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A History of Answering Services and Call Centers

Answering services and call centers have been around for decades, but they are a part of an industry that is continually changing. Here’s a brief history of how call centers got started and how far answering services have come since then.

this is a picture of four Sound Telecom employees who are working at a national answering service and call center

Approximately 40 years ago, airlines and the hospitality industries started centralizing the places they took reservation calls. This was about the time the original large scale, premise-based telephony switches came out. More and more, industries began utilizing different kinds of call centers with banks and catalog shopping businesses commonly operating their own version of an early customer contact center. However, many businesses did things their own way with mixed results for years.

Then the 1990s rolled around and it was indeed a boom time for call centers. Contact center management began to take shape as a profession in the early part of the decade. Smaller companies began to realize the necessity of having a call center to distinguish themselves and get an edge over competitors.

Answering services had long been thought to be only for those in the medical profession, but as time went on, other industries began realizing that they could also benefit from having a live person answer their phones around the clock. It became hard to argue with the many advantages to outsourcing the phone answering function. To this day, just some of those advantages include:

  • improved customer service/retention
  • an increase in leads/sales
  • an ability to focus on core competencies
  • live answering services save businesses a substantial amount of money vs. hiring additional internal staff

During the 2000s, hits to the economy prompted many businesses to cut costs, and call center expenses and operations were often a target. This led to a plummet in overall customer service satisfaction. The fallout proved to be a positive in the long run as customer demand for better service brought back answering services and call centers stronger than ever. Companies realized that investing in aspects of their business that directly relate to customer satisfaction was not to be overlooked.

The industry is still evolving as even more of a spotlight has been focused on customer service. Here are three ways the industry is changing:

  1. Competition has increased due to globalization. The internet has transformed how business is conducted and what customers have come to expect. Now, customers demand the best service on a 24-7 basis rather than being relegated to normal business hours. Companies must be able to take care of their customers very quickly or else the competitor is a simply click or call away. Businesses have begun to outsource their call center operations to keep costs low while increasing customer retention.
  2. Based on the reasons above, businesses are now viewing call centers as a valuable asset that is necessary for success. Rather than relying on a bank of old phone lines in their back office, they are reaching out to call center professionals to create customized programs that serve as an extension of their brand.
  3. Technology has boosted the capabilities of answering services and call centers dramatically. Not only have advances in tech improved the efficiency of call centers, but it has also broadened their ability to do even more than simply answer the phone. Now, call centers have the ability to build full service communications programs and even provide highly valuable analytics and call data that companies can use to their advantage.

As a multidimensional tool that can serve  almost any industry, answering services and call centers are poised to continue their escalation in relevance. Businesses that choose to utilize these services regularly experience happy customers, cost reductions, increased productivity, extremely scalable capacity, consistent branding, and increased revenue. With results like that, it is no surprise that answering services and call centers are on the rise.

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About Andrew Tillery

Born and raised in Oregon, Andrew has now put down roots in Seattle, because he refuses to call anywhere but the Pacific Northwest home. After graduating from Portland State University with a double major in Marketing and Advertising, he spent some time learning Spanish and experiencing all that South America has to offer. It was while he was south of the equator that he uncovered an interest in writing that he strives to develop whenever the opportunity is presented. When Andrew isn't taking care of business at the office, he is throwing fuel on his fiery passions for sports and the outdoors.