call centreWe were filming last week at one of the UK’s largest call centres and as myself and Mark the sound recordist were wandering around a thought struck us. Now that kind of thing doesn’t happen very often so when it does it has to be a real revelation! Standing amidst the hum of a thousand phone conversations Mark asked me how much longer I thought call centres would exist in their current form.

It was a good question, one we debated right through dinner that night. The prediction we came up with could turn the industry on its head.

14,000 people go to work at this call centre every single day. Why? To work as part of a big team? Nope, they are on the phone all day working by themselves. To be with other people socially? Wrong again because most social interaction for a call advisor actually comes from callers themselves. Do they come in because they need a place to work from and the most important tool of their job – a phone? Well yes actually, that’s pretty much all it is!

So wait, let’s think about this. I’m a call advisor, I leave my house every morning and travel x amount of miles to work to sit at a desk with a phone and a computer. Sounds like most office jobs doesn’t it? The difference is the call advisor probably has all the tools they need at home to be able to do the job just as effectively.

In the age of Internet telephony and remote server login do we really need a physical call centre anymore? Why not just work from home?

The problem in recent years has been the cost of running a physical call centre, not so much the cost of the staff which are employed there. The result of this is of course the contraversial move by many organisations to shift their operations to cheaper countries like India.

My suggestion to companies musing over what could be the next generation of call centres is this; ditch the physical call centres and create a virtual one. Create a system which has a hub where all the calls are routed through to advisors in their own homes. Once people log on to the system from their homes it will work like any call centre call-routing system where when a call comes in it searches along the chain to find the next available advisor. Many people would be happier working from home, and possibly more efficient. All every employee would need is a broadband connection and a computer supplied. Then pay them a basic salary (just like now), an allowance for electricity and then the rest of their wage comes from commission (just like now).

Don’t forget a broadband connection is cheap and all the phone calls will go down this connection too.

For many organisations this could cut their costs by more than half. This would mean there would be less need for cheaper “offshore” solutions and much happier customers because they are talking to somebody on the same soil as themselves.

Sounds like a win:win situation to me.

Shall we make bets on when this will happen? I’d say before the end of this year. What do you think?