Through the years, many businesses have struggled to create a positive customer experience that results in satisfaction and increased customer loyalty. Yet, these are two of the ingredients for business longevity and success. A positive customer experience starts with exceptional customer service. Many businesses have relied on and continue to rely on call centers to deliver better service. But how did call centers become a popular solution for businesses in the first place?
Back in 1876, when Alexander Graham Bell patented his new invention—the telephone—the way we did business changed. Shortly after, the switchboard was created. Customers no longer had to drive to the nearest store to ask questions about a recent purchase. It was the first step towards technology-driven customer service.
The call center concept was around long before it got its name in an 1983 Data Communications publication. Taking orders for products over the telephone can be tracked back to the 1950s housewives selling their baked goods to neighbors. In 1957, the first call center, Dial America, was formed to boost Life magazine subscriptions.
During the 1960s, Private Automated Business Exchanges (PABX) emerged. Businesses used automatic call distributor (ACD) technology to manage large numbers of calls. They hired enough individuals to fill a room and put them in charge of fielding all incoming calls. The ACD technology automatically assigned agents different calls based on an algorithm instead of relying on a human operator.
Customer service continued its evolution late into the 1960s when AT&T released toll-free numbers and in the 1970s when Interactive Voice Response (IVR) was introduced. Customers were able to use voice recognition commands to tell the business why they were calling and calls were distributed automatically based on this information.
Call centers became widely popular in the 1990s as the Internet took off in popularity. Online companies needed a way for non-local customers to contact them, ask questions, make purchases and generate confidence that they were a legitimate company.
After a number of Internet businesses closed their doors in 2001, call centers were still popular. But many businesses made the decision to outsource their calls to call center companies overseas. The cost to outsource to other countries was significantly less than in the United States, and businesses needed a way to perform without breaking the bank.
The Current Landscape
Social media platforms, remote desktop technology, and collaboration tools now allow for call center representatives to be spread out across the country. Not every representative sits in a room filled with others. Some take calls from their home office. This new flexibility makes it possible for businesses to afford call center services in the United States.
Some experts argue that the introduction of social media, text messaging and live chat has removed the need for call centers. While the number of customer service phone calls continues to decrease, call centers are still a vital piece of many successful businesses’ customer service strategy.
Customers want to have the option to pick up the phone and contact your business for more information. This is especially true for the older generations that haven’t fully embraced innovative technology. In some cases, call centers save you from losing customers due to a poor website experience.
If you are struggling with delivering a positive customer experience, using a call center might be the call-answering solution you need. Through the years, call centers have helped to deliver a positive experience and increase long-term customer loyalty.