I'm trying to figure out how to set up a miniature call center for a small business. Like, for 1-4 people to take calls, but hopefully expandable to more.
We want to accept nation-wide calls, and then I guess distribute the calls among the available agents. If no one is available, I guess it should either put them in a queue and play some annoying music for them, or forward to call to an agent who has least-recently taken a call who can then quickly answer and say "please hold" until they're done their call.
We want to have one phone number that customers can call. I guess we then need some kind of ACD system which would take each call and forward it to an agent based on some algorithm? Then we would need to purchase a separate phone line for each agent, plus one just for the distributor? Or do we need several "extra" lines to maintain a queue (one for each customer waiting too)?
This "ACD" thing, is it just a device that you would plug a phone line into (or several?), and maybe connect to a computer, aided by some software? Or is a subscription thing that I would need from my local telephone provider?
Next, the business we're running, the callers will be repeat customers. It would be helpful to automatically pull up their profile based on the incoming number. The "software" our agents will be running will just be a website where they can log in (preferably from home) and then enter some information they would obtain through the call. So, the system would have to somehow interface with the website if possible. If not, we'll just have to ask each customer for an identifier (phone number, username, customer number, or something). Is this possible? I guess each computer would need a device that the call would pass through, and then if I can somehow hook into that, then I can write some software that will interface with the site.
So, where do I start? What hardware do we need to buy? What subscriptions do we need?
We were thinking this magicJack might help us in accepting long-distance calls for cheaper, but my understanding is that they provide you with some weird-looking number, is there a way we could "mask" it with our toll-free number? And then pass the incoming calls through the distributor system, which would then get passed to the call-accepting device which would both allow an agent to answer the call and have a software hook?
(I realize this might be partially out of the scope of SU, but I wasn't sure where else to ask. It is about computer(-aided) hardware and software anyway.)
P.S.: I don't need any of that "press 1 to talk to..." or "say xyz to..." junk. Just a straight-forward, connect-to-next-available-agent system.