When a business grows to a status where the customer base is too big to be serviced without specific software and a customer service department, the main question is what kind of a business phone system this business should choose to service customers.
There are two main options available: PBX solution and call center software. There have been many hot discussions about what is better: call center software or PBX solution, and there are people who support one or another solution. Nonetheless, our goal is to find out the truth and help you choose the best solution for your business.
So, what does PBX stand for? What is call center software? What are the different types of call center software and PBX solution?
What is the PBX system?
PBX solution is a phone system with basic call center functionalities which used to be an internal communication tool. PBX stands for Private Branch Exchange, which means that the PBX solution was formerly designed as a solution to ease communication between employees within one organization.
Nowadays, the PBX solution is no more just an internal communication platform. Now it is a customer service solution, as the PBX solution allows you to handle inbound calls from customers. Surely, the PBX solution includes some features for incoming calls handling, which we will describe below. Modern PBX solution is often based on VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) call center technology and uses cloud computing, but analog phone landlines are also used to run PBX solutions.
On the other hand, the nature of the PBX solution limits its capabilities. PBX solution is a kind of “low-cost” solution for small and midsize businesses as it offers only basic features needed to handle customer phone calls. Nonetheless, the PBX solution is very popular as a customer service platform – even though it can’t offer the same features as a cloud-based call center software does.
What is call center software?
Call center software is a software tool that is used to build your own call center, so it has all the needed features and capabilities to handle both inbound and outbound calls (outgoing calls), route those calls to agents, manage the work of agent groups, and collect data about all call center operations.
Call center software can also be based on classic analog telephony technologies, and in most cases, it will be an on-premise contact center solution that uses its own physical infrastructure and expensive equipment to work and cloud call center software that uses cloud technologies to share data. Cloud-based contact centers need only PC, Internet connection and headphones to be all set – no IP desk phones, no mobile phones or any other additional equipment.
Call center software also exists in three following types – depending on the type of calls which are handled by a contact center, including blended call center software, inbound contact center software, and outbound call center software.
The contact center has powerful integration capabilities and numerous unique features which are not available in the PBX solution.
Which is better: PBX vs call center features
Let’s start from comparing the features which are offered by PBX solution and cloud-based inbound call center software.
PBX solution features
Call holding – you can put customer calls on hold, while they’ll be listening to on-hold music.
Call transferring – you can transfer calls to other agents if the agent who answered the call can’t help the customer.
Internal voicemails – employees can leave voicemails, both for specific departments or employees.
Basic statistical tools – PBX solution provides you with basic data about handled customer calls, such as number of calls processed, average call duration, first-call resolution, and so on.
Auto attendant – the basic version of the IVR system, allows callers to choose a specific department to process customer contact.
Call conferencing – the system allows you to do conference calls.
Call center software features
There are many more modern features available in call center software than in PBX solutions. Except for the key features which were described in the paragraph about the PBX key features, cloud contact center software also offers:
Intelligent routing features – you can set up routing rules for your cloud contact center, so the calls will be forwarded to agents based on pre-set criteria. For example, you can set up priorities for agents who haven’t handled any calls for a while, so the system will minimize the idle time for those agents, or you can set up cycle routing, so each agent will have its own position in a row and all agents will answer calls simultaneously. Moreover, you can set up skill-based routing with the help of Automatic Call Distributors (ACD) software, so agents will be chosen by their skills which are measured by the system as a sum of all skills the agent has. It is a great feature to handle VIP calls, as it routes calls to agents based on customer status too.
Outbound calls and auto dialers – as we have mentioned above, the PBX solution can’t handle outbound calls. Outbound calls are needed to run cold calling campaigns, and the main tool for cold calls is an auto dialer. Auto dialer automates the calling process and boosts the contact rate up to 75%, as well as our key metrics which influence the success of a campaign. Also, auto dialers – Predictive dialers, Progressive dialers, and Preview dialers – automate the redialing process – so if the customer doesn’t answer the first call, the system will automatically call again and again until the call won’t be answered. Surely, these calls are performed with previously set schedules and a number of attempts.
IVR system – IVR system is a vital part of call center customer self-service and call queue management. Without IVR software, you will never be able to set up accurate call routing and provide personalized service, as this system collects data about customers when they interact with it. Also, IVR software can provide all-around-the-clock service for customers from any country in the world, and what is also critical – IVR software can manage call queues by reminding customers about the estimated wait time and by offering IVR callback features for those who are not going to wait. In some cases, you can even get AI-powered IVR.
Call recording and real-time monitoring features – you can both listen to live calls, take part in them or advise agents who are in trouble, as well as all calls are automatically recorded for future use.
Statistical and custom reporting tools – cloud-based call center software provides you with customizable, real-time advanced reports which include all information about current call center operations, customer interactions, customer requests, incoming calls volume, staff performance, Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), and so on.
Integration capabilities – you can integrate your call center software with numerous business tools, such as CRM software, payment systems, and so on.
PBX vs call center software: some other aspects
One of the biggest disadvantages of the PBX solution is that it can’t be scaled up to a complete call center solution. Otherwise, call center software – if it is cloud-based – you can scale it up in a few days without any effort, except for asking your vendor to make needed changes. PBX solution is hardly acceptable for fastly growing companies and large businesses – it can’t offer the needed flexibility and capabilities. This is also important because if you purchase the PBX solution, but you know that after a while you will need more advanced features and you will switch to a call center solution, you will pay more money than those who choose cloud call center solutions from the early beginning of their business journey.
PBX solution offers only calls as the customer communication channel, and it is quite an outdated solution. People prefer text communication nowadays, especially younger audiences. Modern cloud contact centers include all available contact channels, such as web chats, emails, social media, and so on. Also, customers can switch between channels exactly during the conversation without losing progress as all data is shared within the system. As you could guess, the PBX solution can’t offer anything from this list of smart features, and when it comes to exceptional customer experience, real customer care and customer satisfaction, we can’t say that offering only phone communication is a wise solution.
One of the biggest challenges when you buy a PBX solution is the task to make it work synchronously with your other business tools. As you could guess, the PBX solution isn’t integrable with other tools, like CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software, and this fact causes problems. You can’t exchange data between those tools automatically, you can’t get screen pop-ups while using CRM software, and your contact center agents are pushed to switch between numerous tools again and again – this will boost agent productivity and agent performance, agent level of satisfaction, reduce customer shrinkage rate and dropout rate, improve average handling time and resolution rate too. This isn’t the best example of an effortless and multifunctional business environment that every call center manager is willing to build. So, if you want to use such vital tools as CRM systems and help desk software effectively, a PBX solution isn’t the best option for you.
If we talk about price, then you have to understand one little thing – cloud contact center solutions cost a bit more, but it offers much more. We will compare the pricing of cloud solutions. For instance, the pricing for cloud PBX solutions starts from 18 to 20$ per seat, while for call center software with blended call center capabilities, it starts from 55$ to 70$ – the price becomes cheaper depending on the number of seats you buy. The more seats you need, the cheaper price is. Take into account that the prices we use for PBX solutions are the cheapest on the market, when it will come to direct negotiations about purchasing the solution, you will be also charged for setup and for some additional features you need. If you are a small company that doesn’t have a huge customer base and isn’t going to scale up fast, then the PBX solution can be the option. If you are looking for a successful future for your business and you are going to build a successful customer retention strategy, then call center software would be the best solution.