Do Call Centers Have a Future?

Call centers may have been a staple of customer care operations for decades, but changes in communications culture will change their role as a primary channel. The following is a list of forces and factors that will impact call centers’ ultimate place in an evolving customer experience.

1-      Cost. Maybe no other factor will have as great an impact on contact centers’ future role than cost. They are expensive and that makes them vulnerable in a market where price competition dominates and services keep increasing in complexity.

2-      Time. We live in a society where things like Twitter dictate the pace. People expect immediate input and feedback. The idea of waiting in a queue for an agent seems archaic and distasteful.

3-      Search. We all expect to find specific information immediately thanks largely to Google. An IVR’s inexact and impersonal method of call routing just can’t match up.

4-      Self-service. Tools for self-service are becoming more sophisticated, capable, and integrated into service experiences. The more capable they become them more they negate the role contact centers play in solving common, everyday problems.

5-      Online shopping. Contact centers play a major outbound role in sales for CSPs, but this too is expensive and inefficient. People are accustomed to shopping online and also to accessing better deals as a reward for doing so. If CSPs can improve their online shopping experiences they will do themselves a favor not only by reducing their cost to sell, but also by making cross-channel inconsistency less relevant.

So, what’s left for call centers? There are some problems and issues that more automated channels just can’t address. It makes sense to have experienced agents handling escalated problems, especially for higher value customers, when front line tools fail. But if CSPs are wise, they will continue to invest in making front line tools stronger in order to minimize escalations and to address the expectations customers have in a communications culture that makes typical contact center interactions look dreadfully outmoded.

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About Edward Finegold 122 Articles
Ed is now Director, Strategy for NetCracker. Previously, for 15 years he was a reporter, analyst and consultant focused on the OSS/BSS industry and a regular contributor to BillingViews.

1 Comment

  1. I must agree with your article, all of those factors play a role in the longevity and how long call centers as a whole will remain. But you have to remember that A: humans as a whole are lazy, not ALL, but most….we have to be honest about that. Because of this, we tend to lean more towards a means of accomplishing what we want or need with as little effort as possible. B: no matter how much we try to fight it, if you poll a highly populated area that take advantages of services such as internet (which most do), TV service, or other services that we pay for, you’ll still find that most want that actual interaction with a human versus a machine. Because of this, though call centers have to alter how they approach and run their operations, they will still have jobs for the most part, because if we can accomplish a task or have something fixed with little effort from us, and get decent customer service from a human over the phone, we will do it. That’s not to say that the other means of communication such as chat over the internet or other ways are out of the picture, but overall, even those methods have a long way to go with evolving.

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