You might be unsurprised to learn that the call centre was primarily used for outbound sales or managing inbound calls from customers responding to adverts and other marketing efforts. In fact, the 0800 free number series was a tactic used by businesses to entice customers to place calls, helping to drive the proliferation of inbound traffic. There was also the use of outbound power dial in which gave businesses the ability to target multiple numbers in quick succession, badgering landlines until someone picked up. This activity led to a restriction put in place by the 1991 Telephone Consumer Protection Act in response to customer complaints.
Failure to innovate or adopt changes in line with customer needs has resulted in 88% of the Fortune 500 firms that existed in 1955 having gone – Polaroid, COMPAQ and Blockbusters to name just a few.
Interestingly, rather than stop, organisations only become more creative in how they approached new business. Agents were pushed to provide a more human experience, attempting to remove stigma around the call centre and build a closer relationship with customers – the first example of what we consider the norm today.
The way business was conducted had also changed. Towards the end of 20th century up through to the present day, the lifestyle of the industrial world became one of mass-consumption. Trade had gone from local to global, mass production had kicked in and planned obsolescence became a favoured method of encouraging consumption – the idea of owning something a little newer, a little better, a little sooner than is necessary. Sales were up, and so was the probability of needing help from the organisation you were doing business with.
Then there was the arrival of the internet and subsequent popularity of email. This new channel was one of the first in a long line of domino pieces, causing the transition from call centre to the contact centre.
Email forced organisations to adapt their digital strategy. Not simply to keep up with the times, but to retain the loyalty of their customers by adopting changes in line with the needs of the customer. Those that didn’t fell by the wayside.
The same applies today.