How to choose the best phone tool for your customer service team? Craig Stoss breaks down the important considerations so you can pick the right tool for your customers, your team and your business.
Telephone-based Support interactions have evolved over the past decade. What used to be the main communication channel has been surpassed by better delivery of information through web pages, automation, and chat or text-based messaging.
Phone Support hasn’t disappeared, instead, the expectations have risen to match the convenience of these other channels.
While historically phones were landlines, with basic automated menus for directing calls, the industry has evolved to virtual phones (VoIP) with hundreds of features, automations, and differentiators. As a result, telephony tools have started to appear on the market for a variety of specific use cases. There are tools focused on video calls, auto-dialing, ticket management tool integrations, robust Interactive Voice Response (IVR), and voice recognition. Determining the right solution for your needs is now more difficult because it isn’t as easy as calling your local telecommunications utility, you need to speak with multiple software companies with different pricing models and roadmaps.
The goal of this article is not to compare the various solutions on the market, it is to highlight the use cases and experiences of PartnerHero and our partners to help Support Leaders like you make informed decisions when going to market.
The most important integration for most support use cases is with your ticket management system. You need to be able to log tickets efficiently and without extra clicks and effort. The fact that integration to your ticket management tool is important does not imply you must use the voice tool they provide. While minimizing integrations should be a goal, your focus should be on providing the service levels you desire and not compromising on use cases or user experience.
Other integration considerations are omni-channel solutions which make the experience consistent across all communication channels and often allows you to easily move between channels as the customer requires. In addition, with a phone channel you might want integrations into customer interaction analysis tools, translation software, or transcription. Finding niche tools in these spaces that integrate well into your voice solution will help solve critical business problems easily.
In many cases your customer’s first interaction with you on an inbound call is your automated voice answer service. To ensure a positive customer experience, it is vital to get the setup just right. Too long of an intro or too many options will annoy your customers. One of the best uses of an IVR is to help route tickets, especially if you have many products. Either voice recognition or a way to look up typed in model numbers is a quick way to get the customer to the right team. Always make sure you have a human on the other end and options to buy-pass any automation.
Customer experience drops quickly if you force someone to go through automations that don’t pertain to them.
Phones aren’t just phones. Depending on your needs you could use the same vendor for text-based communication, faxes (Yes, they still exist), and video calls. There are also different ways to use the phone, such as outbound calling, auto-dialing, individual direct extensions, and accessibility needs such as Teletype (TTY). Finding a tool that supports all of your use cases will provide a smoother customer experience.
If you want to measure something important, plan for that as part of your research. Different vendors will provide metrics in different ways. Some focus on in-call metrics or number of calls, others may measure occupancy on the phone or calls/hour. Your metric needs will be different based on your business and the type of support you provide.
If your primary use case is about outbound calling, you should be aware of the laws that apply to contacting potential customers or auto-dialing and make sure your vendor is as well.
Predictive calls vs human dialing also have different requirements, and in some countries marketing calls have different laws than other types of communication.
Your phone system is likely the backbone of your support. If something goes wrong for your customer, a call is a likely first place they will go. So if something stops working with your telephony system, you want to ensure their support is available and ready to get you back up and running fast.
Cost sounds like an obvious one, but in the case of contact center software, it may not be as clear cut as you expect. That is because different tools use different models of charging. Licenses per user, per call, or per minute are all possible. As well as additional charges for international numbers, long-distance or international calling.
There are a significant number of telecom software vendors in the space. Some are very niche and are designed to be lightweight and for small scale and others are better at scale and more-feature heavy. The tool you choose needs to fit your current needs as well as provide opportunities for scale.
Some tools we see among our partners include:
A well-implemented telecommunications tool is critical for your support organization. In many cases it is the first thing a customer interacts with when they have an issue. When customers are already upset or in an emotional state because of a problem they're having, the last thing they want is a cumbersome phone IVR, to have to leave a voicemail on a complicated system or for it not to be obvious how to get to a person. All of the above considerations will help you build a better request for proposal when searching for a telecom solution such that you can find the tool that will help your business succeed and provide the best customer experience.