Technology has transformed practically every corner of life. Call centers are no different. Today, customers expect lightning-fast response times. Yet back in the day, holding for 10, 15 or even 30 minutes wasn’t unheard of.
So how did we get from there to here? Let’s jump in our time machine and take a trip down memory lane – you’ll be surprised at how far the call center has come!
Switchboards – The Call Center Stone Age
In the early 20th century, switchboards functioned as de facto call centers. Human error, unreliable technology, and other hurdles ensured the first call center was no place to expect quick service!
Computer-Based Call Answering
Mid 1950s – in the mid-20th century, a system called the Automatic Call Distributor (ACD) collected, routed, and assigned incoming calls to available agents. It wasn’t the most effective or efficient method, but the present-day call center had its first prototype. The use of algorithms started the transition from switchboards to premise-based call centers.
The Early Call Center Precursors
Late 1950s / early 1960s – the blueprint for the modern call center was created with Private Automated Business Exchanges (known as PABX). Of course, PABX enterprises relied heavily on ACD technology.
The 1-800 Era
Late 1960s – to make call routing easier, AT&T established 1-800 numbers in 1967. This allowed heavier call volumes, and also created unexpected advertising opportunities and marketing avenues.
British Advancements – How to Answer the Telly 20,000 Times per Week
Early 1970s – British Gas used an ACD system to field up to 20,000 calls per week in a facility based in Wales. To date, this was the most calls any center had processed in a 7-day span.
Talking Robots (Sort of)
1970s – with Interactive Voice Response (IVR) technology, incoming calls could be handled by fully automated systems.
To the Cloud (and Beyond)
Mid 2000s – premise-based call center technology eventually ceded call center management to cloud-based systems. TeleDirect was one of the early pioneers in this field, with a global cloud infrastructure powered by Amazon Web Services and Twilio.
There you have it – a brief history of call center technology. So the next time you reach out to a call center and receive prompt, customer-friendly service, thank those trailblazers like ACD, PABX, IVR and other technology for getting things headed in the right direction. If you still feel your business is operating out of a switchboard, it may be time to seek professional help.