Lots of people work in call centres in the UK, many of them in Scotland. The industry is an important employer. It’s also an industry that is changing. The days when the call handler, whether outbound or inbound, was the sole channel of communication with the customer have gone. A recent blog by BATech, one of the companies specialising in dialler technology, illustrates this nicely, telling us that the trend is towards “fewer customers calling in with queries”. Bearing in mind that that blog was written by a company which wants to sell its technology, what does this mean for those looking for a call centre job? And what sort of jobs can they expect in the future?
Today, call centre customers use multiple channels, frequently digital/social media ones, to communicate. While some people find the ‘do you want to chat now?’ messages on websites annoying, there is no doubt that they do help reduce call volumes and, by spreading the load of calls/queries, should allow more customers to be helped more quickly.
However, BATech also suggest that what is happening is that more detailed queries are taking longer, so call centre agents need to up their game and become more knowledgeable and capable of handling increasingly complicated, longer calls. Also, although the older generation prefer to talk to a human being, the younger demographic is much more comfortable with online chat via email or an app. This, in turn, suggests that there will be less need for voice calls in the future, but not, of course, for human beings to ‘speak’ via online chat. You can see how, as the market becomes more varied and digital communication channels continue their seemingly inexorable rise, the agent’s job will change and they will become (as they are already) more technologically savvy.
The good news, for candidates at least, is that this will, slowly, drive up salaries, as more skilled agents demand a better return for their expertise and experience. The other good news is that the increased range of skills required on a daily basis will make for better, more rewarding jobs. Social media experts are now, and will increasingly be, essential for companies to handle the huge volume of ‘traffic’ (often complaints) that come via Facebook and Twitter. The good companies have been doing this for some time, and in some instances brilliantly. However, as BATech notes, social media, especially Twitter, does not make open-ended conversation easier, and there is always, in any form of electronic communication, the serious difficulty of interpreting nuance and mood. Unless and until robots replace all our jobs, call centre agents will continue to be needed for a long time to come.
Gerry Millar - Consultant, 9-20 Business Services