The Changing Nature of Phone Calls in the Contact Center

By now we’re all used to the idea that digital technology is transforming our contact centers. A new report by Dimension Data says that most data centers will soon be equipped to handle nine different channel options, and that the number of digital transactions is poised to overtake phone transactions by the end of 2016. Even more striking: 42 percent of call centers expect a decrease in live agent telephone service within two years.

Despite this expected drop in phone calls, live agents aren’t going away. In fact, employment of customer care representatives is projected to grow 10 percent from 2014 to 2024—faster than the average of most other occupations. How can we account for the seeming contradiction?

Many of the other channels cropping up today are having an unintended effect, which is to drive customers with more complex issues to the phones. From the customer’s perspective, text, email, Web chat, and other outlets are viewed almost as self-service lines, where they can find answers to basic questions or solve simple problems.

When the problem can’t be solved any other way, customers take to the phones.

There’s no definitive reason why the statistics are at odds, but it’s logical to believe that customer interaction times are increasing thanks to the complexity of calls, which could be a contributing factor. In fact, many customers may already be frustrated by the time they place a call, having tried and failed to resolve a problem through one or more other channels. In a sense, it’s a channel of last resort.

As a result, it’s more important than ever for Communicators to realize that many customer calls may very well be a pivotal moment in the brand-customer relationship. With the proper training and support, they’ll be ready and able to handle these challenges as they come.

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team, he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA, SOCAP, and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He is a frequent speaker for national events and has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry.