A call or contact centre is responsible for managing customer interaction – be that via telephone, email, webchat, social media, etc. in a methodical, organised and controlled manner.

Their #1 goal is to provide a stellar customer experience. That means being available on the customer’s preferred communication channel, where they are connected to a resource with the relevant client history, who has the right skills and tools to handle calls professionally, effectively and efficiently, with the goal of first call resolution.

Where in the past people may have stood in line for a variety of financial and other products, now they complete these transactions through a single call to a call or contact centre. So, keep in mind that improvements in productivity, reduced operating costs, and increased profitability should always be a consideration.

Call Centre or Contact Centre?

Call Centre

A call centre serves customers via telephone only, where the call centre software would report on performance based on telephone interactions only.

Call centres can be simple or smart – they can integrate with back-office applications, serve customers with an intelligent greeting and automated routing engines and more, but in essence, they would seldom have the capabilities to add other communications channels you will find in a contact Centre solution.

Contact Centre

A contact centre serves customers in the channel of their choice, which may span across voice, text, email, whatsApp, social media, etc.

It is also common to for contact centre’s to have deep levels of integration with CRM and ERP systems, offer workforce management, Intelligent Chatbots and more.

As the world strives to become more digitized, you will find many contact centre solutions in operation as these systems are proven to be the perfect foundation for a winning customer experience (CX).

Common call centre features

Distributing calls in a methodical, organized and controlled manner is the basis for any call or contact centre.

The process of intelligent call distribution involves getting a conversation to an agent with the appropriate skillset in the shortest amount of time.

Advanced platforms allow for priority routing based on the number calling in, number dialed, time of day, or even status in a back office platform such as CRM. 

Reporting and analytics help agents to understand more about their customers, and supervisors to learn more about the agents performance.

The data never lies, and extrapolating the value you stand to gain through the reporting and analytics can ultimately shape and define best practice standards to streamline operations.

Recording conversations has proven to improve customer service, upgrade employee performance, retrieve missed details, prevent litigation, and better understand one’s customers.

Interactive Voice Response, or IVR allow you to answer and route calls intelligently based on variables which you specify.

This can be routing calls based on the number being dialled, the time of day, the caller’s phone number, or even identification provided by the caller.

Advanced systems will allow authentication by referencing client detail to an internal system, and providing self-help capabilities such as real-time balances, ordering of new services, etc.

Automated diallers can be used to maximise productivity by having a system automatically dial numbers from your database, and only once the call has been connected, pass that call over to an agent.

Just imaging the time saved by rather having a system send active calls to an agent, as opposed to having them dial out to a customer.

You get different types of diallers which offer different levels of functionality so it is best to engage with your provider and understand which one is best for you.

Although dialler technology is historically quite expensive to implement, the return on investment period is very short – especially for larger or busier environments.

If you’ve been dialing numbers manually then you stand to greatly benefit from a dialler.

Caller pop is a function of integration with internal back office systems, and essentially serve a window or dialog box to an agent’s screen with each call, displaying information of the caller – such as their name, call history, who they last spoke to, etc. 

Having this information on hand has proven to improve the customer experience.

Flexibility in the workplace is a growing priority, especially with so many people working from home now, including call or contact centre agents. With smartphone/app integration, agents can work from home with nothing more than their phone, the necessary app and a good internet connection.

Speech analytics is often associated with call recording technology, whereby a processing engine will analyse a conversation and flag a supervisor based on any specific rulesets, such as the mention of competitor keywords or foul language. 

Speech analytics engines can also identify the sentiment of a caller by, for example, their pitch or volume of the person speaking which may indicate frustration.

Sentiment analysis allows you to gain essential insights into the customer’s perception of your company or the interaction, by looking at a number of factors for the conversation, such as the tone used, the repetition of certain keywords, or even the pitch and volume of the callers voice. This helps understand where possible inefficiencies are in your process which cause customer frustration.

Modern call and contact centre platforms incorporate targeted surveys through voice, email, or mobile to understand more about their experience with your call centre, which helps you to make educated decisions on where to optimise and streamline your processes.

Workforce management systems not only offer capabilities to predict the required resources to achieve certain SLAs in your call centre, but extends to automatically creating rosters based on the right skills, and also consider the cost of resources which helps you to manage the budget of bringing in the right resources at the right time. Agents are also able to trade shifts if they are allowed to do so.

In today’s world, it’s all about leveraging open architectures and having the ability to have different systems speaking to each other. 

Having a single view into the customer is the ultimate goal – in reality, this data sits in many places, often in different systems.

APIs and integration services allow you to get these systems to work together, to share information, and to intelligently determine outcomes based on data received from other systems, such as verifying a caller’s identity through pin code, voice recognition, etc.

How stakeholders stand to benefit

The Customer

For Agents

For Supervisors

For the Business

Before you decide
here's what you need to know...

Defining your requirements is very much a consultative process, and understanding who you are serving, what resources you have available, and what your internal processes and strategy is, now and in the future, may define where you invest your money.


Understand that there are very few providers who offer absolutely everything in a single solution – rather, in some cases, the provider may know where they need specific expertise, and partner with a company who specialises in that specific function. That partnership would usually come with interoperability testing and a defined SLA and support structure between parties.

What this may mean to you, the buyer, is that this will be priced separately, and that support in some cases may be different to what you get from your primary solution. Some may even offer separate SLAs on those specific functions given how they operate, or how important that function is to your operation.

This is especially important when running a remote agent environment, but you need to ask your provider how much bandwidth you need per agent, considering the channels being used. It is not uncommon for agents to need a few Mbps which can add up when you reach higher volumes, and will certainly have a substantial impact to the internet service you use to provide the connectivity between your agent and the platform.

You decide where you choose to invest – either locally or internationally. There are ample local and international solutions, and hybrid offers where specific expertise are not readily available in-country.

If you do end up buying from an international company, you accept that what you are quoted will have a validity date, and that any variable fees during the term of your agreement may never be static since they will be based on the exchange rate at the time.

Buying internationally will have other considerations such as support, understanding the local market dynamics, speed of development, and so on.

Investing in a new contact centre is never a stand-alone project – there are usually other elements which form part of the contact centre technology piece. Examples include current technology, custom developed middleware, phone lines, connecting applications and system. All of these come together to deliver a complete contact centre solution.

With that in mind, pull out your old contracts – look at the agreement terms, early settlement penalties or cancellation fees which may be applicable as you will need to cater for that in your investment analysis.

Chances are you’re moving phone line providers as you move call centre systems. This usually comes with phone numbers your business is dependent on to continue serving your customers.

Keep in mind that not all SA phone numbers can be moved or ported between providers, and usually there is a cost to port each number between networks.

Make a complete list of all the phone numbers your business uses, and share this with your provider who will advise how they can retain these numbers. And if you have a number which cannot be ported, you’ll want to understand how the current and future service will work together, as well as the costs involved so that you do not sit with unexpected extra forwarding fees.

Ask how your new provider will ensure a smooth transition, allowing you to optimise your existing telephony equipment while modernising or upgrading your system. For example, you could continue to use your existing phone sets while getting access to your new provider’s systems and features.

If you intend to move away from traditional PSTN fixed lines (analogue or ISDN) over to VoIP, you’ll need to assess the impact that adding the additional bandwidth will have on your internet line and service.

In addition to this, if you’re like most other businesses, you probably intend sharing the same line you use for internet, email and so on, and not install a dedicated internet line for VoIP. Therefore, you need to carefully plan how to set up your internet line so that voice takes priority over other traffic, and that the bandwidth required for voice is consistent.

Anything that is based on the internet (IP) has a deep reliance on an internal and external internet network. Therefore, buying a new phone system and VoIP phones is not quite as simple as just plugging everything in and walking away.

Connecting internal networks (local area networks or LAN) may require internal reconfiguration to prioritise voice traffic over other network traffic. Additionally, any firewalls need to be made aware of voice traffic, and your cabling and power infrastructure needs to be complaint.

When working with your phone system provider, ask for a detailed rundown of the prerequisites and best practice for running VoIP and IP telephony. Ask this before you sign up to avoid unexpected investments to upgrade your network and other elements thereof.

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Ready to engage?
Here's what you need to ask your Provider.

Take time to write down all the functionality your business uses and requires in a new system. Depending on complexity or importance, you may even want to consider developing a formal Request For Proposal (RFP) specification or appointing a consultant to develop and manage this process for you.

Having a well-defined list of your short-long term business goals and objectives, the current systems and channels used in your business, and agreeing on how you want to buy/pay for the solution are important factors to understand before you embark on your journey.

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