Call Centres a Brief History

It was a long time from the invention of the telephone by Alexander Graham Bell in the 1870s to where we are now with the modern hub of a call centre.

Early telephone exchanges

Once the telephone had been invented it needed to evolve to handle more than one call coming in. That next step towards call centres came with the creation of the PABX (private automated branch exchange). This evolved into the switchboard that we all recall from old black and white movies but it was many years before this technology advanced into something resembling the call centres of the future; the first ones appearing in the 1960s and the term coming into use during the 1980s.

Desk layout

Once numbers began swelling in the call centre environment, it became essential to have teams answering calls sat together. Which layout was the most productive and conducive to work depended on the business? Some sat in great rows of desks packed in like sardines in the 1990s or worse hot desking where staff literally never knew where they were going to be sat. Other systems evolved and pods were set up with partitions arguably necessary for noise shielding but not great for the soul. Things moved on and more sociable desking formats came in with hexagonal or circular shaped pods.

Digital technology and the dot com era

With the advent of the computer and rudimental CRM systems, it became increasingly necessary not just to answer the phone quickly but to be able to have both hands free to type notes and commands straight onto the system. In the 1990s call centres were run with data appearing overhead in the form of LED visual call indicators showing operatives answering, calls coming in, how many waiting so that the manager could adjust staff and breaks to meet demand.  With staggering advances in technology over the last couple of decades, these stats have evolved into MI reports and KPIs straight to the desktop giving all sorts of useful data such as calls per day, average handling of calls per hour and data on individual operatives..

Call centre without a centre

With advances in tech over the last ten years, the global pandemic has propelled this forward even further. Now that pretty much everyone needs to work from home for the foreseeable future, the logistics of a remote call centre might overwhelm some businesses and they may have set up temporary call centres but be concerned about managing this going forward. Frontline have the infrastructure, experience and technology already in place to handle this for our clients; our record speaks for itself:

  • 80,000 calls handled each month
  • Multichannel communications
  • Emergency
  • IT helpdesk
  • Supplier management
  • ‘Listening Ear’ specialist phone answering for counselling services
  • Co-ordinate translators in 85 languages
  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
  • Bespoke reporting

It is evident the world has shifted drastically from the early call centres but it is still a critical tool for business and at Frontline we have this handled for you.