The Evolution of Contact Centers: A Seasoned Veteran's Insight

 Mar 11, 2024   |    Dennis Hauser

Dennis Hauser, Black Box CX Solution Architect

Moment #1: The Dawn of Remote Work in Contact Centers

In the late 1980s, the concept of remote work in contact centers was virtually unheard of. It was during this era of technological infancy that I found myself navigating uncharted territory. The journey began when one of our standout performers, who recently transitioned into the role of a stay-at-home mom, agreed to explore a flexible working arrangement. However, this venture wasn't without its challenges. In an age where technology often posed more hurdles than solutions, we grappled with green screen terminals, coax cables, and 2400 baud modems that demanded constant troubleshooting with IT support. Despite the initial skepticism, this leap of faith underscored our commitment to meeting the evolving needs of our workforce, even at the expense of immediate cost savings.

Here’s why:

Employee Alignment: Our commitment to aligning with employees’ needs paid off. By allowing remote work, we attracted and retained top talent. Agents appreciated the flexibility, leading to increased job satisfaction and loyalty.

Retaining Institutional Knowledge: These seasoned agents possessed invaluable institutional knowledge. They understood the intricacies of our back-end processes, identifying bottlenecks and suggesting improvements. Their insights directly impacted service quality.

By the dawn of the 1990s, our modest cohort of remote agents had evolved into a formidable force, reshaping the labor market and bestowing upon us a newfound competitive edge in the business landscape.

Moment #2: A Costly Lesson in Quality vs. Price

Around the same time, we encountered a significant dilemma concerning our long-distance service provider, AT&T. MCI, posing a challenge to AT&T, offered us a tempting deal: 30 free days of service with a 30% cost reduction. Intrigued by the prospect, we made the switch, only to swiftly revert to AT&T just a week later. The catalyst behind this abrupt reversal was subpar audio quality.

What we experienced:

Loudness and Echo: Calls on the MCI network suffered from loudness and echo issues. Customers found it disconcerting, affecting their overall experience.

Intermittent Dead Air: The occasional silence during calls frustrated both customers and agents. It disrupted conversations and eroded satisfaction.

The consequences were immediate and measurable. Customer satisfaction plummeted, leading to a decline in revenue. We swiftly returned to AT&T, realizing that quality should never be compromised for cost savings. These experiences shaped our understanding of the delicate balance between price and quality. As the contact center industry continues to evolve, this lesson remains relevant: prioritize service excellence over short-term gains.

Applying Past Lessons to Today’s Challenges

Fast forward to today, and we see an industry transformed. The pandemic has accelerated companies to a permanent or hybrid remote working model for their contact centers. This shift offers several advantages, including enhanced agent satisfaction, reduced overhead, and greater flexibility. However, the lessons of the past are still relevant. Providing robust support to remote agents is crucial; neglecting this can lead to increased frustration and diminished service quality.

When considering a CCaaS solution, the key is in the details of the provider’s Managed Services. The emphasis should be on proactive monitoring capabilities, ensuring that remote agents receive the same level of support as their in-office counterparts. This monitoring includes thorough checks on PC/Laptop performance, Wi-Fi connectivity, and detailed room analytics, such as microphone positioning and ambient noise levels during calls. This level of oversight is vital in maintaining high-quality connections for remote agents, significantly reducing instances of technical glitches that can impact communication. It effectively extends the IT department's reach, allowing them to support remote agents as efficiently as if they were on-site. This support is invaluable in reducing the stress and frustration often associated with technical issues in remote work settings, thus enhancing overall productivity and job satisfaction.



The journey of contact centers is one of constant evolution, with each phase bringing its own set of challenges and opportunities. As a veteran in this field, I can attest that the lessons from the past are invaluable in navigating the future. Embracing new technologies and work models while remembering the fundamentals of employee support and customer satisfaction is key to thriving in this dynamic industry. Remember, the past informs the present, and the decisions we make today will shape the future of contact centers.