Processes and systems deliberately separated the roles of interacting with customers (the external world), from acting on customer requests (the internal world). Specifically, call centers were built and staffed highly trained customer service representatives who could handle a wide range of requests and complaints, creating a real “single point of contact.” This meant that customers didn’t need to search for the right department and right phone number to call. It also meant that operations people were insulated from customer “interruptions.” The model was clear: call centers were staffed with people-skilled personnel and operations groups, like NOCs, were staffed with technicians and engineers. Call centers used different tools than Operations.
Call centers exploded into other industries and developed sophisticated call queuing systems (the first ACD was invented for call centers by an aviation supplier) to hold calls until an operator was available. When coupled to bad policies, this lead to a practice of the long wait in queue which in turn lead to extremely bad press for the airline industry – and just about every industry for a while. Policies changed to staff call centers with a multitude of responsive agents, often with specialized skills. Eventually this evolved to skills-based targeted routing to efficiently select and pass a call to the appropriate call center agent. Customers could expect shorter queue times and an expert response to their question.
However, in the case of technical service issues, the “middle man” approach kept the customer away from the NOC technician working on solving the problem. Time to repair was heavily dependent on the accuracy of the information captured by the agent on the trouble ticket sent to the NOC. Information and data were often confused. Many efforts were applied in the 1980s and 1990s to correct this information gap. Also, many corporate customers had their own telecommunications departments, and their own internal single point of contact for their employees. This added another degree of separation between the user experiencing the problem and the NOC technician attempting to fix it. Customer service representatives however remained the single point of contact, which lead eventually to the huge outsourcing industry we have today. Born from the telecommunications industry, the only link today with telecommunications is the need for connectivity.
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