Only 4 more years until the death of call centres… the reasons why not


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A year ago, David Thodey was in the press for saying that call centres would not exist in 5 years. So – 4 years to go!

He was wrong – but for the right reasons. A year on it’s worth reflecting on what digital business is really doing to human interactions and its impact on contact centres. At a recent AusContact event on the 23rd July, sponsored by Interactive Intelligence, I explored this topic with a group from government and utility sectors.

Chris in action

The decline of voice. The trend is undeniable – voice calls are becoming less important, in the sense that the proportion of voice to ‘other’ contact types is reducing. You can look at any global report (try Di-Data or Frost & Sullivan) and voice is reducing fast, with digital communications rapidly rising. So given a few years, call centres will be dead, right? Wrong. But the role and their place in digital business will be quite different…

Chris graph

Source: Dimension Data 2015 Global benchmarking report

Let’s look at why and how contact centres will remain important:

1.  Digital is not a channel. Digital is a way of doing business, and although much digital business is online and self-serve, much is not. In retail outlets, employees use tablets and apps, or show customers how to use theirs. In contact centres employees increasingly answer questions about how to navigate and use portals and apps, whilst using versions of the customers’ digital platforms themselves. The term Omnichannel is often used in this context, but for the future it will be more useful to think of there being interactions rather than channels – self-serve and human. Human interactions can occur via a variety of mediums (including digital) and self-serve can also happen in retail, phone or digital media.

2.  People still want to deal with people. If you look again at the research, the most rapid growth of traffic is in human to human interactions via social media, chat and messaging, i.e. it’s all human contact. Whichever way you look at it, organisations will still need many skilled and knowledgeable customer service & sales people, interacting with customers remotely via these media, in real-time or nearly so. And there’s a name for this function – the contact centre.

3.  Contact centres will get design. Hitherto, techniques like customer centric design, HCD, ethnographic research and similar have been mainly the domain of the digital or central CX teams. Contact centres have just kept on doing what they do, and adopting these tools slowly. This is changing. As cloud based, flexible platforms become the norm for contact centres, the ability to prototype and deploy rapidly lifts to something closer to the digital channels. And as the type of traffic swings inexorably to digital media and calls about apps, the use of digital and design thinking will equalise across these teams.

So – although in 4 years the contact centres may echo to the sound of keyboards tapping more than to the sound of voices, unless you plan to operate an organisation which is 100% self-service, contact centres will still be key to delivering a great customer experience.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Chris Severn
Co Founder and Director of The Customer Experience Company. Expert in Customer strategy, and delivery of customer improvements in service, sales and marketing, and across online, call centres and retail channels.


  1. I agree that contact centers will be different and that they cannot disappear. A company without a CC will lose out on delivering that high level of experience.


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