The Social Contact Centre

to a social networking way of working through the eyes of a Contact Centre manager

Posts Tagged ‘PDA

Leave everyone to their own devices – even Apple’s iPhone 5 will become soooo last year

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As a call centre manager it’s easy to slip into the lazy habit of  imagining your customer holding a telephone to their ear in their hallway. This wouldn’t matter if it wasn’t that we tend to design all our products and services around a particular image and the image in our head can often be from times gone by. We have been programmed to design projects with a payback over a number of years but our world and our customers are changing.

30 years ago the typical customer communication was via post. In my first working office I remember the telex machine stood as a silent reminder of a channel dying out. The fax machine was used regularly as a way of sending images. I wrote letters which went through the typing pool before being sent, hopefully to receive a response within a week. We prospected in those days by sending an introductory letter followed up by a telephone call a few days later.

Then came email, a wonderful invention geared towards improving communication within our business, and shortly afterwards came the web with access to some interesting bulletin boards of information. Around the same time the first handheld devices I remember – the Psion organiser – emerged as an alternative to the Filofax. It incorporated a diary, contacts database and clock. The smartest sales reps around would flip one open at a moment’s notice. The original model in 1984 cost £99 – around £285 in today’s money and I remember being extremely envious of them but being unable to justify such enormous expense. At the same time the PC was developing and I remember selling a proprietary standalone computer, second-hand, for the equivalent of £2,500. It could just about run a spreadsheet and a word processing package. The first mobile phones were enormous and they were rationed like gold dust – expensive to buy and expensive to use. This was at the back end of a generation who were grateful for telephones, never mind mobile phones, and were brought up to ration their use. I worked with Americans at this time who were astonished at the British cultural aversion to using the phone.

Over the years the handsets got smaller but still did pretty much the same thing. Their usage became more widespread but I still remember the shock when teenagers started to get mobile phones. What would they use them for – who would they call? They were clear luxury items.

The IBM PC launch started a revolution too. The difference with the IBM PC was actually the Microsoft operating system and the access to software it enabled – at that stage no-one knew about Microsoft and everyone knew about IBM. The thing that impressed me about the first IBM PC I saw was the graphics rather than the machine itself. The disks, the chips and the graphics capabilities improved rapidly. The first laptops I remember were actually “luggable” devices used by auditors on the move. Very heavy and with very poor monitors. Compaq launched some comparatively tiny machines and a new market was created.

Around the mid 1990s I began to really dabble with gadgetry and I had a string of pretty good but very expensive HTC and HP devices which involved using a stylus and could access mobile websites in a text only form using WAP. HP had an online shop of apps – there must have been a couple of hundred to choose from at one point. The growth of the mobile networks in coverage and bandwidth and the development of broadband with wireless internet have changed the face of technology in the 2000s.

The launch of the iPhone happened in 2007. Since then there has been the meteoric rise of the Blackberry, now tailing off. The seeming dominance of Apple based on vastly more apps and ease of use is now being eroded first by Android and potentially by Windows 7. The phones at first got smaller and are now getting bigger. Tablets have been around for at least 20 years but the iPad transformed their market and now tablets are getting smaller.

The point of my story is threefold:

1. At the time, each of these stages seemed revolutionary. You couldn’t imagine wanting or needing anything more. The first Psion Organiser was every bit as groundbreaking and revolutionary as the iPhone.

2. The pace of change is phenomenal and it is impossible to pick long-term winners. The days of a dominant supplier are numbered.

3. While much of the change is driven by technology making things possible, a significant part of the change is driven by consumers.

While we need to spend a significant amount of time thinking about a social media strategy based on applications we also need to think about where and how the applications are being used. We need to build strategies and platforms to take advantage of opportunities with customer behaviour across all platforms and not try to pick winners. Anyone who doesn’t adapt their website to serve customers using a mobile device is missing a trick. Service strategies reliant on customers quoting a long account number from memory or a recent bill, making a phone call, or writing an email are completely outdated.



Written by greencontact

October 16, 2012 at 3:50 pm