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Timeline:

the history of contact centre innovation

In an effort to better understand the future of the contact centre, we’ve turned to

the past for clues on which new innovation will shape the future of our industry.

We identified some of the most important contact centre technologies of the last

100 years and measured the lag between their conception and mainstream

adoption. Then, using our findings to estimate how long it will take for today’s

innovations to make an impact in the contact centre. Scroll down to discover what

we learnt.

1882 - 1972

90 years

The innovation

Private automated branch exchange (PABX) systems

The adoption lag

The technology that started it all. This switching system enabled businesses to redirect inbound calls with ease. Having originated in 1882, it took almost 90 years for this technology to evolve into the basis of the modern call centre.

1955 - 1973

18 years

The innovation

Automatic call distributor (ACD) system

The adoption lag

Perhaps the most important technology in call centre history. Although ACD was invented in the 1950s, adoption only began to accelerate when US firm, Rockwell, released its successful solution for Continental Airlines in 1973.

1966 - 2025

59 years

The innovation

Chatbots and artificial intelligence (AI)

The adoption lag

Although chatbots have been nattering away since the flower power era, they’re yet to truly transform the contact centre – but this may all be about to change. The likes of IDC and Microsoft have predicted that AI will redefine the customer experience in the next ten years. Intelligent assistants, such as Amazon’s Alexa, Microsoft’s Cortana and Apple's Siri, are already making rapid advances in this area.

1950 - 2005

55 years

The innovation

Interactive voice response (IVR)

The adoption lag

Another slow burner. IVR emerged in the 1950s, with Bell Lab's "Audrey" - a system able to recognise spoken digits. However, IVR only really reached maturity in the early 2000s. This technology now underpins many customer service departments.

1972 - 2005

33 years

The innovation

IP telephony

The adoption lag

The tech that rang the death knell for the trusty PBX. Despite the clear benefits of IP telephony, widespread adoption didn't really take place until the latter half of the 2000s.

1972 - 1996

24 years

The innovation

Email

The adoption lag

Although electronic mail was invented in 1972,
the public didn't start swapping messages until the 1990s. Once consumers got in on the action, businesses weren't far behind. However, the majority of contact centres still do not have integrated voice and email solutions.

1993

to date

The innovation

Speech recognition

Netcall launched

The first contact centre speech recognition solution in Europe.

1995

to date

The innovation

QueueBuster

Netcall launched

The first intelligent call back solution, providing customers with an alternative to spending hours on hold.

1997 - 2012

15 years

The innovation

Social media and networking

The adoption lag

Much like email, social media took the world by storm. However despite its popularity amongst consumers, even today social media is rarely well integrated into contact centres.

1999

to date

The innovation

The cloud

The adoption lag

Migration to the cloud has been surprisingly slow in the contact centre industry, but it’s fair to say it’s now mainstream. According to Cloud Industry Forum’s (CIF) latest research paper, 57% of organisations expect to have adopted cloud contact centre solutions by 2020.

1999 - 2020

21 years

The innovation

The internet of things (IoT)

The adoption lag

The concept behind the IoT has existed since the nineties but the full potential of a sensor-filled world is yet to be realised. Although the IoT has moved into our homes – see Amazon’s Dash buttons – its impact on the contact centre remains to be seen. However, Gartner predicts that by 2017, 5% of customer service cases will be autonomously initiated by connected devices.

2000

to date

The innovation

Voicemail

Netcall launched

The first voicemail system for mainstream market.

2004

to date

The innovation

Self service

Netcall launched

The first voice self-service solution in the NHS

2004

to date

The innovation

PBX independent ACD

Netcall launched

PBX independent ACD

2004 - 2020

16 years

The innovation

The universal queue

The adoption lag

The history of the universal queue may be cloudy but its future is almost certainly bright. According to a recent Dimension Data report, omnichannel is the most important trend for contact centre leaders. Without a universal queue, many businesses will struggle to create a seamless and connected customer journey.

2008

to date

The innovation

Automated agent suite

Netcall launches

Automated agent suite into UK
councils

2008 - 2014

6 years

The innovation

Dedicated mobile apps

The adoption lag

It took six years for brands to turn smartphone and tablet applications into a new customer services channel. Developing custom applications is now the norm and tech titans are now releasing specialised apps for brand / customer communications. Take a look at Facebook’s Messenger for businesses.

2010 - 2025

15 years

The innovation

Conversational interactions

The adoption lag

Natural language interfaces have come of age. Voice recognition and deep learning technologies, like Amazing Lex, are now being integrated into chatbot applications, enabling them to interact with customers verbally. Grandview Research expects the market to be worth $127 billion by 2024.

finish

Do you have ambitious visions for your contact centre? Are you driven to push the boundaries of CX?

Let us help.

Netcall is a leading provider of end-to-end customer engagement solutions. Our mission is to transform the way our clients interact with customers. We help deliver a seamless and exceptional customer experience across all channels. Our solutions help our customers work smarter, gain competitive advantage and lower costs.

All of our solutions are secure, flexible and best-in-class. They’re easy to implement and simple to use.

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