An effective call center can be a valuable driver of success for any business that needs one, but only if it’s managed properly. Fortunately, all you have to do is follow a handful of best practices:

  • Choose the right software
  • Upgrade your system
  • Use the right CRM for your business
  • Supercharge your management with data and analytics software
  • Make use of AI-powered tools
  • Prioritize first call resolution
  • Build a robust suite of self-service options
  • Develop a strong hiring team
  • Use training software to upskill your staff

Of course, some of these practices require much more upkeep and maintenance than others, but once you’ve gotten them all down, everything should fall into place.

Practice 1: Choose the Right Software

Call center software is the backbone of your operations. Without the right one for your business, it can be impossible to provide the standard of calls needed for a successful call center.

While there are many great options for call center software, the best all-around one we’ve found is Nextiva. It allows you to create a fully functioning call center via a web-based platform—giving you features like voicemail, call routing, call recording, and even landline integrations after just a few clicks. There’s also no hardware involved, and you can even address more complex needs with its built-in CRM, workforce management tools, and QA tools.

Remember, if you want more than just software, you can also find call center services to outsource all of your calls. That said, be aware that you won’t have as much oversight regarding the quality of customer service with this method.

Practice 2: Upgrade Your System

Your agents are only as good as the equipment you provide them, so make sure you’re setting them up for success with a great system. If you do, you’ll find that they’re able to be far more efficient and effective with their calls. If not, you may end up wasting lots of time trying to fix internal issues.

Three major system upgrades to consider are as follows:

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)

VoIP lets your agents make and take phone calls from wherever they are, as long as they have a reliable internet connection. There are many great options for VoIP providers, all of them being cheaper and easier to use than most traditional landline-based systems. With a bit of research, you can find the one that has the right features for you and your business.

Cloud-Based Phone Systems

When choosing a VoIP provider, it’s a good idea to go with a cloud-based system. These are phone systems that keep all the information—such as calls, texts, and voicemails—in the cloud where anyone in the company can access them. This makes it easy for you to review calls as needed, helps keep things organized, and lets your staff access crucial information no matter where they are.

Virtual Phone Numbers

Setting up your team with virtual phone numbers allows your team to use the same phone numbers across multiple platforms—meaning that any calls they make or take will show up as the same number regardless of where or how they made the call. This includes cell phones, laptops, and office desk phones.

If you want to boost your call open rates, you can also choose local phone numbers for each of your calling regions, creating a bit more trust among recipients.

Lastly, keep in mind that it’s better to update everything at once rather than making piecemeal upgrades. Think about your needs, determine your budget, and then make the decision to go all-in.

Practice 3: CRM

Businesses have a bad habit of getting stuck using old Customer Relationship Management systems (CRMs) because the process of deploying a new CRM or setting one up from scratch can feel onerous. This is usually a mistake because you need a CRM that gives your team quick and easy access to useful customer data, in addition to the ability to tack on notes as needed.

A good CRM will make your agents far more effective on calls since they can get a clear picture of who they’re talking to in seconds, and it allows them to pass on vital information to the rest of the team.

If necessary, look for a CRM that comes with migration support. Whichever CRM you go with should be cloud-based, integrate well with any other software you use, and have the ability to track customer data and generate reports.

To avoid the most common CRM pitfall—aka failed integration—make sure you do the following:

  • Clean up your customer data before trying to migrate or populate a new system
  • Give your staff plenty of training and time to transition
  • Start slowly by using one aspect of the CRM and then working your way up from there as your staff gains confidence.

Practice 4: Data and Analytics Software

It’s hard to manage anything without data—after all, how can you know what’s working and what’s not?

It’s important to look for data and analytics software that not only provides real-time tracking of what’s happening with both your staff and your customers, but also can generate reports that let you track trends over time. To make the best use of data and analytics software, start by getting clear on your management goals as well as your department’s key performance indicators (KPIs).

The two main things to avoid here are neglecting to use the software once you’ve got it, and choosing software that’s too complex or simply not appropriate for what you’re trying to track.

The best software for you will be simple yet fully functional, so take a couple of tours or watch some webinars on how the software you’re considering works before you buy it. Next, once you’ve got it, set up times in your calendar to review and act on the data—because if you don’t use it, you lose it!

Practice 5: AI-Powered Tools

There are many new AI-powered tools coming out for call centers, and early adopters are seeing big benefits from making smart use of AI. For example, it can help you spot trends in customer behavior by tracking patterns and outliers. It can also help you maintain compliance on calls by screening for off-script interactions. Combine that with your data and analytics software, and you’ve got some powerful management tools at your disposal.

Furthermore, AI can also help you route your calls better so customers get to the right person faster, and it can also take over some repetitive tasks that once required human agents. Just remember that most people don’t like talking to robots, and they’re still not a great replacement for tasks that require real people. Don’t fall for the hype about Natural Language Processing (NLP) or similar things promising that you can completely run a call center using AI, it’s simply not true, and you’ll end up annoying your customers.

Practice 6: Prioritize First Call Resolution

First Call Resolution (FCR) is a measurement of the percentage of customers whose problems get solved after their first time calling in. This is one of the most important call center KPIs, and the higher this rate is, the better.

Having a high FCR rate means that your customer experience is better, your call center is more efficient, and your operating cost is lower (since your agents aren’t as tied up trying to resolve issues). The best way to improve FCR is to train your agents well and give your staff access to support tools that make it easy to get the information that will help people.

Make sure that you keep good track of your call center metrics so you actually have the data to see what your FCR is. That way, you’ll be able to know if your staff is trained well enough to take and handle calls effectively.

Practice 7: Self-Service Options

If people can find a way to resolve their issues on their own, they probably will—and they’ll probably be happier and feel better about your product, if so.

That’s why it’s important to build strong self-service options for your customers. Try to create a knowledge base and a good FAQ section about all the features and benefits of your products, as well as how to troubleshoot common problems.

Remember, nobody knows your product like you do, so you may need to guide customers through some of the simplest of things. Also, add video tutorials if you can. Different people learn in different ways, and video is a great way to show off the features of your product.

Chatbots can also be helpful when it comes to self-service options, but make sure you’re using them purposefully. There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to fight with a chatbot to get an answer to a simple problem, so be thoughtful and careful when you create your scripts. You should always allow customers to contact an agent at any time during the process.

Lastly, make sure you’re talking to actual customers when you create your knowledge base. They’re the ones who are dealing with the issues, so let them explain things in their own words so you can meet them where they’re at. Otherwise, you could end up with self-service options that look really great to you but aren’t really helpful to your customers.

Practice 8: Use a Strong Hiring Team

You can have the best software in the world, but it won’t do much good if you don’t have a strong team to use it. You need to have a team of people with a deep knowledge of your industry and a great sense of the skills needed to be a good fit for your specific call center. It’s important that your hiring managers are able to screen for both sides of this equation, as a great call center agent has to be both technically skilled and have the personality for the job.

While the steps for hiring employees are pretty much the same whatever industry you’re in, make sure to check in with your hiring team regularly about the goals for hiring and what kinds of slots you’re looking to fill. For instance, if your AI tools reveal that you’re having an influx of unhappy customers, you may want to try to find some agents more experienced in high-conflict situations.

Finally, make sure that you have a defined hiring process so that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel each time you need to hire someone. This will also help you maintain a high standard for your new hires.

Practice 9: Training Software

Setting new hires up for success with good training is imperative, and you can do so via training software.

Training software is a great option for teaching people how to use their equipment while also giving them some hands-on practice at their jobs before getting started.

Choose software that allows for a high degree of interactivity and lets you upload lessons in different learning styles. If you can find one that gamifies the process, even better.

You should also look for software that allows for customer-like interactions, meaning your staff can roleplay with the software before diving into interactions with live customers.

Finally, make sure you’re looking for a platform that provides mobile-friendly content. Employees often prefer to learn via their phones instead of sitting in front of a desktop, so doing this will encourage them to take the training seriously.