Call centers have been around for decades. Everyone is familiar with how they work and almost everyone has had at least one bad experience with using one. Did you ever put off calling an 800 number because you didn't want to deal with an annoying phone tree (IVR), waiting on hold, or just the tedium of slowly spelling out your name, address, email, and credit card number? You are not alone. Historically, call centers have had some serious limitations when it comes to customer satisfaction. Of course, that reputation may be unfair. There are many well-run call centers, but the call center model is becoming outmoded. Much of it has to do with the one-dimensional nature of the call center; it is a single channel communication tool. Call centers are primarily, or even solely, places where customers can communicate with a business via voice channel. (At the start, this meant traditional telco lines; now it likely means VoIP.) Below are 4 fundamental reasons the call center isn’t meeting all of the communication needs of your customers.
- Waiting. As mentioned in the introduction, the call center model carries a lot of heavy baggage. Decades of consumer experience with wait times, disconnects, wait times, language barriers, wait times–you get the picture–have soured many on this mode of communication. Any opportunity to bypass the phone call can be very attractive.
- Call centers often use IVR or phone trees, which demand layers of automated options before you can reach a live person. Too often these IVRs don’t offer the specific option that meets the caller’s needs. More frustration.
- In many cases, live voice communication is overkill. Customers may have very simple, quickly answered questions that another communication channel could handle with less tedium for the user. For instance, an order status inquiry. Waiting on hold for this basic piece of data is annoying. Contact centers can send scheduled emails updating the status of shipping. A chat box can receive a quick text request and respond quickly while the customer does other things.
- Call centers can’t be easily proactive. If a business wants to respond to a customer inquiry or proactively provide updates of any type, such as new information or marketing materials, the voice channel can be frustrating. The chances that a callback to a customer will be answered aren't very high. Time zone issues, voicemail, and the tendency of everyone to not answer a call from an unfamiliar number means that outbound contact efforts won't be very successful. An email or text, however, can be very effective in these scenarios.
In summary, the call center role is relatively limited because of its one-channel dimension in a world where your customers want to communicate via a wide variety of communication routes. It still has value, but it can no longer be your only channel.
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