The History of Call Centers: How it All Began
April 27, 2016 Francine Jones 0 Comments
From the first wide-spread installation of the telephone, call centers became a vital part of commercial operations. Today that includes the use of computer systems for tracking, monitoring, and directing calls. But how did it begin, and what’s the history of call centers?
Private automated business exchanges (PABX) were appearing as a natural response to handling the increasing volume of customer phone calls by the mid 1950s. It’s hard to say where and when the line was crossed from a company telephone exchange to a call center, even if there were a set demarcation point. The word “call center” was not used until 1983, and the first known PABX appeared in the UK in 1965.
In the modern sense, a call center is a development linked to the increasing role of computers. Automatic call distribution (ACD) systems allow calls to be filtered or redirected before any human agent even picks up the phone. Many different algorithms have been developed to determine which agent will get the call. It was only the development of the ACD that made really high-volume call centers possible. Thanks to automated phone systems, often human interaction is not even needed to satisfy their request. Text-to-voice programs can give them names, numbers, and virtually any kind of information over the phone straight from a database.
Systems are becoming so sophisticated that Augusta, GA, actually maintains a website where visitors can get live info on the volume of 311 (government information) calls.
Modern corporations might have call centers with hundreds of employees, and customer service is a full time career all around the world. In the search for less costly labor and facilities, a company in the US or UK might open a call center in the Philippines or in India. As Wi-Fi towers and voice over Internet (VOIP) services expand, that is getting to be the case more and more often.
Managed communication service companies have also appeared that take on all the responsibilities of operating the call center. These companies already have the necessary technical knowledge and networks in place, and can not only provide monitoring, support, and training, but often the human staff as well. This service is provided for a regular fee by contract, saving the company both money and stress, as call center activities are handled off site. Often there is a service level agreement (SLA) to ensure a volume of calls is handled within an acceptable timeframe.
As mobile and Internet technology improves, these companies are also handling video conferencing, mobile texting, and more. As our own avenues of communication expand in scope and complexity, so must business communication.