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A Guide to Call Management Systems (CMS) for Growing Businesses

Estimated reading time: 7 min

What is a call management system?

A call management system (CMS) or call management software, simply put, is one that allows businesses to manage their inbound call volume by routing calls based on pre-defined parameters or features.

Utilizing features such as call queues and IVR menus, for example, companies can specify (or determine) how calls are routed or transferred. Companies also have the opportunity to prioritize calls in real-time and route them based on additional criteria such as customer purchase lifecycle, agent workload, etc.

While choosing a call management system, businesses need to answer a few questions”

  • Should calls be routed based on time and /or date of a call, caller location, or through automatic routing processes?
  • Where should calls be routed to: an agent or an auto-attendant?
  • Should a call be put on a call queue or a call back menu?

Based on in-depth analyses of call volumes, companies can create paths to optimally route their inbound calls to best serve their customers’ needs.

In summary, a call management system is the internal process of selecting a customized criteria-based critical path to route a customer call. It often uses computer telephony integration (CTI) system to function within a network.

Why is a call management system important?

Let’s look at some stats:

  • The average customer hold time is 56 seconds (Source: conversational.com). That may not seem like a lot, but after 2 minutes, customers hang up (Source: Small Business Chronicle).
  • 70% of business callers in the US are put on hold (Source: Inbound/Outbound). How much lost business and disgruntled customers are we talking about? Substantial! Especially, as 40% of customers in the US attempt a phone purchase (Source: American Teleservices Association).

Given this scenario, it’s a no-brainer then, that companies put in place effective call management systems to maximize efficiency and customer satisfaction. Among other advantages, CMS offers customized caller experience and maximum efficiency of call handling. Companies can thereby hope for:

  • Better customer satisfaction
  • Lowered dropped calls
  • Reduced agent turnover
  • Increased revenues

Having said this, it is worth acknowledging that today most contact center software / systems have in-built basic call management capabilities such as call hold, mute, call transfer and blocking. So, if a business can get by with basic capabilities of their existing telephony software, chances are they may not need a call management system (CMS) after all.   

But if your business has especially high call volumes, complex workflows / contact center operations, a CMS is likely to be a viable value add. With its additional array of more sophisticated features, you could hope to:

  • Optimize workflows
  • More optimally manage call load
  • Improve overall customer satisfaction, retention, and conversion
  • Identify and diagnose operational holes, leaks and plug them expediently

What to look for in a call management system?

A CMS is typically a VoIP-based software or service that can be customized to optimally meet your business goals. Companies should deeply reflect upon their most pressing business needs/ KPIs. And then based on these needs, thoughtfully configure their system with features.

A great resource to determine insightful next steps would be a 360-degree deep dive into system generated call reports. Reports measuring customer satisfaction, agent performance (handle times, abandon rates, productivity metrics, etc.), and overall management reports (e.g. conversions, and other revenue output data) should provide a strategic foundation for the utility of a CMS. And if so, what aspect(s) of the ops should be tweaked.

Here is a list of some CMS features that are useful upgrades over the basic suite of in-built contact center software / telephony systems’ call queue management and call management capabilities:

  • Easy real-time monitoring.
  • Robust reporting.
  • Ease of use.
  • Advanced Speech Recognition IVRs.
  • AI-powered chatbots.
  • Dynamic
  • Multi-tiered Auto attendants.
  • Call forwarding with answering service.
  • Call flip.
  • Advanced VM.
  • Audio Conferencing
  • Seamless CRM integration.
  • Email / text / social media integration.

Let’s look at each of these points in detail:

Easy real-time monitoring.

This enables businesses to have a strong sense on the pulse of their campaigns and agent performance. Easy to use, well integrated monitoring systems make monitoring painless and efficient. For example, supervisors have the ability to monitor campaign and agent productivity in real time. They can stop a campaign if there are unusually high call drops. They are able to easily “barge into” a call or “whisper” tips to an existing agent.

Robust reporting.

Intel is what drives strategic business vision and roadmap. Robust reporting (both real-time and historical) of key metrics like agent performance, call reports, campaign metrics, split/skills, vectors, vector directory numbers, trunks, etc. inform critical business decisions. Businesses should be able to analyze these from a granular/ micro lens (e.g. minutes, real-time through live dashboards that update every 5 seconds or so) to a more macro / big picture level (over a period of days, weeks, months, or semester).

Ease of use.

Is important for a variety of reasons – it saves time, makes agent training and on boarding efficient, makes customization and routing intuitive and quick. Today, drag and drop IVRs, for instance, make customizable call routing and workflows easy to configure since you can make changes without writing a single line of code.

Advanced Speech Recognition IVRs.

Simplify and streamline high inbound call volume through advanced speech recognition. When combined with IVRs, it imparts a better customer experience. One that is based on intuition, interpretation, and efficiency.

AI-powered chat bots.

Offer customers a natural, human-like conversation. The benefits of which are deep. For example, based on a set of qualifying questions, in an engaging conversational manner, this technology can deftly gain valuable insights about prospective customer(s) in terms of quality lead generation and product feedback.

Dynamic

Automated Call Distribution or ACD is the ability to transfer / route inbound calls to the right agent based on a variety of parameters. These include (not limited to) time-of-day, agent’s skills/ multi-skills, or campaign, etc. Depending on the call load, the call management software can be configured to route calls to the supervisor if all agents are busy; or to an auto call back mechanism, where the system calls back a customer when an agent is available.

Multi-tiered auto attendants.

The key here is, ‘multi’. Basic auto-attendant functionality is part of any phone system. A multi-teared auto-attendant capability offers deeper features such as customized caller greetings and the ability to route a call to multiple numbers.

Call forwarding with answering service.

While simple call forwarding is no biggie in the contact center software word, i.e. it is almost a given, the key here is having it in conjunction with an answering service. Call forwarding + answering service ensures that while most calls are likely to be forwarded on to other numbers, the ones that could fall through the cracks if customers leave a message on voicemail, those don’t get lost in the shuffle and get picked up too.

Call flip.

Especially if you’re in sales, for example, where you are on the go, having the ability to seamlessly switch a call over to another device maybe something that’s a nifty functionality to have.

Advanced VM.

Basic voicemail exists in almost any contact center software. Advanced VM allows for further customization like custom greetings; automated transcription features that turn messages into text, etc. Another use scenario would be to automate sending these customer voicemails directly to a supervisor’s email account, so that they can schedule call backs.

The ability to conduct audio conferences across users / team members is also a relatively common feature in most online telephony systems. However, with some restrictions like limits on the number of users or with only one (or limited) number to facilitate conference bridges. So, if collaborative meeting and conferencing is vital to your business, a CMS maybe worth considering.

Also Read: How Warm Transfer Can Improve your Call Management

Seamless CRM integration.

If your current contact center software doesn’t have the capability of automatic integration with leading CRM software like Salesforce, Zendesk, Zoho, & Freshdesk, make sure that you get that capability. It is critical for overall CX.

Also Read: All about CRM integrations

Email / text / social media integration.

Customer touch points through a variety of integrated communication options – email, SMS, Twitter, Facebook, or WhatsApp.

Top Call Management Systems for growing businesses

So, if you have determined that your business would indeed benefit from the advanced capabilities of call management software (CMS) or system, the good news is that it does not have to break the bank.

In a competitive landscape, prices and fee structures remain competitive too! Your business needs and KPIs will determine your fee structure (per month per user), which can range anywhere from $17.99 to $80.

Based on multiple factors such as features, customer support, ease of use, integration capabilities, and scalability, here are some companies to help meet your call management needs:

  1. Ozonetel. Ozonetel is our product, and we’re very proud of it. So naturally we’re going to peg it in the top 5 call management systems. We think it offers the most comprehensive, scalable, flexible, and value-driven plan. Starting at $25/user/month, the basic plan offers all important call management features including an easy to use ‘Drag & Drop IVR’ that can create complex multi-level menus, after office hours messages as well as many callback options. The agent call controls include the ability to mute, hold, & transfer calls (both cold and warm transfers are possible). Plus, it offers live monitoring Barge, Whisper and Snoop), in-built CRM integrations with Salesforce, Zendesk, Zoho, & Freshdesk, real-time performance dashboard and 40+ reports. Businesses have the flexibility to scale up/downsize or even cancel plans anytime without incurring penalties.
  1. RingCentral’s premium subscription at $34.99/user/month offers rich features such as auto call recording, multi-site admin and management, whisper, barge, and more, real-time analytics and reporting, among others. However, early termination of a plan maybe subject to additional fees/ penalty.
  1. Vonage offers a range of options from basic call management capabilities such as skill-based routing to dialers and more dynamic routing options. The Vonage plan most ideally serves businesses with small teams. The fee goes up as you add features that scale with your business needs. Pricing ranges between $17.99-$37.99/user/month.

So, as a growing business, what should you do?

Do your due diligence!

  • Exploit the full potential of your existing contact center software / cloud telephony system.
  • Be 100% sold on the robustness of the CMS offerings.
  • Not ready to commit? No sweat! There are service providers out there that will allow  ‘pay as you go’ flexibility. These plans let you pay as your business needs scale. You do not have to commit to a flat rate for an extended period where several product offerings may not even be applicable to your current business needs.
  • Opt for a call management system with no set up fee. That is just a waste. Especially where there are great plans that meet your unique business needs and do not require a set-up fee.
  • Get a call management system that allows you to cancel anytime without any penalty.

Most importantly, have a clear business vision, know what you want, and do your research!

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