For a call center, there are few decisions more important than what phone system you choose. An advanced VoIP phone system is as critical to your team’s success as your circulatory system is to your body’s health. It’s what ties all the disparate parts together and allows your call center to function effectively as a unit.

In this post, we’ll outline eight critical questions to ask when selecting a VoIP phone system for your call center.

1) How firm is the software foundation?

At the foundation level, a call center needs stable, flexible, easy-to-use call center phone system software. While VoIP is not a requirement, it certainly offers the most features and functionality at a good price point, and looks to have a bright future. The key is to choose a platform that meets your current needs, offers a good blend of features and voice quality, and has room for growth.

There are several excellent choices, but for our implementations we choose 3CX VoIP call center software. Why? It’s a robust, Windows-based, forward-thinking phone system that can more than meet the needs of office environments and call centers, both large and small, without breaking the bank.

2) Does it cover all my bases?

Call flow is critical in a call center environment. It is imperative that inbound calls get where they need to go as efficiently as possible and outbound calls get out. Typically this is achieved with inbound and outbound rules that, when properly configured, do the job well.

Call flow is also managed by queuing up calls while waiting for a rep to become available. It’s important to have a good rule and queue management tool in your call center software with numerous options for configuration, since your queueing rules will inevitably change over time.

A good IP telephony system should also include call control features such as silent monitoring, barge in, and email options for voicemail and missed calls, as well as a flexible API for integration with other systems. While many good systems have these options, 3CX is an excellent choice that more than meets the basic needs of most organizations.

3) What about those squishy softphones?

“Softphones” are simply phones that run on your computer instead of using a device on your desk. Softphones have come a long way in recent years and are quickly becoming a necessity in call center environments. They offer many features a desktop phone doesn’t have, they make deployment and maintenance a breeze, and they remove one more device from your workstation.

3CX provides a free softphone application with their solution. It’s highly robust, supporting multiple phone lines, call notifications, voice mail access and (when enabled) the ability to view call reps’ status, barge in and silent monitor. A good softphone should also go beyond basic call management and include chat and video messaging.

Our favorite feature of softphones is their ability to have their functionality extended. We’ll talk more about click-to-dial next, but other areas we extend are status monitoring and automation. Using the softphone’s API, we can actually control it from our CRM application, avoiding the need for call reps to leave the CRM application to start a new call, place the current call on hold, or end the call.

4) Who dials a phone number anymore?

Maybe you long for the historic sound of a rotary dial phone…or maybe you have no idea what a rotary dial phone even was. Either way, dialing a phone number these days is as outdated as getting up to change the channel on the TV.

An efficient call center application should provide flexible click-to-dial functionality. Click-to-dial really isn’t all that novel — it’s simply clicking on a phone number to automatically connect an outbound call within your CRM application — but it’s an essential feature for productivity. Click-to-dial will dramatically increase efficiency and accuracy for your call reps.

5) How do I find the slackers?

In any call center environment, you’ve got your top performers and then you’ve got everyone else. To outpace your company’s competitors, it’s critical for managers to be able to easily identify who is nailing their numbers and who may be slacking off.

A good call center solution should provide management with a real-time, heads-up view of which call representatives are on the phone and which are not, including idle time and call durations. The software should feature up-to-the-minute information via a live dashboard so that you’re not making decisions based on old information.

6) Is there a whole lot of logging going on?

For a variety of reasons, call logs are an absolute necessity in a good call center solution. Call logging forms the basis for management reporting and other call center workflow items. Call logs may seem mundane, but when properly used, can be a real cornerstone to a cohesive solution.

When we implement call center solutions for our clients, we integrate call logs into the main database for centralized reporting and consolidated dashboards. We also use the data from the call logs for other system events. This allows for one central application rather that piecing together several disparate systems.

7) What did that call center rep say?

For compliance, coaching and client requirements, call recordings from your phone system are a must-have these days. However, managing call recordings can be a daunting task given the sheer volume of recordings a busy call center can produce.

A good call center phone system solution should incorporate call recording management, from quality assurance scoring to coaching to fulfilling client requirements. It is also important to consider call recording retention, especially in high-volume call centers. An archival process is needed to keep your production system from being overwhelmed.

8) Can you hear me now?

VoIP sometimes gets a bad rap for poor call quality. However, a good, properly configured VoIP system can sound even better than a traditional phone system.

When choosing a call center solution, it’s important to address how you’re going to ensure good sound quality from the start. This is a broad topic for another blog, but when choosing a phone system, don’t forget about call quality. You need to make sure your VoIP provider, phone system, and the internet providers in between all work together well.

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