Humans have a skill that computers could never learn: the ability to listen and respond with empathy. Most people would agree that if they have a problem, they want to talk to a real person about it and get it solved.
Automated messages, FAQs, live chat online and social media are expanding into the call centres’ territory, but is this a threat or actually the creation of a better service?
All of these questions came to the surface in a recent online debate moderated by Software Advice and the Customer Service Investigator. The debate has continued across the blogosphere, with many people asking, ‘Will Technology Kill the Call Centre?’
Here is a summary of the key ideas floating around today, which hint at the future of call centre technology.
Why Do We Need Call Centres?
Being able to talk to another person is a basic human need and it’s hard to think of a world where customer service is no more.
Most companies offer an FAQ page on their website but these often answer questions you hadn’t thought of, without touching on the concern you actually have. Each consumer has very different needs, so the complexity of the situation requires a real person.
Call centres may be a source of misery for many – the feeling that you are trapped in an endless loop of transfers, or simply waiting on a line filled with cheesy music. These very ‘human’ centres, which are designed to let you talk to real people, can leave you feeling alienated.
However the most important thing to remember is that people (generally) trust people. Being told something online doesn’t have the same sense of assurance as speaking to an actual person. For highly important services and expensive products, it is hard to imagine someone putting their trust in a company if there is no one they can talk to.
Which Technology Has the Potential to ‘Kill’ Call Centres?
Over the last decade or so, communication has shifted hugely from phone lines to the internet. This has opened up customer service and created multiple ways in which consumers can get in touch.
Today’s consumer demands instant gratification and as a result, Twitter is fast becoming a popular method of communicating a problem. Other options like ‘live chat’ online is proving very common with customers as well. Both of these offer an instant response, but what is missing is the human interaction.
Then again if the problem is resolved quickly, does the customer care whether they are actually speaking to someone or not? If the consumer can get the same response quicker – why pick up the phone?
Is Technology the Call Centre’s Friend?
Many would argue that technology won’t kill the call centre; instead it will enhance the customer service experience.
When considering the multiple channels of communication it’s not a case of one method taking over another. Instead, there are multiple ways to contact a business and it is up to the consumer to choose which suits them best.
If you don’t have time to call during working hours, you can send an email. If you are addicted to Twitter, you can tweet your query and if you want something clarified by a real person’s voice, you can call.
Customers will adapt and use a variety of channels to suit their needs. If online shopping didn’t kill the high street, then why would online customer service kill the call centre? The move online only enriches the customer experience, whether they are browsing or getting in touch.
Cloud-Based Services: The Call Centre Reborn
The cloud call centre offers a high-tech and efficient future for call centres. Far from killing it, this kind technology enhances what it does best: taking calls.
Cloud technology uses remote servers hosted on the internet to store, manage and process data. Not only is it a reliable way of working, but it greatly improves productivity.
Cloud computing will also allow call centres to become more flexible. For example, staff could work from home and still have access to all the same data through the cloud.
As call centres embrace new technology, they become ‘contact’ centres: a customer’s first point of contact when communicating with a business, whether they are emailing, messaging, tweeting or calling.
It seems contact centres will exist forever in some form – all the questions, complaints and worries of consumers concentrated in one building or ‘cloud’. Whether the building is filled with chatter or typing remains to be seen, but I think there will always be humans there to help.
What do you think is the future of the call centre? Could technology ever kill the call centre?