How It All Began: A Brief Customer Service History Lesson

Posted by on August 28, 2012 in Business Technology, Customer Service [ 1 Comment ]

customer service historyThere are many theories about how the world began. One school of thought believes that it was the “Big Bang Theory.”  Biblical teaching, meanwhile, gives credit to God. And then there are others who likewise formed their own interpretation of this often-told story.

Fortunately, the beginnings of customer service are not as controversial as that of our planet’s own story. However, if you think that some big shot American company that started it all with their fancy call center, you could not be further from the truth. On the contrary, customer service traces its roots to a time before there were even phones.

So how did it all begin, you ask?

A close look at the customer service timeline reveals that “customer interaction” is actually as old as time—or at least, has been around for as long as people bought products and availed of services. In those days, though, you did not just pick up the phone and air your complaint or ask your question. You needed to walk or ride a horse to come face-to-face with your shopkeeper. And this often meant going to the next town, across a seemingly endless stretch of dusty roads.

The invention of the telephone by Sir Alexander Graham-Bell revolutionized the world, along with customer relations (now known as customer service call center). This meant that customers could now call the store where they purchased that shoe or handbag, and voice out their disgust over the shabby workmanship.

While all this happened almost a century after Mr. Graham-Bell made his first phone call, everything else soon followed rather quickly—thanks to the many technological advancements.

The invention of the Touch-Tone phone and 1-800 number in the 1960s came along with the Hippie movement, bell bottoms, and disco. But it’s the Interactive Voice Response system (IVR), invented in the ‘70s, can be credited for what we are experiencing today. Yet it was not until the time of New Wave music, and colorful fashion (in 1983 to be precise) when companies found it more cost-effective to outsource. And when they did, they took their business to countries like India and the Philippines. This meant big savings while getting more work done.

But wait, there is more.

The 1990s brought with it boybands, the Gulf War, and two key advances that would change customer care forever. More discriminating customer preferences brought about a dedicated form of customer care, known as help desk call center. This saw companies having a department that dealt solely with complaints, inquiries, and other key customer concerns—all in the hopes of speedy service and issue resolution.

And when the Internet came about, everything from e-mail, to live chat, social network support, and remote support channels came into play, as well.

Customer service has definitely come a long way from the days of the horse and shopkeeper. And you can expect that as technology evolves so will the form of client interaction.

Photo credit: computerhistory.org

Gerard Castillo is a content writer for Magellan Solutions Outsourcing Inc., a fast-growing inbound call center in the Philippines.


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