This Week's Herman Trend Alert

Leadership in Normal 2.0

  The Herman Trend Alert

October 7, 1998

Call Centers Will Compete With More Technology and Flexibility

Call centers and support centers, those high-activity nests of information, answers, and help for the bewildered face a critical challenge. Nationally, the industry is estimated to be strapped by a shortage of 500,000 to 600,000 workers. The customers must still be served, so two major solutions will be applied.

Technology is already having a tremendous impact on the field. Computers can route calls practically anywhere, sequencing calls and managing them so the caller knows about how long the wait will be. Technology developers are working closely with many companies to put answers to frequently asked questions on the internet, reducing the number of calls coming in. Look for more efforts to enable and encourage consumers to find answers for themselves.

Flexibility in work location will make a big difference, and with current technology almost any location is possible. Employees can work from congregate centers, satellite facilities, or even from home. We’ll see more arrangements where tele-workers will sign on at home when they’re ready to handle calls. Totally connected by technology, they really have no need to "go to the office." They’ll log-on, computer-driven phone systems will begin sending them calls, and their linked computers will tell them everything they need to know to serve the callers.

The technology, flexibility, and high demand will make it possible for shut-ins, handicapped (including home-bound), busy mothers, or the rush-hour challenged to become more viable participants in the workforce. People who live in remote locations—farms, mountain villages, or Native American reservations can now be put to work. Some companies are already using prisoners to respond to customer telephone requests.

We’re moving toward even more full employment.

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