The Evolution of Call Centers to Experience Centers

Call centers wouldn’t have been a thing without the invention of the Automatic Call Distributor (ACD) technology in 1960, which was the foundational step towards the call center concept.

The Evolution of Call Centers to Experience Centers

It is necessary to understand the evolution of call centers to appreciate modern-day contact centers that are still improving with technology advancements.

Contact centers (traditionally known as Call centers) are a vital unit of a company as they influence the overall perception of how responsible/irresponsible a business is. A business that doesn’t make its contact center a top priority faces the risk of being left behind as customer demands increase with new advances in technology.

Before we focus on the modern-day Contact centers, which are omnichannel and AI-driven, we first need to understand the reason for call centers. Let’s take a trip back to the world’s first customer complaint received by a service provider.

In 1750BC, a man called Nanni wrote to Ea-Nasir on a clay tablet complaining about the wrong grade of copper ore delivered to him. The letter written in the Akkadian language, now translated to English, read, “When you came, you said to me as follows: “I will give Gimil-Sin (when he comes) fine quality copper ingots.” You left then, but you did not do what you promised me…”.

First customer complaint [Image credit: Reddit]

Details aren’t available to tell if his request was resolved. However, what is evident is that customer complaints are an age-long occurrence and have continued to increase over the years with the rise of new communication channels.

The Evolution of Call Centers: The Call Center concept

Call centers wouldn’t have been a thing without the invention of the Automatic Call Distributor (ACD) technology in 1960, which was the foundational step towards the call center concept.

This technology allowed businesses to filter incoming calls and assign them to agents. Also, the introduction of the 0800 toll-free numbers in the 1980s made call centers more accessible.

In came the internet in the 90s and social media channels in the early 2000s, opening up new customer interaction channels through websites, emails, and social media platforms.

This gave rise to the term “contact center,” making available more options for customers to engage businesses, with a relative influx of customer requests through the various channels.

The evolution of call centers to omnichannel contact centers hinges on the need for businesses to satisfy increased customer expectations and meet up with technology advances. So how has the evolution of call centers impacted customer experience?

Limited Channel of Communication vs. Omnichannel

In the era of call centers, customers could not reach out to brands through channels of their choice and convenience. Phone calls and emails were the significant options, and customers had to go through long call queues.

The shift to Omnichannel communication provided customers with a range of options for contacting brands – phone, email, chat, text, social media, mobile app, and more.

The use of bots also enables customers to get quick-fix answers to some of their questions outside business hours.

The Evolution of Call Centers: On-premise to Cloud-based contact centers

Unlike traditional call centers, which are On-premise based, Cloud-based contact centers allow for easy scalability of agents, which is a great feature to manage a surge in customer requests.

It also allows quick and easy integrations with third-party applications such as CRM, ERP as well as many applications such as WhatsApp Business and Facebook Messenger.

With a complete cloud solution, most of these integrations are built-in, thus easing customer service delivery and enhancing customer experience.

Evolution of Call Centers: Automatic Call Distribution (ACD) to Skill-based routing

Traditional ACDs push inbound calls to the next available agent, while skills-based routing ensures that an inbound call is routed to a qualified and efficient customer support agent.

This way, the best-fit agent based on skillset is assigned to a caller, thereby giving the customer a personalized experience.

Evolution of Call Centers: Office agents to Remote agents

The adoption of cloud technology has given rise to remote agents and an expanded capacity for contact centers. In the past, call center agents were required to work primarily from an office space, which usually came with a cost such as rent, crowded areas, and noisy environments.

Today, with the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, more agents are working remotely, helping to meet niche industries’ staffing requirements and enhancing customer experience.

Evolution of Call Centers: Customer journey tracking

Through a study of interaction across various channels (email, chat, calls, social media), contact centers can understand users’ needs and deliver a better request resolving experience.

Traditional call centers weren’t able to track customer journey as there was a limitation to insight on customer interaction across service touchpoints. Customer journey tracking provides data that can be analyzed for personalized customer service delivery.

Evolution of Call Centers: Reactive vs. Proactive

With tools such as Dialogflow, contact center agents are more proactive and efficient in responding to customer requests. When a customer calls your business, Dialogflow takes over by identifying customer intent from a transcribed text and matches it to the best-fit reply for your agent to say or take action.

Traditional call center agents didn’t have this luxury, as they had to read up a lot of information about a product and would most times require customers to call back to resolve issues.

Evolution of Call Centers: Customer satisfaction metrics redefined.

Call centers used to measure customer satisfaction through how quickly an agent answered the phone and gave a response, without considering if the request was resolved. This led to agents having a hasty approach towards resolving requests, often leaving the customer unsatisfied.

This has changed with the modern-day contact centers with metrics such as first-contact resolution, chat rating, the average time in queue, average call abandonment rate, average handle time, etc. Businesses can now track how best agent customers are being attended to and iterate processes proactively to meet expectations.

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Chidiogo Emmanuel
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