Death of the Call Center? Long Live the Call Center!

Death of the call center? Long live the call center!

As I’ve mentioned a time or two in these posts, I’m in the habit of perusing contact center industry Web sites for news on “the latest” – whatever that might be. Whilst in a perusing session the other day, I saw a headline that caused a sympathetic nervous system response: increased heart rate, audible gasp, bug eyes (OK, maybe not bug eyes, but the peepers went from relaxed and sleepily semi-drooping to wide open). The headline read: The Death of the Call Center. The passing of the call center into the ash bin of history would affect millions of people who, like me, work either directly in a call center, or peripherally in support of the call center, so an “Aaaaccckkk!!!” moment upon seeing that headline is not entirely excessive. Of course, I had to click and read.

The first thing I noted after the title was the date. It was March 2012. Whew! It’s 2017 and call centers yet exist. I was reminded of Mark Twain’s laconic and much misquoted quip, “The report of my death was an exaggeration,”* when an overly eager newspaper editor in the US printed unverified reports of his demise. Calmer, I proceeded to “attack” and assimilate the content.

A guy named Zor Gorelov, who co-founded a self-service solution providing company called SpeechCycle, expounded on the advent of the smartphone as the replacement for the call center. “The smartphone will become the contact center of the future,” he wrote. Why? Because the smartphone is a phone and a computer and offers multiple options for resolving issues – options like troubleshooting wizards and other self-service options. If these fail, “the customer still has the option to connect directly with an agent within the call center to address more complex problems.” Wait, doubletake, what? I thought the call center was going to be dead. I kept reading. The last paragraph ignited another doubletake. “While the call center will still remain an important part of the customer service experience, smart devices can provide richer features and more in-depth assistance — all on-the-go.” What…what?

Remember that line from The Princess Bride when Inigo Montoya says, “I do not think it means what you think it means” in response to Vizzini’s incessant use of “inconceivable!” (You probably do, even if the movie was before your time, since his pronouncement rapidly became a meme.) The same could be said to Zor Gorelov about his rather melodramatic use of “death.” It does not mean what he apparently thinks it means. How does one otherwise go from “death of the call center” to “the call center will still remain an important part of the customer service experience…”? Needless to say, his ultimate pronouncement is the correct one. Call centers aren’t going anywhere! Long live the call center! By the way, even in 2012, “contact center” was more appropriate than “call center.” Since then, increasingly popular multi-channel customer communication options like chat have made “contact center” the only accurate term, though phone calls are still the dominant form of contact. Indeed, 79% of people still prefer direct connection to a human being to resolve support issues. I’m one of those 79%, though I occasionally find chat a quick and easy alternative.

Whatever your customers’ service-channel preferences, WorkFlex can help facilitate their smooth functioning with:

  • Real-time alerting to encourage agent schedule adherence and keep AHT within reasonable range
  • Channel load-balancing to keep each service channel staffed appropriately

Of course, we do much more than that and we’d like to tell you all about our intraday management and agent schedule-self-management tools. We’re all about improving the call center and the contact center experience.

-Maya Callahan

*This is often misquoted as some variation of “Reports of my demise are greatly exaggerated.”

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