Call Center of Yesterday

I have read and written many articles on the future of customer service and the future of the contact center. I thought it would be fun to take a trip down memory lane and try to get a discussion on the “old” days. The days when outbound calling was huge, before the advanced telephony, routing, and the CTI that we have today.

For full disclosure here I am only 36 years old but I have grown up around the call center environment since I was 10 years old. My family owed a 500 seat center in Erie PA that I grew up at. From stuffing envelopes, filling vending machines, typing scripts to taking and making sales and service calls, I did it all in those days growing up especially during summer vacations

We did a lot of outbound calling in those days (1985-1990) mostly for banks. We did a TON of outbound credit card sales. There was no database programming or predictive dialing. We printed out thousands of pressure sensitive labels that we color coded to represent the time zone we were calling. I still remember it like it was yesterday, red was for the east coast time zone, blue for the central time zone, yellow was Mountain and orange represented the pacific time zone. Being a 10 year old I would take the highlighter and drag down the center of each of the labels the color of the specific time zone before they went to the floor.

Once the labels got the floor the associate would hand dial each label. If they got a “no” they would cross off the label, no answer they would leave it alone to be called back later and if they got a sale the sticker would be given to a supervisor. All the sales were processed free hand on a paper application that was faxed (cool technology) or mailed to the client daily. I still remember associates passing around labels for others to call of they heard a funny answering machine or called a strange place.

Because of all the amount of paper applications, Fulfillment was a pretty busy department, one that really does not exist at all in the same form today. I remember folding and stuffing envelopes until my fingers had so many paper cuts I couldn’t hold a folk for dinner. I remember teasing my parents I was going to call child labor on them!

I remember we did our scripts in flipbooks that we had in each booth. This way the associates could read an opening and then flip quickly to the rebuttal sheet when they needed it. All the disclosures where on these flip books as well.

Our inbound customer service was pretty basic as well back in 1985. Without getting very technical here we had a bunch of lines that came in and rang in order booth by booth (daisy chain). There was no average wait time or expert agent routing. We did not even know how many calls we were abandoning. We had no stats except for calls offered. There was no CRM software as well. We had customer files written down on index cards with important information that we would update as our basic CRM. Thinking about it now how frustrating it had to of been for customer to get questions answered and problems solved without even a database with their information.

I also remember we had a giant map of the USA that my dad and I painted on the wall using an overhead projector. We painted each state the color of the labels so no one would get confused! The funny things that you remember. The good Ole days!

Would love to hear some of your stories of call center yester years!

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