/ Contact Center Management

Customer Service Software Buyer's Guide

Customer Service Software Buyer's Guide Image

Looking for new customer service software can be overwhelming as it’s a crucial decision that you will most likely have to live with for a long time. Whether you are looking to switch solutions or implement one for the first time, doing research every step of the way will help you make the most informed decision. Such a task might seem daunting at first, but this guide will help you begin your search, evaluate your options and be confident in your final decision!

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Where is customer service heading?

Before choosing your next customer service software solution, having a good idea where the industry is headed will help you get in the right frame of mind to make a successful buying decision. Currently, most customer facing teams have either been juggling several systems in order to provide support across multiple channels (phone, email, chat, social media etc.) or they have spent a fortune building custom software to solve their problems that requires a lot of maintenance and hardware. Building custom software really only makes sense if you are a very large contact center that has very specific processes that cannot be changed and will not change for many years. Both options are not ideal, which is why many companies are switching to newer solutions that provide some combination of phone, email, chat or social media support and are cloud-based.

If you provide multichannel support (support over phone, email, chat, social media, etc.), it’s important to know that you can find a solution that is multichannel too! By implementing software that allows agents to respond to customer inquiries from one interface, you will save your agents time and effort. Agents will also have a clearer view of relevant customer information since all conversations on all channels will be organized in one place.

The last part of the puzzle is finding customer service software that is cloud-based. Currently only 1 in 5 contact centers operate in the cloud and a quarter already have plans in place to switch or are in the middle of switching to a cloud solution (Contact Centre Helper). Additionally, 11.6% are considering cloud technology within the next six to twelve months (Contact Centre Helper). This switch is happening for several reasons, however, the top reasons are: cloud-based software doesn’t require any hardware, installation or upkeep and is accessible through the internet. Essentially, it makes your customer support setup simpler and easier to maintain. So, remember to keep these two phrases in mind throughout your entire search: multichannel and cloud-based. If you do this, you already have a head start on your competition.

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How to begin your software search

Now that you are in the right frame of mind, it’s time to start thinking about the first steps towards finding the best software for you. First, define the kind of experience you want to provide for your customers. Establish what your customers expect of you to make sure you don’t create an experience that doesn’t meet customer expectations. Next, define what kind of experience you want to provide for your agents. Consider what your agents appreciate and what would make their lives easier. Lastly, determine what you can and cannot change about your current customer service setup.

Once you have a good idea of what you want your new software to do for you, start thinking about how the software is going to satisfy your needs. This involves making your own list of demand specifications. It helps to split up your demand specifications by necessities and luxuries, otherwise you may never find a solution that checks off everything on your list.

After you have made your lists, it's time to begin identifying software vendors. To get started, ask any trusted advisors if they have a solution in mind that fits your needs. Then take to the internet and use Google to search for customer service software. Add in some keywords of features you are looking for to get more relevant results. Lastly, use software buying and comparison websites to read customer reviews and compare software side by side.

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Top features to look for

Every business is different and therefore has different needs, however, here are some features you should be considering whether you are an established business or a growing one in order to improve the agent and customer experience.

Automatic Rule-Based Routing: Having routing capabilities available for every channel allows customers to be connected to an agent who can help more quickly. For telephony this means being able to set up and continually modify automatic routing for each phone number, including store hours, IVR and much more to ensure customers are routed to the right agent. Chat and email conversations should have the ability to be routed too based on the nature of the customer’s request.

Automated Callback: Finding software with automated callback can greatly improve your customer experience and it's starting to become a feature customers now expect since 36.9% of contact centers already have it (Contact Centre Helper). Customers value their time and get increasingly more frustrated when they have to wait on hold to speak with a representative. Instead of waiting on hold, callback allows customers to hang up and receive a callback from an agent once it’s their turn.

Integration Capabilities: Make sure your new software can integrate with your current systems. For a webshop, this could mean integrating with Magento or Shopify so agents can have a clear view of a customer's purchase and contact history when assisting them.

VoIP vs. Landline Phones: Using VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) telephony, your business can simplify your call center infrastructure and save on costs. You will also be able to save space by eliminating the hardware that comes with landline phones.

Skill-based Routing: The last thing you want to do is keep your customers waiting, especially to be connected to someone who cannot help them. With skill-based routing, you can eliminate this issue by routing customers to queues with agents who have the skills to assist them based on where the customer came from or what they selected throughout the routing process. This saves all parties time and effort, ensuring the best possible experience from the most qualified agent.

Analytics & Reporting: It’s crucial that you have the ability to view real-time and historical data on your team’s performance. Historical reporting can help managers identify peak times or seasons as well as areas that need improvement. Real-time reports should include: average wait time, average handling time, longest wait time and service level agreement to start.

Process Automation: The automation of certain processes within a contact center solution, such as recognizing customers and automatically displaying their data (contact details, order history etc.), can save agents time and effort. This can help your team drastically improve their efficiency and avoid risk of human error while allowing them to focus on the customer instead of processes.

Mobile Capabilities: Having a mobile version of the solution available allows agents to provide support from any location at any time. From a customer's point of view, having a mobile version of a chat widget is especially important since many people shop on their mobile devices.

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How to start the selection process

Once you have identified the solutions you would like to try out, make sure to take advantage of free trials! Most of the modern solutions offer a free online trial on their company website.

Get members of your team to test out the solutions too since their feedback will be very important in your final decision. Take notes on your favorite and least favorite features and how responsive the vendor is in helping resolve any questions or issues you may have throughout the trial. Often times, how responsive a vendor is at assisting you is related to how responsive they are at resolving technical issues with their software.

It’s also crucial that the vendors you approach understand your demands and how you will actually be using their software to fit your needs (e.g. inbound vs. outbound calls). If the vendor doesn’t understand your business needs, they could misguide you and you could end up with software that doesn’t fit your requirements.

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How to choose the right customer service software

After you and your team have tested viable solutions through free trials, there are some vital questions you should answer before making your final decision. Once you have narrowed down your options, evaluate the usability of each solution you are still considering. When evaluating usability, ask your agents to think about how easy the software is to navigate, how many clicks are necessary to perform certain actions and how easy it was to initially grasp.

Next, consider all aspects of the transition process. Determine roughly how long it will take to switch software and who will be involved in each stage. To begin, consider questions like who will train your team, who will set up the software and how will you import current customer data.

An important point to make here is that if you have processes in place that absolutely cannot be changed and you have not been able to find a new solution that fits your needs, you may need to look into a building a custom solution. Keep in mind, any recent technology has caught up to custom solutions built before the 2010’s and newer cloud-based software solutions require less maintenance and have a much simpler implementation process. So, if your system is from before the 2010’s, it's probably time to start looking for something new and it just might be worth changing your processes to switch to a SaaS solution given all of the benefits that come with cloud-based software.

Once you have answered the initial questions above, if your options are still looking good, think about how reliable the solution is and how responsive the vendor is in handling issues. Make sure you are aware of the kind of support available to you and how much assistance they provide throughout the onboarding process and beyond.

Lastly, this is not only an important decision simply because it will affect the agent and customer experience, but it’s also a decision that you will likely live with for several years. Don’t forget to ask yourself if the solution will be able to grow with your needs down the road. Consider how your needs may change as business increases and if the new software will be able to satisfy those needs.

To summarize, here is a list of questions to ask yourself when evaluating new software:

Usability:

  • How easy is the software to navigate?
  • How many clicks are required to perform frequent actions?
  • How intuitive is the design?

Implementation Process:

  • How long will it take to switch software?
  • Who will train employees?
  • How long will it take to train each employee?
  • Can you import your customer data?
  • Can you reconnect your current systems if necessary?
  • Who will set up the software?
  • Can you set it up yourself or will the IT department need to assist?

Vendor Reliability:

  • How reliable is the solution?
  • How responsive is the vendor at handling issues?
  • How much support will the vendor provide throughout the onboarding process?
  • What level of support is provided on a daily / weekly / monthly basis if any?

Long Term Effects:

  • How long are you planning on keeping this software?
  • Will your needs change within this time period?
  • Can the software satisfy your needs as you grow?

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Get ahead with cloud software

Remember to take your time with this decision and ask questions every step of the way. It’s important that you, your team and your vendor feel the software you decide on is a good fit for everyone. It seems obvious, but many contact centers are failing their agents and customers with outdated software that provides a subpar experience for everyone. Take advantage of the opportunity to separate yourself from the competition. This starts with providing quick, proactive, channel neutral support to create strong bonds between agents and customers through multichannel customer service software.

Lauren Blair

Lauren Blair

Lauren is a California native with a background in ecommerce and fashion, who is passionate about finding the ultimate online shopping experience and unique ways to acquire loyal customers.

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