A Journey of Telecommunication and BPO Industry Evolution
It all began with____ telemarketing:
Mary and Gary West are said to be the pivotal players in the formation of the industry of telemarketing and of call center, by extension. Mary established a telemarketing service agency in 1973, called Mardex, and she founded WATS Marketing of America in ’79. A year later, her husband joined the WATS as chairman, president and CEO when Mary hired him and took position of vice president of finance herself at WATS. WATS was bought by First Data Resources in the ’80.
Mary founded West TeleServices shortly afterwards. In the years that followed many telemarketing companies began operation, like Sitel.
The technology equivalent of this time being; Rolodex for index cards bearing customer information.
Early software variation of CRM and sales force automation, which enabled these companies to track customers was Salemaker and Telemagic. Tom Siebel’s company introduced a formal CRM software but was bought out among others, by Oracle in the mid ‘90’s.
Another innovation that improved productivity of these call centers in the 80s was a predictive dialer. It used computers to use rapid-fire calls that can identify a human answer from a busy signal, fax machine or answer machine.
80s and 90s were golden times for tele-services companies, economy wise. In ‘95 many of these firms went public but then things began to go down. Oversupply of call center services and too many providers caused major clients to pull out and the stock prices went down. But companies like West Corp and Sitel toughened it out and are thriving even now.
From Telemarketing to Call Centers
Even when the tele-services companies were doing fine, the telemarketing term lost appeal in 80’s. The word was associated with negativity, as people began relating it to the unpleasant ringing that interrupts family dinners. So many players in the industry started preferring the term ‘call center’.
Call Centers began working as distinct function for companies in the 70’s but under different names. The term call center gained popularity in the 90s. That’s when companies big and small, started establishing call centers to address customer inquiries. The companies which didn’t ran call centers internally, outsourced them and a few of them used both, internal and external call centers.
Today, customer support means something more. Like identification of preferences of individual customers, gaining loyalty and upselling, cross selling and uniqueness of each interaction. But in earlier times, call center technology was built mainly for managing cost of customer care and improving its efficiency. This theme still designs the customer care departments today of many major businesses.
Invention of ACD
The monumental development of the call center industry that altered the course of the industry was the invention of ACD (Automatic Call Distributor). Its job was to filer the inflow of calls and assign them to best available agent.
The large-scale adoption of ACD based customer service in the 80s and 90s are is considers as one of two most important developed in the customer service (the other being web-based customer service). ACD system was known to have both benefits and fallbacks. It divided the workload between agents sure but it also prevented callers from making personal connections, which are popular today.
Rockwell Company is the earliest known inventor and installer of the ACD, called The Galaxy in ’73. The company developed it for Continental Airlines. The second variation of ACD they introduced in 90’s was called ‘The Spectrum’ and took advantage of computer telephony integration.
Popularity of CTI
CTI (Computer Telephony Integration) enabled people to use their PCs to get info and control the flow of the calls. CTI was a cheaper solution that enabled computers to perform ACD functions. It allowed call center agent to have access to all information on a customer while taking a call. It also allowed functions like re-routing, play recorded messages, recognize the caller, show accounts and order status. CTI helped to manage costs and also the average hold time by pre-populating data fields. That helped achieved higher ROI. Then in mid 90s Microsoft and Novell introduced computer telephony interfaces TAPI & TSAPI, to allow computer to connect to telephones inexpensively. The concept of CTI is still popular today.
CTI changed the way the customers are processed and organized because agent already knows who is on the line. This concept started an entire industry of integrators and service providers to bridge information.
Companies that failed to use CTI, annoyed customers by asking to repeat their account info even after they’ve entered it.
Introduction of IVR
IVR- Interactive Voice Response also gained widespread popularity and changed the call center industry. But IVR like many other technological innovations-stood trial for negative aspects, in spite of its many advantages. It facilitated contact center to provide service 24/7 but eliminate the possibility of personalization.
IVR also caused frustration in customers, since they had to follow a lengthy and complicated protocol to get to the right person or resource. But modern IVRs featuring speech recognition can resolve customer issues faster and enable agents to be more efficient.
While using IVR the call centers just need to be careful about how much they are incorporating self-service in their customer support strategy. Companies should be careful to not use it as a tool to avoid customers, if over-done it can cause customers to become annoyed and not return.
VoIP & IP-Bases Routing
The age of internet began to revolutionize the call center industry with IP-based communications, the internet and broadband networks.
VoIP enabled centralization of telephony services and capture 100% of its customers simultaneously. It is cost-effective and makes it possible for call centers to spread globally.
VoIP is financially an asset and offers more functionality. It is also a rich data source for analytics that improve marketing, sales, customer interactions and back office work management. VoIP enabled call centers to maintain a domestic PBX, covert calls to compressed data and reroute them. It also enabled call centers to use same infrastructure to deliver support through different communication channels.
IP networks offer intelligent routing and distribute calls effectively around the globe. That way contact centers can build a larger agent pool to offer multiple verbal and technical skill set to the customer.
Offshoring Call Centers
In 80s and 90s, US was the hub of call center outsourcing. Ireland, with its state of the art fiber optic network was also a big player in the international outsourcing game. Additional outsourcing locations were spread in Europe and dotted across the rest of the world.
Evolution of offshoring began in the late 90s and the globalization of call centers encouraged companies to tap into the talent pool of countries with efficient workforce like Philippines, India and Dominican Republic. Even now decades later there is comfortable working arrangement with these countries. Outsourcing to them has proven to be a cheaper and effective solution due to confluence of workforce, global connectivity and stabilized political environment of these mentioned countries.
On-shoring Business Process
While offshore call center are doing well in their fields, but that trend may be faltering. As many customers are showing frustration at the language and cultural barriers. In the modern times, when personalized call handling is famous, the offshore call center agents are simply finding it impossible to relate to everyday lives of people living thousands of miles away.
So to encounter those barriers, many companies are moving to local call centers. Many international call centers are offering onshore services as a premium package. While many others are opting to bring voice calls to their native lands while offshoring non-voice and back office support services. Governments of countries like US are even filing parliamentary bills to punish the companies for using offshore call centers, claiming it creates unemployment in the county.
To increase customer satisfaction, many call centers are using home-based workforce. There were more than 300,000 home-based agents were working in the US in 2013. And given the decline in available workspace, these work-at-home agents are becoming more popular by the day. Analysts reports that the home-based agents are showing more growth compared to the offshore agents. When people work in a place they love and feel comfortable in, their performance takes a hike. Home-based workforce also eliminated the need to procure physical office space that allows companies to hire their representatives anywhere within their country.
Rise of internet and more recent –smart phone technology has prompted the adoption of multichannel communications. With companies realizing that they cannot entirely depend upon voice communications, that now customers can decide how and when they wish to interact with the company.
Multichannel communication was a term that whirred like a buzzing-bee in early 2000’s.
Thus the call centers took form of customer contact centers and began to entertain customer queries that come in via call, text, email, fax, web chat and now social media. Multi-channel service confirms customer’s wish to be treated individually and promptly.
The latest development in the nature of customer-brand interaction was caused by the invention of social media.
Social media’s impact; as businesses are still discovering, is huge. Its adoption is so broader than any other innovation in call center industry, as it encompasses the world. Companies are going to have to be careful of their social media implications or they could lose their customers with one wrong step. But there are also numerous advantages, like there is no limitation to the creative ways businesses can use to lure customers to make purchases and come back for more.
Social media is a platform, where the whole world becomes the audience. So if your company’s bad review or an unhappy customer experience becomes viral, you will have your worst PR nightmare at your hands. Your company needs to be on guard to control the damage because it can be devastating for the brand reputation.
Through The History Only One Trend Has Remain Persistent
And that is: cultivation of relationships between brands and clients. Marketing strategies are continuously evolving and new ways are being generated to earn customer’s trust and encourage open communication. Because businesses are relentless in their pursuit of one goal in mind; flawless & easy customer support experience.
Dawn of 2000 & Rise of Emenac Call Center Services
Emenac Inc. didn’t come into picture until 1997, when a small software house named initially ‘Intellisoft Inc.’ and later ‘Dansoft’ and finally ‘Emenac Inc.’ began operating from a two room office in Canada. With time and the hard work plus brains of its people, Emenac Inc. made its mark of newly emerging fields at the time like Online Marketing & Web Development. Later in 2003; on client’s persistence to facilitate them with customer care as well as software solutions, Emenac Inc. gave life to a sub-unit by the name of Emenac Call Center Services.
Emenac Call Center Services gained a steady repute in market for the delivery of bespoke BPO services and provision of customer access point to companies belonging to different industrial sectors. Emenac Call Center Services still excels in providing back office support, customer lifecycle management, call center services, technical and non-technical customer care, sales and generation and analysis of feedback.
Headquartered in Canada, Emenac Call Center Services has sub-offices in UK, USA and Pakistan. And as new Technologies emerged and generated new opportunities changes the ways of business, Emenac Call Center Services ensured that quality of service never changed in this journey of over a decade.
When the world of commerce was once again revolutionized by the advent of social media, in 2009 Emenac Call Center Services added modern service features for e-commerce companies. We added services like social media, web-chat, email support and email marketing. And that’s the big secret of our current success: we kept evolving with the progress of technological and business world. Our perusal of excellence in customer support journey is immaculate and our affection for the customers and our fellow businesses’ progress is never-ending.