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A journey through time: unveiling the history of contact centres.

Jeanine Desirée Lund
Content Marketing Specialist
history of contact centres

In today’s interconnected world, contact centres play a pivotal role in enabling seamless communication between businesses and their customers. These hubs of customer support have a rich and fascinating history that dates back several decades. Join us as we embark on a journey through time, unravelling the evolution of contact centres and the pivotal role they play in modern customer service.

The early days

Voice-based customer service has been going on since telephony was invented almost 150 years ago in 1876 by Alexander Graham Bell, but the roots of contact centres can be traced back to the early 1960s when the concept of call centres first emerged. It was in 1967 that AT&T introduced the ground-breaking concept of toll-free 1-800 numbers for customer service, marking a significant milestone in the industry. Initially, these centres focused on efficiently handling incoming telephone calls and directing them to the appropriate departments or individuals. They were predominantly operated by major organisations, including airlines, hotels, and utility companies.

The creation of ACD systems and IVR

As technology advanced, contact centres evolved in tandem. In the 1970s, the advent of automatic call distribution (ACD) systems revolutionised the industry. These cutting-edge systems efficiently routed incoming calls to available agents, reducing wait times for customers and significantly enhancing overall service quality.

Furthermore, the 1980s witnessed the integration of computer systems into contact centres. Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems were introduced, enabling callers to interact with pre-recorded voice menus and perform basic tasks such as checking account balances or making payments. This automation alleviated the workload on human agents and empowered customers with self-service options.

Notably, the 1980s also witnessed the introduction of hold music, transforming the waiting experience during call queues into a pleasurable moment!

Multichannel communication

The late 1990s and early 2000s marked an era of rapid expansion in communication channels beyond traditional phone calls. Email and web-based support systems gained prominence, and contact centres swiftly embraced the concept of multichannel communication. Customers were now able to reach out through various mediums, heralding the birth of the modern customer service experience.

This is where Puzzel enters the picture. Our story begins in Norway with Consorte, a leading provider of telecommunications, contact centre and mobile services, founded in 1998. Consorte engineered one of the pioneering cloud-based contact centre solutions, setting the groundwork for what would eventually evolve into Puzzel. Subsequently, Consorte was renamed Intelecom.

The era of contact centre software

With the advent of the digital age, contact centres underwent a profound transformation. Advanced contact centre software emerged, seamlessly integrating telephony, email, chat, and social media interactions into a unified platform. Customer relationship management (CRM) systems became an integral part of contact centre operations, facilitating the storage and retrieval of customer data for more personalised service.

Cloud-based contact centres

In recent years, the contact centre industry has witnessed a revolution driven by cloud technology. Cloud-based contact centres offer unparalleled scalability, flexibility, and cost-efficiency, enabling businesses to adapt swiftly to fluctuating customer demands. By eliminating the need for on-premises infrastructure, cloud solutions have made it easier for organisations to establish and expand their customer service operations.

The rise of artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) has ushered in a new era for contact centres, propelling them into uncharted territory. Intelligent virtual assistants and chatbots have become increasingly prevalent, delivering instant support and swift answers to customer queries. AI-powered analytics enable contact centres to extract invaluable insights from customer interactions, fostering continuous improvement and elevating the overall customer experience.

In 2019, Puzzel released our ground-breaking Agent Assist solution, empowering agents with AI-driven insights to enable them to deliver exceptional customer experiences. Since then, Puzzel has developed an entire suite of AI-based solutions, further advancing automation within the contact centre.

Today

Puzzel continues to innovate in the world of customer service and has been recognised as the most innovative European-founded CCaaS provider in Frost & Sullivan’s 2023 European Cloud Contact Center Frost Radar.

Today, the Puzzel customer engagement platform comprises five integrated solutions. Anchored by Puzzel Contact Centre, the cloud-native omnichannel solution empowers businesses to manage customer interactions across all channels. Advanced agent-assist maximises agents’ productivity, while data analytics equips managers with valuable insights to optimise contact centre performance, enabling quicker and more empathic resolutions for customers.

Puzzel Digital Engagement enhances productivity and efficiency by proactively connecting with customers throughout their digital journey across various digital channels, including chatbots.

Puzzel WFM facilitates accurate demand forecasting and the creation of high-performance workforces. Whilst Puzzel Quality Assurance allows managers to evaluate customer interactions, gain actionable insights, and provide personalised coaching, increasing productivity by 285%.

Moreover, Puzzel Sales Intelligence streamlines outbound and inbound customer service, ensuring a cohesive and consistent experience across all touch points.

This suite of solutions enables businesses to create a cohesive and uniform experience across all customer interactions, streamlining operations and improving agent and customer engagement while driving business growth.

The future

In a short space of time, Contact Centres have seen a lot of change. The pandemic has acted as a transformative force for technological innovation, particularly AI. Over the next 5-10 years, we expect to see much growth within the AI space. From using AI-powered language models to generate human-like text and conversation to anticipating customer needs and automating mundane tasks, AI will help drive the evolution of contact centres.

What is for sure is as businesses continue to prioritise customer satisfaction, Puzzel will undoubtedly remain at the forefront of providing exceptional support while continuously adapting to new technologies.

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