How Technology Is Changing The Call Center
By Jeremy P StanfordsThe traditional call center is rapidly approaching extinction. A new generation of call center software and communications technology is sparking rapid change in the industry and creating a new model that is more flexible and cost effective.
The Traditional Model
The basic call center has existed with few changes practically since the invention of the telephone. It was essentially a big room with lots of phones and agents in it. Decades ago, every location of a large company had to have its own staff of agents. As long distance became inexpensive and reliable, companies consolidated their phone centers into central operations. It was cost effective and easy to manage.
However it was also inflexible. Agents had to work rigid hours, and the work was surprisingly stressful. Staffing and salaries were subject to fluctuations in the local job market, and it was difficult to get more than minimal information on call traffic or dropped calls. Long hold times and multiple transfers were the rule, frustrating agents and customers alike.
A rapid development of technology occurred when the internet went from a lightly used research tool with limited access to a ubiquitous communication network that reached into every home and business. As phone lines were upgraded to carry data and not just voice, businesses suddenly had choices about how to deploy their agents. No longer was it necessary to have one central phone center.
A new generation of call center software was developed, inspired in part by the ease of monitoring these digital phone calls, and the growing power of desktop computers. It became easy to watch every aspect of operation from individual agent performance to overall traffic patterns for an entire international corporation. The phone centers themselves became more spread out while the information became more centralized.
The Modern Call Center
Communication technology and call center software has revolutionized the basic customer service or technical support operation. Companies can easily integrate multiple centers into a seamless whole. Even individual home-based agents can be brought into the network just as easily as agents working in traditional settings. The flexibility allows companies to create more cost effective centers, and a growing dependence on home-based agents has cut costs as organizations no longer have to commit to as much office space.
Call center software keeps this diverse network of agents manageable by centralizing information. Managers can monitor agent performance, queue lengths, call times, transfers and countless other statistics. The modern service network functions much more efficiently than before, and customers find long holds to be increasingly rare. Customers are happier. Agents are less stressed. Managers are better able to quantify their contribution to the organization. It has been a true revolution in the industry, helping both employers and clients.