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Call Center Retrospective: Then and Now

Call centers have evolved quite a bit since their founding in the 1950s. The practices that are followed and the technology that is used have both experienced quite a rapid change since the beginning. From solely outbound sales calls using a switchboard, to the interactive and online contact centers we know today, call centers have experienced quite the evolution. Let’s take a look at just how far call centers have come over the years.

The 1950s
The first known call center was founded in 1957. It was owned by Time Inc. and was created with the sole purpose of increasing LIFE magazine subscriptions. 

The 1960s
With the introduction of the dial phone, more and more call centers began to open, as calling had become much quicker. Call centers during this time were used primarily as a sales tool, as the main role of call center agents was calling consumers to sell a product or service for a specific business or company. 

The 1970s
In the 1970s, the automatic call distribution system (ACDS) was invented, which changed the call process from manual to automatic. Until this time, all call centers were strictly outbound call centers. That all changed with the creation of the toll-free “800” numbers for customers to use. These numbers meant that call centers were no longer solely focused on outbound sales calls, but now also responsible for receiving inbound calls from customers.

The 1980s 
This is when interactive voice response (IVR) was invented, allowing customers to speak their selection instead of keying in their response when contacting a call center. This helped to personalize the customer experience a bit more and started the idea of improving the customer’s call center experience by lowering customer effort.

The 1990s
The Telephone Consumer Protection Act was passed in 1991, restricting the activity of outbound call centers. There were restrictions on the times during which call centers could contact customers, as well as preventing automated dialing and messaging. While this law proved to be an obstacle for some sales-focused call centers, it encouraged them to evolve and provide a more human experience when it came to their outbound calling.

During this time, the rise of the internet played a huge role in the evolution of call centers. The popularity of email, and the fact that it was one of the most popular forms of communication between customers, allowed businesses to provide support through this channel. In fact, it was the rise in popularity of the internet and email that started the transition from call centers to contact centers.

The 2000s
With global market expansion and technology continuing to evolve, many businesses began outsourcing their customer service needs to contact centers. Cell phones were becoming increasingly popular as well, and the demand for immediate customer resolution was growing. With the shift to fast-paced service, call centers followed suit and began offering services that allowed customers to receive solutions to their problems with a new emphasis on decreased wait times.

Present Day
With all of the new communication technology that is constantly being developed, contact centers have now moved to provide what is known as omnichannel support. Customers can reach the customer service of a company through a variety of communication channels, such as phone, email, chat support, and even social media. Companies have realized the importance of providing customers with a simple, streamlined process to have their inquiries handled and problems resolved. There is a renewed focus on accessible, highly personalized customer experiences.

Over the years, call centers have helped to shape the customer service experience as we know it and allowed businesses to adapt to a global audience. From its beginning as an outbound sales center to the advanced technology and systems used today, contact centers continue to evolve. They are an essential part of the customer service of any business. The key to a successful contact center is providing a positive customer experience, and Global Response is committed to providing just that.

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