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Call management software: A quick guide for telcos and MSPs

Ben Dobbin

General Manager, Enablement

April 20, 2023

As a business telecom or IT provider, clients rely on you to drive their call management strategy.

Businesses, large and small, are crying out for a simpler, faster way to manage their call flows and make better use of their inbound phone numbers.

This is where call management software can help you, help your clients.

What is call management software? 

A call management system is used by businesses and call centres to improve call handling. Typically, it is a web-based portal or mobile app that enables users to log-in and configure their call flows.

Key capabilities include: the ability to ‘build’ call flows visually via drag-and-drop; real-time call reporting; and game-changing features like Area-Based Routing, Disaster Recovery or Call Queues.

The software often fills feature gaps within an organisation’s PBX or Contact Centre platform. It can also empower businesses to self-manage their call flows and inbound numbers.

Manage call flows, as well as fax and conference lines with Symbio Number Manager

Note for Service Providers

If you are an IT or managed services provider, call management software is a way to add value to your clients’ business phone services.

The software works ‘over the top’ of existing SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) Trunk, PBX and Contact Centre platforms, so it can be delivered in parallel with any phone service.

In addition, many service providers choose to white label this software, presenting it as their own branded customer portal. By providing a custom branded call management portal you can empower your clients to self-service, while also setting yourself apart from competitors.

How is call manager software different to a PBX / contact centre platform?

Most organisations have call handling features built into their phone system (PBX) or contact centre platform. So, it’s understandable if your clients ask: ‘Am I just paying for the same thing twice?’ The answer is ‘no.’ Call management systems are different in three important ways.

1. Direct control

A call management solution provides an organisation direct and real-time control over when, how, and where calls come into their business.

Crucially, the software eliminates the need to relay requests back to a carrier network, and then wait for those to be actioned. This reliance on carrier intervention is an unnecessary bottleneck, and the biggest pain point of legacy inbound call management portals.

Instead, with a modern call management solution, call flow updates are synced in real time and call reports are accurate up to the minute. The experience is fast and easy, and the client has improved visibility and control.

2. Whole-of-business view

Most enterprises operate a patchwork of telecom services. Multiple inbound numbers, SIP Trunks, PBXs, contact centre platforms and mobile services. Each service with its own management portal.

Call manager software is different. It operates at the carrier network level, so it can encompass inbound numbers and endpoints across multiple sites. You – or your clients – can log in and see a birds-eye view of inbound call flows across the entire business.

3. Single pane of glass

Users can manage inbound call flows, as well as gain access to call reporting, and configure various routing features. It is rare to find all these capabilities in a single PBX platform, often they’re spread across multiple systems and require additional carrier configuration.

By adopting a call management solution an enterprise or contact centre can better handle large call volumes and deliver better customer experience.

The two crucial elements of inbound call handling

Every organisation has their own way of managing calls. Most Australian businesses manage their calls through a combination of inbound phone numbers and business phone services.

The size and complexity of your client’s business will play a large part in determining their approach to communications management.

For example:

• A sole trader or small business will only need a simple service – a phone number, the option to divert calls to their mobile, and a professional voicemail box.

• Mid-size companies may rely heavily on receptionists, or sales and service agents, to handle their incoming customer enquiries. Their call management strategy will empower these power-users to work efficiently, and route calls accurately through the organisation.

• Enterprise companies often operate dedicated numbers for sales, support, accounts etc. Given this scale, they will use CCaaS (Contact Centre as a Service) and UCaaS (Unified Communication as a Service) software to distribute calls.

Component one: Inbound numbers

Inbound services are the starting point for call management. In Australia, the most common inbound services are: 1300 (local rate) and 1800 (toll free).

Some national brands also have six-digit ‘13’ services or use Phone Words (1300 TELCO) which spell out relevant terms. These are shorter, memorable numbers typically used in advertising.

Note for Service Providers

Many communication providers earn recurring revenue by ‘hosting’ these inbound numbers on behalf of their clients. In practice this means having a small stock of desirable numbers for clients to choose from.

Inbound services can be charged from a few dollars per month, up to hundreds of dollars for high value numbers. Number inventory is purchased, in bulk, from an Australian wholesale carrier.

The wholesale carrier can also facilitate number porting – allowing you to migrate inbound services away from the existing carrier and win greater share of wallet.

Your call management platform should sync with any numbers you’ve ported or purchased. This means, when clients need additional numbers, you can go into your manager software, see your available stock, and provision numbers in a few clicks.

Component two: Business phone services

Phone services come in many styles – VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol),  UCaaS, CPaaS (Communication Platform as a Service) etc – and feature inclusions can be many and varied too. There is no ‘standard’ set of call management features. Instead, there are quirks and workarounds, feature gaps and limitations.

Note for Service Providers

Understanding the quirks and limitations of your clients’ phone service is key to providing them with a suitable call management solution. Some key questions include:

• Are they asking for a better way to handle inbound calls?

• Are they operating a call centre or investing in a CCaaS platform?

• Do they receive high call volumes every day?

• Do they miss calls? Or lack a way of reporting on missed calls?

• Have you noticed feature gaps in their PBX or Contact Centre platform?

If any of the above scenarios apply to your clients, then an inbound call management solution can help ‘level up’ their business phone service.

How telcos and MSPs profit from improved call management

The market is wide open!

In Australia, the major telcos make it almost impossible to manage calls from inbound phone numbers. You may have even experienced this pain yourself. Call management portals (in the rare case they exist) are often basic, with limited features and almost no self-service control.

If you are a communications service provider, this should be a wake-up call.

You understand that your customers want simpler, faster ways to manage their call flows (for all the reasons we have discussed). Call management software is your opportunity to provide a better way.

By adding this software capability, you can differentiate from the major telcos and provide higher value inbound voice services. Service providers do this in two ways:

Opportunity 1: Customer self-service

Call management is done via a web portal or app. By providing your customers with their own log-in, you can empower them to self-service.

This, in turn, means that your highly trained support teams are not distracted by a barrage of requests for routine changes (which customers should be able to make themselves). Your experts are free to focus on solving other, higher-value problems.

Self-service is often a core requirement for enterprise and government digital transformation. Self-service options must be low effort and high impact for clients, or they will switch. Having a platform that delivers this ease and functionality, out the box, will enable you to better service these markets.

Opportunity 2: Responsive managed service

Alternatively, if your business hinges on providing white-glove managed service, then all the benefits of speed, ease, and control flow directly your support team.

With the right software platform, you can build the perfect call flows for your clients, making use of advanced features and custom routing. Plus, regular / routine changes – like voicemails or IVR (Interactive Voice Response) routing – can be completed in minutes with a few clicks.

The deeper value comes in being able to reduce your operational overhead. Everything can be setup, configured and managed by entry-level staff (to your exacting SLAs, of course) without the need to hire specialist telecom or carrier consultants.

Three advanced call management features your clients will love

Your chosen call management solution should deliver ‘advanced’ features that are not usually included in off-the-shelf phone systems. Three of the most popular and game-changing features are:

• Unlimited call queuing

• Area-based routing

• Disaster recovery

Unlimited call queuing

Phone queues work just like their real-world counterpart. Inbound callers are placed into a virtual line with hold music, and are connected one-by-one, in order, just as soon as the phone agent is available. They are commonly used by customer support and onboarding teams.

Unfortunately, most call queues come with caps or ‘queue limits’ built in. Microsoft Teams, for example, has a default maximum of 50 queued callers. Meaning that the first 50 callers are placed into a queue, then 51st is disconnected, or sent to voicemail. Obviously, that’s not a good customer experience and will leave many callers feeling frustrated.

But what if callers never had to hear a ‘busy’ tone? What if your clients could take unexpected call peaks in their stride? This seamless experience is what unlimited call queuing helps you achieve.

Unlimited queueing works like an extension on your standard queue. To continue the above example, instead of disconnecting the 51st caller, they would be added to a separate (network-level) call queue powered by your call management software. As agents work through the earlier callers, they move up the queue and reach a service representative as normal.

For callers, it feels like a continuous and seamless experience. No ‘busy’ signals. No ‘we value your call’ voicemails. No sudden disconnection. All this adds up to a better customer experience.

Create call queues with unlimited channel capacity using Symbio Number Manager

Area-based routing

Enterprise organizations often need to direct calls to different teams (or offices) based on the location of the caller. For example, routing a patients’ call to their nearest pharmacy, or directing calls to a regional office. All of this is possible with Area-Based Routing (also known as location-based routing).

For service providers, area-based routing can be fiendishly complex to configure, requiring you to define the network topology and routing policies to suit your client’s needs. It is a feature that many PBX platforms either do not include, or only make available on their premium plan tiers.

By contrast, some call management solutions include this feature out of the box. You have a simple, visual interface to manage location-based routing: by State/Territory, by local call collection area (SZU); or even based on the nearest mobile tower (MoLI). All with a few clicks of the mouse.

Disaster recovery

VoIP underpins all voice communication in Australia. One consequence is that IP phone services will not work in the event of a power outage, internet outage or natural disaster.

As a service provider, you can ease your client’s concerns by configuring disaster recovery call routing, a ‘failover’ in the event of an emergency, a natural disaster, scheduled IT downtime, or even something as benign (but disruptive) as an office fire drill.

Customisation is key when it comes to disaster recovery routing. You could divert calls to a mobile number (for a SMB client), or an interstate branch office, even an international call centre – the options are endless. Disaster routing can be configured globally (across all call flows and all offices) or narrowly, just for designated inbound numbers.

In addition to automatic failover, your chosen call management solution should support manual disaster routing. This empowers your clients to self-serve proactively changing the call routing as a situation develops, rather than waiting until disaster strikes.

Easily configure disaster recovery routing through Symbio Number Manager

Product demo: See what’s possible

Call management software is a new concept for many providers of business telecom and IT services. But this should not stop you from exploring the exciting possibilities it unlocks:

• Adding new recurring revenue

• Offering high-value inbound services

• Increasing your share of wallet

• Enabling customer self-service (or white-glove managed service)

• Filling ‘gaps’ in a PBX or contact centre platform

• Differentiating your SIP Trunk / PBX offering

If your clients have inbound numbers (1300, 1800, 0800 etc) or receive high call volumes, then chances are, they will benefit from a call management solution. And if you can’t deliver this capability, your competitors will.

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