The evolution of Call Centers

Posted by Frits

Half of the world’s population will remember a time when dad used to sit with a pile of papers complaining about how confusing and complicated it was changing from one insurance house to another. Only black ink was good enough for completing application forms, which was then sent off in an A4 envelope by post.

10 days’ later dad got a letter back confirming that the application forms were received and the request is being processed. A week later, dad would phone to follow up on the status of the application. Half an hour later of holding on, someone would finally confirm that the company is still busy processing the request.

This became slightly easier as dad now could fax the forms at work, but still required several working days to be processed. Following up still meant phoning reception, again, explaining the nature of the call to the wrong department who would then simply transfer you back to reception just to hear all lines are currently busy, please call back later.

A fundamental change in customer interactions happened in the 90’s. More and more companies elected to make use of call centers for their customers to engage with them. In recording everything, the need for paper transactions dramatically reduced.

The internet gave rise to websites, which became the central point of contact and sales for an increasing number of companies. Terms and conditions, policies and procedures and application forms all became digital, available online from the company’s website, as personal computers and laptops become the norm.

There is no question that the 2000’s signaled a significant change in marketing. Advertisements in Newspapers, “junk mail” and even commercials on television started to lose the influence on the public they once had. A new younger generation of consumers was emerging called millennials, all with one thing in common, being online.

A millennial is someone who is born between 1980 and 2000. They are by far the biggest consumers of technology and adaptability to change partly because they are less affluent than their predecessors, the baby boomers and Generation X according to usnews.com.

For the millennial, it is all about convenience and mobility. Millennials have come of age during a time of technological change, globalization and economic disruption. That has given them a different set of behaviors and experiences than their parents.

Almost 85% of those aged 15 to 35 own smart phones to stay in touch according to Pew Research. More importantly, they prefer their phones to stay current on the state of affairs that interest them such as news and product information. This means companies must ensure that they offer a mobile experience for customers optimized for smart phones, which load fast, is visually appealing and most importantly easy to understand.

Video is King

In a recent consumer study by Animoto, eight out of ten millennials prefer video when researching a product or service, they find interesting. They are 85% more likely than baby boomers in making a purchasing decision for a product or service that offered a video explaining it beforehand. This typically includes product demonstrations, customer testimonials, self-help options and about us.

Two-thirds of millennials said they prefer companies that have video content instead of reading text on their products or services. Half of millennials said they only watch videos on their mobile devices. Reading how something works takes far too long versus watching a five-minute video that already may have comments from other users.

Social Media is the main news feed for millennials. With the birth of services like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, millennials tend to trust brands with a social media presence. Social media also offers the opportunity to share an experience, instantly informing others of something happening, good or bad.

More and more companies are seeing that the fastest way to expose their products and services with real time feedback is through social media. Millennials tend to prefer brands with a social media presence, which engages with their users through more than the traditional communication channels like mail, email and phone calls.

With product information, peer reviews and price comparisons at their fingertips, millennials are turning to brands that can offer maximum convenience at the lowest cost.

They are also the first generation of digital natives, and their affinity for technology helps shape how they shop.

With many products and services today relying on call centres to interact with their customer base, the millennial prefers this interaction from a mobile device. Self-service on any platform is the most preferred way to interact with an application on a mobile device that is easy to use and understand and gives them some form of control over the process.

The call centre era is slowly coming to an end, with the cost of data versus call rates, dialing a number to speak to a consultant simply does not suffice anymore. Millennials grew up with computers, the Internet and the graphical user interface (GUI). This familiarity makes them adept at understanding interfaces and communicating in different channels, expecting quicker response times.

Offering a truly integrated customer experience today, means information from the customer is available through all communication platforms in real time. with business intelligence when interacting with the customer as services tools.

These tools include personalized customer greetings, references to previous customer interactions, fast tract options to IVR interactions and never asking the customer for the same information twice or wait for an answer on a question, which shows that the contact center respects the customer's time.

The take away is that consumers are more willing to share experiences and interactions on and through social media. Call centers that offer their customer base an option to choose how to interact with the call centre is fast becoming the norm. Consumers, especially millennials show a far lower brand allegiance, opting rather for simplicity and convenience through intuitive self-help options on their mobile devices.

Customers want the freedom to interact.