Call centers in pre-digital times
Call centers have been synonymous with customer service for decades. According to records, the earliest call center was implemented by The Birmingham Press and Mail in 1965. This system used the ground-breaking GEC PABX 4 Automatic Call Distributor (ACD) to filter incoming calls and assign them to the free agents. Soon after, ACD technology replaced human operators in various large-scale companies, offering a more flexible automated system that could handle more calls.
The most progress in ACD adoption came in the 1970s when call centers started giving companies a distinctive edge in their markets. As a result, companies rushed to partner with phone operators, while others established their own phonebanks. Fueled by demand, ADC technology advanced rapidly, achieving the capability of distinguishing between call types and connecting them to specific agents. This improvement cut down call waiting times and expanded call center capacity enough to make toll-free calls viable.
Call centers became a global phenomenon in the 1990s. By this time, companies with centers in different sites could route calls among themselves through phone lines. Phone banks pushed innovation even further with 24-hour services, supported by automated voice response and speech recognition.
Advanced network connectivity
Until the 1990s, call centers typically used analog lines to connect to telephone networks. Then the first wave of digital connectivity hit, and the industry quickly realized the need for digitization. Communication protocols soon emerged to define how call centers used digital networks to send information, eventually giving way to IP telephony systems in the early 2000s.
IP systems opened up call centers to the Internet and laid the foundation for today’s Computer Telephony Integration (CTI) systems.
From call centers to contact centers
Call centers were still on the rise and in increasingly high demand at the turn of the century. Although digitization was creeping in, phones remained the number one communication channel globally.
However, the proliferation of mobile devices was causing an exponential increase in calls, and call centers could not expand fast enough. Customers began experiencing long queues and endless automated phone trees, and when they finally got through, they were greeted by the dull voice of an overworked agent.
Fortunately, the digital age was in full swing, and connectivity was gradually expanding from phone and texts to emails, mobile apps, social media, and live chats. Companies began expanding call center capabilities to handle these new channels and encouraging customers to use them. As a result, call centers became central hubs of contact, necessitating a change of name to contact centers.
While the term “call center” is still used today, most industry players consider it outdated. Instead, they prefer calling it a contact center because customers can establish contact with service agents in a lot more ways than they did back in the 1960s. – Read more
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