It’s no longer a “Call Center”
They used to be called “call centers”. When you called a firm’s toll free number to make a reservation, purchase something over the phone, contact customer service, or pay a bill, your call was routed into a telephone switch. That switch then routed your call to one of perhaps hundreds of operators. These operators were waiting with headsets on and databases open, ready to take your order, answer your question, or redirect your phone call.
Today, while the above description of events does still occur, it’s far less frequent than it used to be. Think about it: when was the last time you called your favorite brand (of anything) to get customer service?
Calling is a last resort
In many cases, the call is the method of last resort. Before actually speaking to another person, today’s average consumer emails, chats, uses some social media channel, and perhaps even texts until the desired result is achieved. In fact, we might use all of these different methods of communicating with businesses. And, while it seems very simple to the average consumer, since we email, chat, text, text, and communicate over social media all day every day, all those channels mean a much different scenario to those enterprises that used to deploy “call centers.”
Before reaching the level of the actual telephone call, enterprises with large customer service and inbound sales teams must engage with their customers on the channels that their customers prefer. That means accepting incoming emails, chats, social media requests, and texts. That’s very different from our one-to-one communication with friends and family. Each customer engagement is logged and routed to the appropriate department and personnel.
In the Cloud
So, now that “call centers” are engaging with far more types of incoming and outgoing communications, the computer hardware and software that they use to handle those communications has changed dramatically. Gone are the days when an enterprise “call center” would be located very near a massive communications center that included one or many telecom switches. Gone are massive amounts of telephone lines and individual number extensions assigned to individual customer service reps.
Instead, today’s “Customer Engagement Center” is quieter (fewer calls, more chats & emails) and much less likely to be anywhere near a telecom switch. Just like individuals may rely on programs such as Skype, Google Hangouts, or Apple FaceTime, customer engagement centers now rely on internet software that can recognize, route, log, and store emails, chats, social media exchanges and text messages.
What’s Your Preference?
Now, when you contact your favorite brand for any purpose, your expectation is more specific. The agent will likely (a) already know who you are by your email address, phone number, or social media handle, and (b) each of your preferred means of communication will be stored in their databases (what we all now call a ‘CRM’).
And what is it that’s connecting all these different channels of communication together and constantly updating the preferred CRM? It’s software. Customer engagement software, to be more precise. It’s no longer a “call center”. The software that is used to manage the customer engagement center is as advanced as the individuals who are now now managing 10 or more incoming engagements instead of one call at a time.