The invention of the telephone in the 1870s allowed brands to communicate with consumers more easily. Contact Centers, however, weren't established until almost a century later, specifically in the 1960s. Since then, however, it was already evident that business owners had a customer-focused mindset. This gave birth to the idea of customer support.
To date, customer service is still an evolving industry. In fact, it's changing at a rate never seen before, thanks to successive tech innovations influencing even the tiniest business aspects. At the same time, business philosophies are being reshaped by forward-thinking entrepreneurs. Together, these shifts are producing fresh perspectives on the customer journey.
As a result, customer care is starting to take new forms. Some of the biggest changes it has been undergoing are as follows.
Cost-cutting is no longer the goal.
When we talk about customer care, we almost always associate it with outsourcing. As a business practice, this allows brands to focus on their core processes without sacrificing the quality of their customer relations.
Outsourcing, however, is a very young field. It was only in 1989 when it was officially identified as a business strategy. Back then, brands used it to cut costs, as most vendors were based in cities with low labor costs.
But now, the goal is no longer to skimp on operation expenses. Companies have begun to see outsourcing as a means to acquire and deploy multichannel platforms, provide speedy services, and personalize the customer experience. Consequently, the relationship between call centers and their clients transformed from a buyer–vendor one to a strategic partnership.
No more dead-end jobs
Even the employment structure of call centers is changing, as driven by two factors.
The first one is that customer service is no longer considered a routine-based job. It's now recognized as a high-value career that requires high-value skills. The ideal agents, therefore, must have a balanced combination of technical and non-technical know-how. Second, as an attempt to lessen attrition, outsourcing companies, are now building career paths for agents. Either they're being groomed for leadership positions or being moved to other departments where they could exercise their more advanced skills.
From quantitative to holistic metrics
Because of changing business philosophies, entrepreneurs now look at the customer experience from a more holistic, in place of a quantitative, perspective. Given this, the metrics being used to assess customer support are also changing. Numerical standards (e.g., average handle time, number of calls accepted, agent schedule adherence, and others) are no longer the priority. Rather, qualitative ones like customer satisfaction and its sub-indicators (such as first-contact resolution, customer call frequency, resolved transactions, and others) are now considered more relevant.
It's also becoming common for call centers to conduct surveys to gather feedback from customers. This way, they can measure their performance from consumers' point of view. In the long run, therefore, they'll be able to make improvements that reflect people's preferences.
Self-service and customer empowerment
We're in the age of consumer empowerment, largely brought about by the wide accessibility of information on the web. Everything that a customer needs to know—from product- or service-related information to brands' track records—is right at their fingertips. The empowered consumer, therefore, can now make wiser purchasing decisions.
Brands and their contact centers are under pressure to feed and sustain this empowerment. One of the ways they're doing so is by providing self-service channels such as knowledge databases, customer forums, and others. Others are using simpler self-service tools such as online FAQs pages or YouTube video tutorials, which are easier and cheaper to produce.
The central idea here is to provide consumers great control on how they want to receive customer service. Promoting self-service helps people discover information on their own, which is, for many, much more convenient than having to talk to call center reps.