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The best small business call center software in 2023: Essentials for tight budgets

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Chris McCarthy

Senior Product Marketing Manager - Ai Contact Center

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If you’re a small business owner, you know that the only way to compete with larger competitors is to provide excellent products and even better service. But providing excellent service for all your customers requires a dedicated service team, the right technology investments, and an IT team that can keep things up and running. This can add up.

Customers need a platform for their account questions, support queries, and complaints. Providing consumers with the services they need is a vital step toward maintaining their loyalty. And, from a sales perspective, call centers offer opportunities to nurture new shoppers for your business.

Luckily, technological advances and digital channels have completely reinvented the contact center—both in appearance and cost. In 2023, all that’s needed to run your own call center or contact center is a good internet connection and a service provider’s software package. With the right technology, the call center can become a reality for any small business.

👉 QUICK SIDE-NOTE:

Today, most businesses don’t refer to these as “call centers” anymore, but rather, “contact centers.” (This is also what “CCaaS” (Contact Center as a Service) refers to. Why? Because “call center” refers to, as the name suggests, a voice-only support center. A contact center, on the other hand, allows for other channels too, like SMS, live chat, and so on.

First off, what is call center software, exactly?

If you're already familiar with what this is, feel free to skip ahead to the next section.

A call center software is basically a dedicated platform that lets you manage your customer interactions, all in one place (ideally).

Compared to older “legacy” call center companies and solutions, many of today’s platforms are in the cloud. That means you don’t need a big office with rows and rows of analog phone systems and actual telephones anymore. But don’t worry, the newer software still lets you do things like queue people needing assistance and transfer calls between departments.

We’re not saying legacy hardware is bad (okay, maybe a little bit), but it certainly has its limits. It is expensive for IT teams to maintain, prone to outages, and of course, requires all your call center agents to work in the same location. Want to hire more people and get them onboarded quickly (or downsize the team)? Good luck.

The introduction and rise of CCaaS has changed everything. Instead of expensive, inflexible systems that require a ton of IT support, CCaaS allows organizations to offload manual tasks and save on cost. Organizations can set up new contact center environments in minutes, and easily spin resources up and down on demand. Since it’s cloud-based, it’s also easier to integrate with systems like your CRM or ticketing software, without lengthy IT cycles.

Fenway Health discovered how cost-effective and flexible Dialpad is when they switched to a cloud-based contact center platform from their legacy phone system. Now, they've lowered operational costs thanks to Dialpad's all-inclusive pricing (not to mention it's incredibly easy to use—with plenty of hands-on support).

👉 DIALPAD TIP:

Because VoIP call centers use software instead of traditional solutions, you can expand (and downsize) your teams more easily, anywhere in the world. No more phone lines and expensive hardware. VoIP also integrates more easily with other tools and apps, like CRMs, and you can add pretty much whatever features you want to your call center.

Why should small businesses care about having the right call center software?

Basically, your call center is a centralized hub where you interact with customers (or prospective customers) who have questions. If your technology doesn’t help your team deliver a great experience, that hurts your brand reputation and your bottom line.

There’s a huge selection of advanced call center solutions available, whether you work in ecommerce, banking, or healthcare. For small(er) businesses, time and money are paramount, so look for versatile solutions that let you streamline the number of tools you’re using.

This way, you’re paying less in monthly or yearly software fees and your team isn’t collectively wasting as much time switching back and forth between windows and tools.

👉 DIALPAD TIP:

You’ve probably seen “UC + CCaaS” software out there that say they’re “all in one, with messaging, video, and phone—and a contact center.” But did you know that very few contact center software systems are built right into the same platform as their UCaaS (unified communications as a service) product? Next time you check out a free trial, ask to see their contact center product. Nine times out of ten, the UCaaS and CCaaS parts look completely different from each other. That’s a sign that this company is using an acquired or third-party product that they just rebranded.

Small businesses need different solutions compared to large enterprises

You don’t need us to tell you how important it is to wow your customers when you’re a small business. You’re not a faceless corporation, and people tend to expect even more personal and warm service—even though you’re probably more strapped for time and resources than a big company!

And the biggest trap that small businesses and start-ups tend to fall into?

Trying to play like the big enterprises in their space, but trying to use the same tools. For small business call center software, you need something that matches your current needs and offers expansion as your business grows. Otherwise, you’re going to be spending a whole lot of money unnecessarily.

The right software will help you deliver the best service levels possible, which gives you the best chance of maintaining and growing your customer base. And, should your business (and incoming call volume) start growing in size, it’ll let you easily expand on the features you already have.

👉 DIALPAD TIP:

Dialpad is one of those rare unicorns that can be a good fit for both large enterprises and startups, mainly because of its built-in Ai and ease of set-up.

Even a small team can play in the big leagues with the right call center software

Long story short, the right platform empowers your customer service agents to not just do, but also excel at, their jobs. Let’s face it. There’s little job satisfaction (and not a lot of value) in having your team of agents deal with repetitive customer service calls that could be dealt with more quickly and efficiently by a chatbot on your website or over social media.

If you invest in a contact center with a digital-first approach, easy questions and workflows can be taken care of without the need for a live agent. This frees up your teams for more complicated conversations that definitely need a human touch. And agent guidance, provided by AI, boosts their success rates and happiness in the job.

(Happier employees are more productive, which boosts your staff retention rate. And if you’re a small business, then empowered staff and a stable ship are both very good for longevity.)

9 essential call center software features for small businesses

If a small business is going to use call center software, it should be one that helps a lean team accomplish many things. All-in-one contact center solutions fit this bill—especially those that provide omnichannel communications capabilities and leverage powerful artificial intelligence.

With omnichannel communications, agents will always be able to talk to a customer, whether they’re on the phone, on a website, or on social media. And Ai-powered features like live transcription and sentiment analysis will help both agents and supervisors work faster and smarter by simplifying time-consuming tasks and rapidly analyzing crucial call information.

But those two elements are just the tip of the iceberg (and it’s a pretty big iceberg). There’s still plenty more that a well-designed all-in-one call center software can do.

👉 DIALPAD TIP:

It’s far easier to have one tool that does everything, as opposed to splitting out the various features you need into multiple vendors. The more systems you use, the more integration time and effort you’ll need to put in to keep things connected and running. Your staff will need more training, making the onboarding process more complex.

Here are the major features every small business should look for when you’re choosing the best call center software for your business needs.

1. Omnichannel capability

Customers are no longer satisfied with dialing into a 1-800 number and waiting for 10 minutes. They need more options for interacting with businesses, which can be a challenge for smaller companies.

Ideally, the call center software you go with will allow you to manage all of your communications in one place. This means customers can reach you on whichever channel they choose, and enjoy a much more accommodating customer experience.

For example, thanks to Dialpad’s acquisition of Kare and Koopid, Dialpad Ai Contact Center lets you manage literally all your channels—from live chat to social media to WhatsApp.

But customers don’t always have to talk to a human to get help. Adding a chatbot to your website and enabling self-service for your site visitors is huge for call deflection—especially for smaller businesses with less staff that can quickly become overwhelmed on the phones. The more automation the better!

Dialpad lets you add a chatbot to your site, no problem. So you can give your customers instant answers, 24/7:

Creating a chatbot flow in dialpad self service blog size

By combining omnichannel communications and self-service, customers can quickly find the answers they need in the channels they’re most comfortable with. They can start by asking a question to our self-service chatbot and, if the answer doesn’t work, they can easily escalate to a live agent, who can communicate in dozens of channels from the same Agent desktop.

2. Seamless scalability and flexibility

Even if your contact center team is small at the moment, you should keep your business’ future growth in mind. We’re talking about a two or three-year-long (at least) view. Does your call center platform make it easy for you to add (and remove) agents as you’ll need to?

Just like with getting your team to adopt any new software, it’s important to make sure everyone, no matter how tech-savvy, is well-versed in using it. Coach your support team, and choose something that offers great after-purchase support—you’ll never know when you might need it.

For example, in Dialpad Ai Contact Center, you can add and remove someone from your call center team with literally a few clicks—no IT help needed:

Single item card adding new agents to cc team v2

This is one of the biggest advantages of going into the cloud for your call center software: it gives you unimaginable levels of scalability and flexibility. With no physical restrictions on activity limits, you can expand your platform—and team—however you like.

🔌 SHAMELESS PLUG:

In the unlikely event that Dialpad doesn’t offer a built-in solution for your needs, the software even comes with a developers’ hub. This enables your own devs to build unique applications through the application programming interface (API), with a sandbox provided for testing.

But don't take our word for it...

Dialpad cc review austin

3. Robust analytics and KPIs

Having good contact center analytics is key, especially for a small business. If you’re one person and you need to manage a team of 10 agents, you need to be able to see, at a glance, who's busiest, who's taking longer with customers, and who needs help on a call. You can’t listen to every single call all day, right?

Dialpad offers an in-depth analytics dashboard that tells you everything you need to know about your call center activity and your agents’ performance. At all times.

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There’s the “call volume over time” view, which lets you arrange data by call center, groups or individuals. And if you have key performance indicators (KPIs) that you need to hit, like average speed to answer, Dialpad shows you that too:

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From peak calling times to your most-used communication channels, everything you need to keep an eye on in your call center is at your fingertips in real time.

For healthcare providers, as an example, it'd be important to enable reps to answer calls within a certain length of time to meet stringent industry requirements.

4. Accurate call transcriptions

Monitoring agent performance the old-school way involved supervisors listening to call after call—and manually identifying areas for improvement. It was time-consuming (and boring), and very difficult for supervisors to catch everything after one listen, especially when trying to analyze longer calls.

Now imagine there’s a real-time call transcription feature in your call center platform that creates transcripts for every call. Well, you don’t have to imagine, because Dialpad does exactly that (and more accurately than almost all competitors out there) thanks to Dialpad Ai:

Dialpad transcription

Call transcriptions work hand-in-hand with Dialpad’s QA Scorecards as a means of doing efficient quality assurance checks. Each scorecard can be custom-built to include a checklist of everything an agent needs to hit on a call—a custom greeting, verifying contact info, saying goodbye, etc. Dialpad Ai will then suggest whether the call criteria has been met, which saves supervisors a ton of time because they don't have to listen to the entire call recording during their QA process:

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Another neat thing that some call center AI tools can do is pick up on positive or negative words (which you can customize) on a call. This is what Dialpad Ai does, and it can even show the sentiment of the call on the manager’s or supervisor’s dashboard so that you can see how all your calls are going in real time (more on this later).

Call transcriptions aren’t just for the call center’s benefit either—you can put them to good use in other departments too. For example, the sales team can use transcriptions to identify cross- and upsell opportunities, make sure that you’re consistently meeting prospects’ expectations, note specific items for follow-up, and other tasks.

5. Real-time agent assists

When you have agents who are taking tens or hundreds of calls a day, tricky questions from difficult customers are bound to come up. How can you help them help your customers more effectively?

Dialpad’s Ai Agent Assist can make a huge difference by surfacing the best agent knowledge in real time. Our Ai automatically scrapes connected knowledge, whether that’s internal wikis, your website, or your CRM, and delivers your agents the right information when they need it:

AI Agent Assist 2

Ai Agent Assist has a high accuracy rate, and can help agents quickly answer complex inquiries.

But it’s not the only way agents can get support live on calls. Again, not only can Dialpad Ai transcribe your calls, it can also pick up on common questions and keywords that come up in the conversation, which you can turn into "Custom Moments" that get tracked and may indicate training needs, over time:

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These Ai Agent Assists can prompt agents with information about services, how to handle objections in sales calls—whatever the agent needs during their conversation with customers. (Learn more about AI for small business.)

6. The ability to communicate anywhere, anytime

As more and more people are working remotely, contact centers will as well—and with the right technology in place, your business can eliminate the cost of office space and hardware, and take advantage of the flexibility and work-life balance that remote work delivers.

The main challenge with remote contact centers is that it’s difficult to monitor or coach agent behavior—you need a reliable system that allows you to:

  • Communicate with agents effortlessly through video meetings, either in 1:1’s or frequent meetings that get everyone on the same page

  • Communicate with agents in messaging channels for ad hoc requests or questions

  • Listen in on live calls so supervisors can give them tips and pointers

  • Access call recordings and transcripts so supervisors can easily review calls and more effectively coach agents

  • Monitor agent dashboards and see who is available and who is on a call

  • Analyze agent behavior with robust analytics to see things like call volume, hold times, and more

👉 FUN FACT:

Whether you're looking for a small business phone system or enterprise phone system, Dialpad's incredible scalability makes it a perfect fit for both.

7. Easy phone call routing setup

There’s nothing worse for busy callers to have to wait in a queue, only to find they’ve ended up in the wrong department.

Your call center software should have an automatic call distribution system to make sure every customer call gets routed to the right agent. This may be done by analyzing information from previous calls, or through a series of short questions (that you usually answer using your phone’s keypad).

In Dialpad, you have different routing options, from round-robin to skills-based routing. You can change these settings anytime from your dashboard, without calling IT:

Multiple call routing options v2

8. Real-time call monitoring

Call center supervisors can’t hover over every call—especially in small businesses where resources are limited and the supervisor has a lot on their plate. And yet there will be times when an agent will need a supervisor to step in and coach them through a challenging conversation.

A feature like real-time sentiment analysis can help supervisors support agents more effectively. The way it works for Dialpad is that our Ai analyzes a conversation for words that express either positive or negative sentiment and then evaluates how the call is going.

The supervisor has a handy dashboard that displays all active calls, each with a color-coded indicator of the current overall sentiment and the likely reason behind it:

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The supervisor can then catch up to the conversation by either reading a real-time transcript or listening in on the call. From there, they can use the whisper function to give the agent helpful suggestions (or send them a direct message if call whisper is too distracting).

Agents can feel confident knowing that their supervisor can jump in and provide support whenever it’s needed—without having to interrupt the customer. Supervisors will be able to concentrate on other tasks while still keeping a pulse on their teams’ calls.

9. An integration with your CRM

Chances are, if you’re not already using a CRM (customer relationship management software), you will be very soon.

Salesforce and HubSpot are two popular ones, and then there's Zendesk if you're using ticketing software.

Dialpad integrates with all of these—its HubSpot integration lets you create contacts in HubSpot from your Dialpad dashboard. Just got off a call with a new (or potential) customer? You can hang up in Dialpad, and create a HubSpot Contact for them, right in the same window:

Hubspot Dialpads Hubspot integration automatic call logging v2

(And vice versa—the integration will automatically log calls made in Dialpad to HubSpot too. Once you’ve matched a HubSpot contact with that person’s info in Dialpad, HubSpot will automatically log calls with this contact!)

As for Dialpad’s Salesforce CTI integration, it can do a lot of things that can save your agents time and effort. For instance, being able to call customers directly from within Salesforce using click-to-call, as well as streamlining the process of recording post-call notes:

Dialpad SF integration

Having a CRM integration with your call center platform is particularly useful for growing your small business because it’ll get harder and harder to keep track of all your prospects and customers.

This way, any agent or rep on your team (even new hires), can access the same information about your customers’ histories and past calls easily, all in the same place. Every touch point, every record. No more scattered folders and files.

The 14 best small business call center software in 2023

So you’ve got a growing contact center team (with around five people and you know you’re hiring more). You want to see the best call center software providers out there in 2023. We’ve compiled some of the best and broken down each one. Let’s get into it.

1. Dialpad Ai Contact Center

Okay, we know we’re biased. But we’re biased for a reason. Dialpad is just the best option for small businesses. The contact center is built into the same platform as our UCaaS platform, meaning you can take your customer calls and message your teammates or have video meetings—all in one place.

And Dialpad Ai comes built-in. This is what transcribes your calls in real time, tracks keywords that come up in conversations—like your competitors’ names or product issues—and lets you create Real-time Assist (RTA) and Ai Agent Assist cards that pop up automatically for agents during phone conversations. It’s our secret sauce.

(And remember when we mentioned how easy it is to track your call center’s performance without needing extra analytics software…)

Long story short, Dialpad lets you create a fully virtual call center with agents working from anywhere (well, anywhere with good internet).

Dialpad is also perfect for sales, since you can get both local and international numbers for sales reps in different territories, and the automatic data backup ensures the highest levels of security for your system as a whole.

And for customer experience teams? You can track the quality of customer service your team is providing in real time with Ai-powered CSAT on 100% of calls—not just the 5%-ish average response rate from traditional IVR CSAT surveys:

Screenshot of Ai CSAT dashboard

You can also get deep call center metrics in real time, in addition to providing omnichannel service across voice, digital, and social media channels:

Dialpad omnichannel flows blog size

TL;DR - Do you have a small contact center team that needs to punch above its weight? Dialpad Ai Contact Center is your best option.

Features that small businesses love:

  • Dialpad Ai, which provides accurate, real-time transcriptions of calls and voicemail

  • Easy IVR and call routing setup and customization

  • Simplified quality management for supervisors

  • Ai CSAT / SMS survey options

  • Call center recording and live screen capture

  • Real-time automations to streamline workflows like RTA cards

Best for: Small to medium businesses that want an easy-to-set-up and customizable call center platform

What customers think of Dialpad

Don’t just take our word for it, either—take a look at what some of our customers have to say:

“One thing that I love in Dialpad is the call journey feature, where you can see where calls were routed, forwarded, and changed. It’s beautiful, and brought a lot of peace of mind to our call center operations—there’s no more wondering where a call came from or how someone got it.” - Sahil Farooqi Arthur, Head of Customer Care at Rently

“On match days, I may be managing an event or in another part of the stadium, but my team can always pass a phone call to me and I can accept without needing to be in front of an actual computer.” - Deirdre Roraduri, Membership Service & Events Specialist at Western Australian Cricket Association

“Dialpad gives us the ability to change our call center ourselves — without interruption and within minutes.” - Mike Monteiro, Communications System Manager at EF Education First

Need a small business contact center platform?

Book a demo of Dialpad Ai Contact Center and see how easy it is to set up and use, with minimal IT help. Or, take a self-guided interactive tour of the app on your own!

2. Genesys Cloud CX

Genesys Cloud CX is another hefty player in the contact center space, specifically serving mid-size and large enterprises.

They count PayPal and Ticketmaster among their customers, and yep, those are huge organizations.

That being said, they're an established customer service platform and if you have the budget and resources to manage a system with ticketing features and complex workforce management tools, Genesys Cloud could be an option.

Due to the huge range of features, Genesys Cloud CX may be too complex for some users, and some people have reported difficulties with basic everyday use.

It should be noted that the different pricing plans are divided by communications channel. For example, Cloud CX1 is voice only, and Cloud CX2 has two versions: Digital only and Digital+Voice (each with different price points).¹

Features:

Pricing: $75 to $150 per month (Cloud CX1 to Cloud CX3)¹

👉 FURTHER READING:

Get a detailed breakdown of Genesys Cloud vs. Dialpad!

3. Five9

Five9 is another well known name in the contact center software space. You’ve probably heard of it, and for good reason—they’ve been around for a while.

The thing is, their user interface reflects it. (Zoom did try to acquire them back in 2021, but it didn’t go through.) Plus, you don’t have a single dashboard that your agents, supervisors, and admins can all look at (like with Dialpad).

And if you have a work-from-home team of call center agents, you’ll probably want a mobile-first (or at least a strong mobile app experience) for folks who are working remotely. That’s not a strength of Five9’s, but if your team doesn’t use their cell phones for work, this might not be an issue for you. Learn more about the best Five9 alternatives.

Features:

  • Predictive dialing

  • Upselling screen-pops on demand

  • Dedicated management tools

Pricing: $149 to $229 per month (Core to Ultimate)2

👉 FURTHER READING:

Get a detailed breakdown of Five9 vs. Dialpad!