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Updated Apr 04, 2024

Features of Call Center Systems

Call center systems can improve customer service and sales calls. Learn their features and capabilities and how your business can incorporate call centers.

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Sean Peek, Senior Analyst & Expert on Business Ownership
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Table of Contents

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A call center system should reduce business costs while improving the performance of your sales and customer service reps. Not every call center system is built equally, however. Each comes with numerous features tackling diverse issues – with varying degrees of success. Call center systems today are bursting with state-of-the-art functionality, bringing immense flexibility to users and customers. 

Editor’s note: Looking for a call center system? For help finding the right solution for your business, fill out the below questionnaire to have our vendor partners contact you with free information.


Top call center features

Your organization may not need every call center system feature available. Below, we highlight some of the top features that help many businesses improve customer service and boost productivity

Determine what features your company needs before choosing the right call center software for your business

Automatic call distribution

Automatic call distribution (ACD) is a system that automatically routes callers to relevant individuals, drastically reducing wasted time and resources. Some form of ACD is a must for typical call centers. 

ACD systems distribute calls according to user-specified criteria, such as sending the call to an idle phone or sending calls about billing to the accounting department. These systems range from straightforward pushbutton virtual operators to those that use caller ID or voice recognition.

Call center monitoring and analytics

Call center monitoring and analytics tools are essential for call centers. Scrutinizing call duration, costs and other valuable metrics helps supervisors and managers make informed decisions about staffing, employee performance and training. 

Some of the best call center systems provide real-time statistics, letting you know what’s going on in the call center second by second. Historical reporting allows you to compile hourly, daily, weekly, monthly and annual statistics for detailed long-term analysis.

Call recording 

Call recording is valuable for training and monitoring, allowing supervisors and operators to record and store phone calls as audio files on the server. However, the storage requirements for call recording can be quite large. 

Third-party-hosted and cloud-hosted systems are better suited for this function because they make it easy for you to upgrade your storage space without having to buy new hardware.

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If you’re looking for a cloud-hosted system to store call recordings and other data, check out our reviews of the top cloud storage and online backup services to find the right solution.

Call transfer and three-way calling

Being able to transfer a caller to another department or permit access to a third party is essential for virtually all call centers. Few systems are sold without these features, but it’s worth checking just in case.

Contact management

Contact management systems let you tag and store different calls with relevant information attached to the call file. These systems enhance customer management because they provide historical records of all calls by an individual account holder.

Computer telephony integration

Computer telephony integration (CTI) systems use desktop PCs as telephone systems. CTI software packages enable a desktop computer to serve and display all call-related functions, such as providing caller information, routing calls to other workstations and controlling the phone system. 

Most call center systems utilize some form of CTI. Usually, a simple USB headset is all that’s necessary to turn a standard PC running CTI software into a complete call center workstation.

Workstation recording

Understanding operator needs is another way to streamline a call center and make it run more efficiently. Workstation data recording lets you make a video of what’s happening on an operator’s screen. You can analyze the recording to learn how operators use the system, which tricks they know that could help others and what problems they’re having that management can address.

Interactive voice response

Interactive voice response (IVR) uses voice-recognition software to allow callers to route themselves to specific departments. IVR solutions, sometimes called auto attendants, vary in sophistication, from simple routing functionality to intricate systems that allow customers to access their accounts. At the high end, IVR empowers customers to serve themselves, reducing the workload for human operators.

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Many businesses successfully use their IVR for marketing. Most platforms – either directly or via a plug-in – allow you, for example, to run phone polls and surveys. You can use the results to discover what your company is doing well and how it could improve.

Omnichannel communications

With the shift from POTS (plain old telephone service) to VoIP technology, call center systems allow you to interact with your customers and employees in many different ways.

Many systems now allow you to communicate through SMS, MMS, social media messaging, messaging apps like WhatsApp, AI-powered website chatbots and more. You can plug a customer relationship management (CRM) platform into your call center app so that conversations on all channels with each customer are recorded and archived.

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In addition to having two-way conversations by telephone, SMS, email, social media and other channels, you can integrate third-party marketing software into many call center systems. Download the relevant plug-ins to turn your call center system into a general marketing platform for your business with auto-dialer, SMS marketing, email marketing and social media marketing apps.

Live call coaching

Live call coaching allows a third person, such as a manager or trainer, to interact with an operator without the caller hearing. Live call coaching systems help with training and mentoring.

If you run a telemarketing team, look for systems that offer call barging and whispering. Live call monitoring, mentioned above, is helpful but, sometimes, your manager might need to jump on a call to help close the sale.

Barging and whispering allow a sales or service team manager to join their reps on live calls. With barging, your rep and their customer can hear your manager on a live call, whereas with whispering, only your rep can hear your manager.

Performance evaluation

By monitoring an operator’s performance, you can identify gaps in training and areas where you may need to write a performance improvement plan. Call center systems with performance evaluation abilities can create reports, graphs and other data while measuring employee performance.

Predictive dialer

Predictive dialers are helpful for call centers that make many outbound calls, allowing the system to call a list of phone numbers simultaneously. Operators are connected only when someone picks up. 

Predictive dialer systems can save time and prevent operators from having to wait for someone to answer a call. They also monitor operator availability to ensure that calls aren’t made when no operators are available for call routing if someone answers.

For companies running outbound telemarketing teams, consider a system with an integrated or third-party auto-dialler function. Auto-dialers improve rep productivity by predicting when live and ongoing calls will end. They then dial the next number so that the rep is connected to the next customer immediately. Auto-dialers are excellent at increasing work rate and productivity. 

Technical support

Technical support is necessary for any third-party-hosted system. However, for self-managed and cloud-based systems, technical support can range from nonexistent to highly generous. 

Before purchasing a call center system, ask the company about 24-hour phone support, 24-hour live chat support and virtual management (where technicians can fix problems via secure remote access).

Hold music

Call center systems allow agents to play music while a customer is on hold. Although it may seem trivial, hold music can play a significant role in keeping a customer on the line while an operator fulfills a request. Dead silence can be quite jarring, and a customer is more likely to hang up and file a complaint if there is nothing to fill the void.  

Voicemail to email or text

Some call center systems can translate a voicemail into text and forward the information as a message or email. If a caller makes a request, the system can forward it to the appropriate representative immediately, even if they’re engaged in another activity. Messaging allows for faster conflict resolution and better overall customer service for your business.

How artificial intelligence is making call center software better

In the last two years, call center software providers have integrated artificial intelligence to supercharge the usefulness of their platform’s existing features and functions.

One area with significant progress is speech analytics. Although speech analysis has existed for years, thanks to the advent of large language models (LLMs), it can now determine human emotion and intent better than the older, rules-based analytical models. What’s more, it analyzes hundreds or thousands of conversations at a time at a much deeper level to identify prevailing or approaching trends.

Let’s say that, in the last 120 days, for example, your sales analysis software tells you that your level of churn (the number of customers leaving you) has skyrocketed. You could ask your speech analysis software to review customers’ cancellation calls en masse to determine why they were unhappy. The system’s linguistic analysis function will likely detect a higher-than-average degree of anger, upset or frustration in customers’ choice of words during those conversations. It will also isolate the key reasons for canceling, like “hidden charges” or “charged too much.”

It would be almost impossible for a human to do such detailed analysis across such a vast data set. Thanks to LLM-powered speech analysis, though, you can get near-instant, accurate and evidence-based insight into exactly why your customers are leaving. 

This example is reactive, but speech analysis software is also proactive. You can ask it to look for and then report on significant changes in customer emotion and intent over time so you can spot an issue even before you know there is one.

Another great example of how LLM-powered speech analytics deliver value is during live interactions with customers. It can give your reps on-screen prompts based on the content of the conversation and a client’s history that help them close the deal or resolve the caller’s issue.

Many platforms now have LLM-powered web chatbots that, when the customer is logged in, can manage and resolve inquiries but know when it’s better to transfer an issue to a human representative. 

These examples only scratch the surface of what’s possible with AI now.

What is a call center system?

A call center system is a collection of software tools that supports your call center team during telephone interactions with customers and clients. Call center systems are divided into inbound, outbound and blended systems.

  • Inbound call center systemsprovide streamlined technical support and service order intakes. 
  • Outbound call center systemsspecialize in supporting teams during customer acquisition, telemarketing and collecting customer satisfaction data. 
  • Blended call center systems are for companies that need sophisticated inbound and outbound calling capabilities.

Call center systems can further be differentiated by the underlying technology they use and where that technology is located:

  • On-premises call center systemsare tool packages tailored for individual companies on-site. They usually require private hardware installation with company-implemented upgrades and maintenance. An on-premises call center system is typically the most professional call center system.
  • Cloud-based call center systemsare typically the most flexible form of call center systems. They are tool packages a call center team can access anywhere without downloading or installing software. A cloud-based system is typically sold as a software service model that provides tool maintenance. As remote working arrangements gain popularity, cloud-based call center systems will continue to improve.
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There is a third type of call center system, which uses SIP trunking. This hybrid system allows companies to add many of the features and functionality cloud-based call centers offer to their existing traditional PBX hardware.

Costs of call center systems

Call center system costs depend on multiple factors. Is the call center system on-premises or cloud-based? How many call center agents will use the system? Which tools will the call center team use? Does the call center already have the necessary hardware and equipment? 

There is no one-price-fits-all model for a call center system, but here’s a snapshot of two possible price quotes:

  • On-premises model:This is by far the most expensive call center system option, but it ensures greater security and control. A business will likely spend $1,000 per agent on setup. So, a 20-seat call center will generally cost around $20,000 in software and equipment. Going forward, the software for a call center that size will cost around $4,800 per year. Other costs include line rental and call charges from your provider and equipment maintenance.
  • Cloud-based model:A cloud-based model can save a business serious money if properly implemented and chosen. Monthly fees per user start at around $20 but can go higher. There is usually no setup fee with cloud-based platforms, although you may have to buy extra equipment for all your staff to be able to use the system. 

Best call center phone systems

There are dozens of excellent providers of business call center systems to choose from. Below are summaries of six cloud-based call center systems and links to our full reviews of each. 


Twilio is incredibly flexible, but there is limited functionality in the out-of-the-box version. The platform is best for companies that want complete and granular control over how they interact with their customers. Many larger companies use Twilio to power their entire internal and external communications channels because of just how customizable it is. To get the most out of the platform, you’ll need someone familiar with programming.

Read our comprehensive Twilio review.

Salesforce Service Cloud

Part of the much wider Salesforce ecosystem, Service Cloud is a powerful omnichannel communications system specifically designed to help companies improve after-sales care. The platform has a learning curve, but it offers a wealth of customization options, a massive app store for extra functionality and the excellent Einstein AI. 


Five9 is a highly capable omnichannel call center service that handles customer interactions well, including inbound and outbound calls, email, chatbots, SMS, social media, and video calls. The AI implementation on the platform is among the most sophisticated and useful we’ve seen. For companies in heavily regulated industries like healthcare, Five9 offers robust compliance solutions with multiple U.S. and international laws, like GDPR, CCPA and HIPPA. 

Read our in-depth review of Five9.

GoTo Contact Center

GoTo Contact Center is a compelling blend of a basic CRM platform, business phone system and omnichannel call center platform. Like its competitors, it has taken an innovative approach to blending conversational AI across the software. The sentiment analysis on GoTo Contact Center is a standout, as is the way the platform summarizes and archives customer interactions into their timelines.

Read our latest review of GoTo Contact Center.


8×8’s array of call center features is impressive and includes multilevel auto attendants, audio and video conferencing, and omnichannel support. The user interface is clear and intuitive, making the software very easy to use. We really like the Frontdesk option for receptions and operators – a time-saving feature that its competitors seem to have missed. The AI on the platform is great, but most of its features are currently available only to customers on higher subscriptions.

Read our up-to-date review of 8×8.


Dialpad’s unique hybrid call center system allows total flexibility for business users. Dialpad was designed with desktop and mobile app users in mind. It sets itself apart from the competition with integrated AI tools to enhance the user experience. Dialpad offers three service plans to allow businesses to tailor their call center system. 

Read our complete Dialpad review.


Nextiva’s cloud-based call center system offers a wide range of services in addition to its excellent telephone and switchboard functionality. The platform is now omnichannel, with SMS, email chat and video plug-ins. As well as improving the quality of interactions companies have with their customers, the internal collaboration tools are outstanding and especially useful for companies with remote staff.

Read our latest Nextiva review.

Mark Fairlie contributed to this article.

author image
Sean Peek, Senior Analyst & Expert on Business Ownership
Sean Peek co-founded and self-funded a small business that's grown to include more than a dozen dedicated team members. Over the years, he's become adept at navigating the intricacies of bootstrapping a new business, overseeing day-to-day operations, utilizing process automation to increase efficiencies and cut costs, and leading a small workforce. This journey has afforded him a profound understanding of the B2B landscape and the critical challenges business owners face as they start and grow their enterprises today. In addition to running his own business, Peek shares his firsthand experiences and vast knowledge to support fellow entrepreneurs, offering guidance on everything from business software to marketing strategies to HR management. In fact, his expertise has been featured in Entrepreneur, Inc. and Forbes and with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
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