The death of the call centre as we know it

“The main difference between a call centre and a contact centre is that while a call centre is focused on incoming and outgoing voice calls, a contact centre is able to manage customers with both voice calls and data applications like e-mail, Web-based chat/instant messaging, and in some cases will include the capability to share Web pages sent to and from the customer.” (1)

Technology disrupts internal and external communication channels

Disruptive technology has majorly influenced the new generation of customer that wants to communicate via different channels. “Customers are forcing contact centres to move into this space – and they are driving the pace at which these changes have to happen. Customers expect these new channels to happen almost in real time”, said Deon Scheepers, sales operations manager for Africa region at Interactive Intelligence, a contact centre technology provider.

In South Africa I am aware that many consumers have a very negative perception of the contact centre industry, or rather call centres. We get annoyed by agents calling us with new product specials, or insurance quotes at the most inopportune time. My question is – can we get to a point where an agent knows my recent consumer activity to avoid unnecessary calls? I just renewed my insurance and naturally would not want to consider going through the whole process again. How about when I’m due for a mobile contract upgrade – a competitive brand can call me to offer a special or a better package. I would also not mind a brand tweeting me about a special because I am quite active on Twitter, as long as it’s not consistent spam.

Behind the scenes, gamification technologies change the face of how contact centre managers motivate and engage with their teams. Hosted contact centre technology provider 1Stream, said that gamification is about applying elements of game design to everyday work experience to make it more interesting and engaging. “In the call centre context, it gives managers a new tool for managing the workforce,” said 1Stream director Bruce von Maltitz.

Be a digital humanist

At the Gartner Symposium last week in Cape Town, the point was made that companies need to get ready and sustain a digital business model. Gartner believes that every digital business moment is a human moment. Consumer engagement with the latest technology devices and social platforms, is and will continue to drive brand engagement. Gartner advises businesses to evolve their service offerings and include relevant features.

The term digital humanist is strongly coming to the fore and Gartner analyst Debra Logan stated that, “There are two philosophies – a machinist view and a humanist view. The machinist is focused on business outcomes, and sees automation as the biggest driver, removing humans from processes, meeting functional requirements, and establishing order. The humanist has the same focus on the business, but subscribes to a different approach. Technology is there to put people at the centre, to enable them to do what they want. Technology is there to help people realise ambitions, and includes emotions and interactions; not traditional business practices. In humanism, it’s not about control but participation and freedom.”

In the context of the contact centre industry, the digital humanist develops applications relevant to the consumers behavior. I would love to see knowledge of my online behaviour taken into account when an agent calls me or I call them, because I’m the kind of geek that needs a quick web or mobile app interface not a 20 minute phone-call asking me the same questions I answered last month. Google Chrome has auto-fill form options when I purchase an item online – how about that concept exercised in the contact centre industry more so to make my interaction with the brand a less painful experience.

So there you have it, a snapshot of how the call centre industry is forced to evolve just like any other business in the face of technology innovation. Hopefully in South Africa the industry will implement new features and catch-up much faster than they have adopted other technological innovations.

Sources: 1) Network World, The difference between call centers, contact centers and IP contact centers. 2006


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