Originally established in the 1970s, call centers have seen rapid development throughout the years until the current modern time. Call centres were first developed to handle heavy call volumes, but they have since developed into sophisticated customer support hubs that can handle a variety of modes of communication, including email, chat, social media, and more. From the beginning, it was always “Hold please,” and the caller was directly connected to the person they wished to reach, but soon later on, thousands of calls were coming into call centers to either be put on hold, and that is when the wave of frustration of callers and call centers employers emerged. No doubt, customer support started to be a big frustration for the public with endless wait times, later things became less intense when less human interaction got involved, but robot agents picked up the line to answer customer calls.
The first call center in the world is credited to the Birmingham Press and Mail, was established to handle incoming customer enquiries in the 1960s. While 60% of the population had phones, companies were quite skeptical if they should trust this new mechanism of customer interaction. Just shortly after AT&T initiated the infamous toll-free numbers (1-800) that legitimized customer service over the phone, the dawn of call centers began to evolve and become widespread around the globe. Large enterprises and governmental organizations tended to employ initial call centres to handle a lot of incoming calls. The employees at these centres were trained to deal with a variety of client enquiries, from technical help to billing concerns. Early call centres were frequently housed in huge, centralized buildings, with employees working in shifts to offer round-the-clock customer assistance.
The 1980s then became an era of innovation and developmental expansion for call centers and introduced the concept of “hold time”. Then with the rise of the internet and mobile technology in the 1990s and 2000s, the call centre sector witnessed considerable changes. Call centres had to adjust to satisfy the changing expectations of customers who started to want more individualized, effective, and convenient service. Call centres started adopting cutting-edge technologies, like cloud-based software and artificial intelligence, to streamline operations and enhance customer service as the phrase “digital transformation” became popular.
Call centres started to broaden their assistance channels beyond the phone as the internet and mobile devices gained popularity. One of the first channels to be added was email assistance, which was followed by chat, social media, and other online channels. Call centres could meet customers where they were thanks to multichannel assistance, whether that was on social media or by email, and deliver a smooth, omnichannel customer experience.
Today call centers handle customer support and inquiries using a range of technology. These include customer relationship management (CRM) software, which enables agents to access customer data, and interactive voice response (IVR) systems, which direct customers to the right department via pre-recorded instructions.