The Death of the Traditional Call Centre: Exaggeration or Truth?

The question of whether the call centre is still relevant or not seems to always crop up in the world of customer satisfaction. 

It’s easy to see why. Just picture a call centre. The image in your head probably looks something like an outsourced office space with rows upon rows of desks, agents huddled together and speaking into headsets.

In today’s day of constant technological advancements, that picture seems pretty outdated. But the truth is, the call centre of today has advanced a lot more than most businesses give them credit for.

So is the call centre dead? Not exactly. But it has evolved to become a lot more valuable and crucial to customer service than businesses realise. Here, we’ll explore how the traditional call centre has shifted over time — and why you should be seriously considering its benefits within your business.

Suggested reading: Customer service has fundamentally changed… understand how with our guide on A New Approach to Customer Service.

How the call centre has evolved

While the call centre may have developed as the only speedy enough way of addressing customer concerns and queries back in the day, there’s another big reason behind their development (that persists to this day): the grand majority of consumers want their customer service to come from a human being.1

While that’s still a major factor behind call centres today, let’s take a closer look at how they’ve transformed:

  • Origins and traditional model: Initially, call centres were established as a centralised point of contact for handling customer enquiries over the phone. Characterised by their offshore outsourcing and fixed-cost models, these traditional call centres focused on efficiency and cost reduction, often at the expense of personalised customer service.
  • Key features of traditional call centres:
    • Offshore outsourcing: Companies outsourced their customer service operations to countries with lower labour costs to save on expenses.
    • Fixed costs: Businesses favoured a predictable cost model, where expenses were known upfront, regardless of the volume of calls or level of service provided.
  • Fixed costs: Businesses favoured a predictable cost model, where expenses were known upfront, regardless of the volume of calls or level of service provided.

While a lot of the above features are still present in today’s call centres, huge advancements in technology, customer expectations, and availability of resources to businesses have changed things.

As we go more in-depth into modern customer service, it’s promising to see how businesses have evolved both in terms of their operational tactics and how they approach customer service.

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What is the “modern” call centre?

The modern call centre basically adds to the traditional model rather than totally replacing it, and is characterised by several key features:

  • Technological advancements: Modern call centres leverage cutting-edge technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and cloud-based solutions. These technologies enhance efficiency, enable personalised customer interactions, and allow for seamless omnichannel customer service across phone, email, social media, and live chat. Which is especially important for meeting customers where they are, as 50% of all customers regularly use more than four touchpoints when buying products.2
  • Focus on customer experience: Unlike the usually cost-driven approach of traditional models, modern call centres really prioritise the customer experience. This shift recognises the value of customer satisfaction and loyalty as critical components of business success. Personalised service, quick resolution times, and proactive customer engagement are now standard practices.
  • Flexibility and scalability: With cloud-based infrastructures, modern call centres offer unprecedented flexibility and scalability. Businesses can adjust resources in real-time to meet fluctuating demand, keeping customer service quality high without the constraints of fixed costs or physical infrastructure.
  • Workforce evolution: The modern call centre workforce is increasingly remote, offering flexibility for employees and access to a broader talent pool for employers. This model supports a more diverse and skilled workforce, equipped to handle complex customer queries with empathy and expertise.
  • Data-driven insights: Harnessing the power of data analytics, modern call centres can gather deep insights into customer behaviour and preferences. This data informs business strategies, drives continuous improvement in service delivery, and supports personalised customer interactions.

The call centre today isn’t just a point of contact but a crucial element in building and maintaining customer relationships in a digital age.

Are call centres in general still relevant?

In a word: yes.

  • Changing customer expectations: Today’s customers expect quick, efficient, and, crucially, personalised service. They prefer engaging with brands across multiple channels, expecting a seamless experience whether they’re on social media, email, or speaking directly over the phone.
  • Omnichannel support and personalised interactions: Offering support across various platforms isn’t just about availability; it’s about creating a cohesive experience. Personalised interactions, where a customer’s history and preferences are known and used to tailor the service, are now the standard. This level of personalisation strengthens customer relationships and enhances satisfaction.
  • Role of technology and automation: To keep up with these demands, the integration of technology and automation within call centres is crucial. AI, chatbots, and automated systems can handle routine enquiries efficiently, freeing up human agents to tackle more complex issues. This blend of technology and human touch improves service quality and operational efficiency.

Pro tip: Don’t make the mistake of investing your all into customer service technology and forgetting the human aspect. 83% of customers want an empathetic and compassionate connection from their customer service — and tech isn’t going to advance enough to be able to achieve that.3

Why the traditional call centre isn’t a benchmark anymore

  • Offshore outsourcing vs. modern expectations: The traditional model of offshore outsourcing is increasingly misaligned with current customer expectations for personalised and culturally nuanced service. Increasingly, businesses are realising the benefits of onshore customer service outsourcing: getting your customer services through a third party that’s based in the same country as your business. So you profit from being matched with highly skilled agents that are available on demand and at much more reasonable rates compared to offshore outsourcing.
  • Disadvantages of a centralised model: Centralisation limits flexibility and responsiveness. In a dynamic business environment, the ability to scale and adapt to changing demands is key. A centralised, undistributed model struggles to offer the agility needed today.
  • Limitations of fixed costs: Fixed costing lacks the flexibility required in today’s fast-paced market. With demands constantly fluctuating (especially if you’re in eCommerce and dealing with seasonal changes), businesses need a model that can scale quickly and efficiently to said demand, without the constraints of fixed overheads.

While the traditional call centre model may no longer serve as a benchmark, the concept itself is far from gone. 

By evolving with the times, embracing technology, and focusing on omnichannel, personalised customer service, call centres can continue to play a critical role in business strategy. They aren’t just a means of communication but a strategic asset that can enhance customer satisfaction, loyalty, and ultimately, business success.

Suggested reading: Get ahead of the top call centre technology trends for 2024 with our deep dive!

Modernise and future-proof your call centre with Odondo

Part of the beauty of customer service is that it’s ever-evolving but always has the same end goal: satisfying the customer.

And that’s a goal that’s best achieved with some help. At Odondo, we help businesses get matched with expert call centre agents where they are, with a pay-as-you-go model that ensures you’re never paying too much or too little for your customer service.

What’s more, we cater our services and offerings to your particular goals. Curious to know how? Get a quote and we’ll be in touch!

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Aamir Baloch

Aamir is one of the Co-Founders at Odondo, where he obsesses over the details to deliver a strong and compelling proposition for each of his clients.

Prior to Odondo, he was CTO at one of the UK's largest price comparison websites, with contact centres in the UK and India. In his spare time, he loves reading, politics, tennis, and playing the piano (badly).

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