Support 90%
Features 95%
Cost 85%
  • Workflow
  • IVR
  • Custom

The Genesys platform is synonymous with quality, supplying some of the world’s best contact centers in countless industries across the globe.

Genesys offers customers a number of great features which are so important within a busy contact center environment. These features include call queuing allowing businesses to route callers or send them to a queue, operators can access call summary notes and calls can be routed to the correct operator by asking the caller a number of questions.

With Interactive Voice Response and Automatic Call Distribution, contact centers can deliver first class customer service.

Support 90%
Features 90%
Cost 85%
  • Remote System Access
  • Converged Network
  • Predictive Dialer

As a leader in contact center technology and Omnichannel customer experience Ameyo specialises in cloud solutions.

The company helps all types of businesses deliver an exceptional standard of customer service. Features of Ameyo include predictive dialer, routing and call prioritization, real time reporting, call conferencing, live chat, automatic triggers and alerts and integration with an array of third party software.

The system also offers computer telephony integration and ACD and IVR systems making it one of the best systems to support call centers. Ameyo is suitable for many different businesses because it offers the flexibility that small, medium and large enterprises require.

Support 90%
Features 80%
Cost 85%
  • Multichannel
  • Excellent Support
  • Web Chat

Clarity is well equipped to deal with the everyday demands of the modern contact center.

An integrated VoIP phone service combines all of the features that a busy contact center requires without the associated cost. Some of the great features about Clarity are that it doesn’t offer any contracts, there are no package plans and they offer 99.999% uptime on their service, providing the reliability that businesses expect.

Customers of Clarity can also benefit from over 35 calling features and 24 hour, 7 day a week customer service too. Plans are easy and the system is quick to setup and install, making it great for busy businesses who need an effective contact center solution.

Support 90%
Features 92%
Cost 88%
  • IVR
  • Excellent Support
  • Real Time Analytics

Freshdesk is a comprehensive customer support solution which provides everything that a contact center needs to function properly.

For the first three agents, Freshdesk is completely free for the first three agents. In terms of usability, Freshdesk can be customized and it features a range of tools which improve productivity, enhance efficiency and deliver automated functions.

There are four price plans with Freshdesk with Sprout being the most straightforward plan and is perfect for a small business. Businesses that require more customer support features can opt for the Blossom plan. The Garden plan is available for multiple products and the Estate plan is suitable for larger enterprises who need a more personalized customer experience.

Choosing the Best Call Center Headsets

Finding the right call center phone systems for your organization will not only rely on the provider you choose for your solutions but also the technology you adopt for your workforce.

As with providers there are a number of leading call center headsets available all offering an array of advanced features with the best reviewed below.

Product Reviews

1. Plantronics HW261N

Editor Rating: 5 stars Price From: $49

The Plantronics product is a wideband binaural headset which has the all important noise cancelling technology, reducing background noise so your representatives can focus on the customer. Reduce echo on VoIP systems and full integration with a number of enterprise grade software telephones. The lightweight design means that it offers optimum comfort for representatives and it offers the reliability that any member of your call center team needs.

2. Sennheiser Century SC 660

Editor Rating: 5 stars Price From: $139

For a hard wearing product with greater comfort, the Sennheiser Century headset is the one for your team. This is an ideal headset if your staff are required to demonstrate maximum concentration. With leatherette ear cushions and advanced noise cancelling technology, these headsets offer the clarity and reliability that any agent requires to deliver exceptional customer service.

3. Jabra UC Voice 150 MS

Editor Rating: 5 stars Price From: $29

As a plug and play headset with built in Microsoft Office Communicator it allows businesses to quickly and conveniently connect to any software solution. Featuring wideband audio, the headset can easily adapt and optimize the quality of the call to ensure maximum clarity, improving communications and enhancing customer service. Connects to your telephone system through a USB cable, it is specially designed to improve the experience of using a unified communications system. Its innovative control center allows you to manage all of your devices which makes it an ideal solution for large scale deployment.

4. Jabra BIZ 1900

Editor Rating: 4 stars Price From: $35

Where cost is an important feature, the Jabra Biz headset is suitable for contact centers of all sizes. A flexible product which can adapt to any call center environment and the demands of regular use in a contact center. Available with both mono and duo options offering a high quality representative and customer experience. Compatible with most phone systems, easy installation and an ergonomic design for maximum comfort, this headset offers all that you need within a call center environment.

5. Sennheiser CC550

Editor Rating: 4 stars Price From: $129

The Sennheiser CC550 features ultra noise cancelling microphones as standard which effectively blocks out any ambient noise, making communications easier and improving clarity. A flexible microphone boom allows for adjustment while reducing wear and tear on other microphone components. Features an ActiveGuard Technology which monitors and cancels out loud signals in the headphones, automatically reducing the volume if it exceeds a certain level. With leatherette pads and extra large ear caps, this product is one for comfort and longevity.

For more reviews head over to Tech.co’s Guide best VoIP headsets comparison guide.

Call Center Phone System Features

Once you have decided on the software that you would like to use, whether it’s browser based, hosted or something else, you need to factor in to your decision the various call center phone system features.

Telephony

At a basic level, a call center operation will not be able to function without an adequate telephony system. The majority of call center software solutions will allow users to connect their own telephony equipment to the system.

Automatic Call Distributor (ACD)

This is an important tool which is at the core of any call center operation. In essence, they are systems which effectively route incoming calls from customers to representatives within the call center. When calls are made, the ACD will also collect important pieces of information such as total calls handled, calls made, length of call and wait times to name a few which provides managers with valuable data to assess performance and identify improvements.

This means ACD uses a set of instructions – programmed by you – to assign inbound calls to the most relevant agents. Using an algorithm, the software routes calls based on agent skill, an idle phone, or other specifications. ACD can also provide call agents with relevant data about their callers.

Interactive Voice Response (IVR)

As an extremely useful call center feature it is a menu system which will identify, segment and then direct a caller to the most suitable representative, department, queue or automated message. In an IVR system the caller will receive a variety of options when they call the business such as press 1 for or press 2 for. Based on the options that the caller enters into their keypad they will be directed to the most suitable representative.

Call Queuing

When representatives are busy helping other customers, callers will be placed into a queue. The majority of call center solutions enable managers to configure queues for each department and is a great tool for managers and staff to evaluate performance.

Automatic Screen Pop

This feature will collect information about the caller so the representative can provide a more tailored customer experience. When the caller reaches the representative information such as their name, telephone number, email address and other data will be displayed on a computer screen when the representative answers the call.

Integration with Business Tools

The more advanced call center software offers a variety of options to integrate the system with key business tools such as customer relationship management systems, marketing software, live chat facilities, helpdesks, ecommerce solutions and more.

Once integrated with the call center software when a customer calls the business a range of information will be displayed about them such as their purchase history, any notes on their account, support tickets, transcripts of previous live chat conversations and much more. This type of feature allows businesses to provide an improved standard of customer service while streamlining workflows and reducing duplicate or inaccurate information stored on multiple systems.

Call Control

As one of the more basic features of a call center system, call control is basic call handling functionality including transfer, hold, mute, hang up and conferencing. With some of these systems representatives are able to place a caller on hold or transfer a customer in a couple of clicks.

Disposition Codes

Available in some call center systems, these codes allow representatives to indicate the outcome of a call using a pre-determined code such as ‘follow up required’, ‘ logged with technical support’, ‘Escalated’ or ‘Refund Processed’. Once the code has been assigned, a representative or manager will be able to immediately determine what stage the call is at if they access the customers record at a later stage.

Call Recording

A call recording feature is one where the representative can record the call for future reference.

Call Monitoring

This allows a manager to listen to live calls without a representative or caller knowing they are doing so. This is an effective method to ensure that staff are performing effectively and delivering the required standard of customer service.

Call Barging

When this feature is integrated with a call center software solution it means that a manager can join a live call so they can speak with both the representative and the caller.

Whisper Coaching

Often used during training, whisper coaching is a feature that allows the manager to speak with a representative without the caller knowing.

Now that you have decided on your software and what features you need to run your operation successfully, it is important to explore the different types of headset that are available for your representatives.

Final Thoughts

As a business owner managing a call center environment there are lots of things to take into consideration. From hosted software to browser based and deciding on the many features that you want to integrate into the system, the ultimate goal is to enhance customer service, improve communications and optimize workflows which is exactly what you can achieve with the right call center phone system.

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Richard Parris is the Managing Editor of TechCo.

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