Live Google+ Debate: Will Technology Kill the Call Center?


CRM Market Analyst, Software Advice

Customers love the instant gratification of call-in service: the phone rings, they talk to an agent, they get an answer. What they don’t love is extended holding, automated prompts, unhelpful agents and getting lost in a sea of transfers.

This irritation–coupled with technology for better, faster service through Web channels–has impacted customers’ support preferences. In fact, a recent Avaya report showed 60 percent of consumers continually change how they contact a company. Will consumers one day skip the phone call altogether?

Later this month, Software Advice will explore this question and discuss new Web customer service technologies during a live debate with experts called, “Will Technology Kill the Call Center?”

The event will begin at 1 p.m. Central on September 27 in a Google+ Hangout. To watch the debate and chime in with your own questions, visit my Google+ page that day and comment in the feed. Add me to your circle on Google+ and I’ll send you an event reminder.

Watch the debate live from my profile page by clicking the round play button in the “Hangouts” box. Ask questions by posting a comment underneath the feed.

Below is the list of experts that will participate in the debate. They will answer a set of questions one by one, with opportunities for a rebuttal after each response. I will act as the moderator and will also choose a few of the best questions from the Google+ audience.

Jim Iyoob

Jim Iyoob is the senior vice president of global development for Etech Global Services. He has more than 15 years contact center outsourcing experience in domestic and offshore inbound, outbound, and live chat operations.

Iyoob believes that no amount of technological advances will “kill the call center,” but it will change its role. He’s seen customer service interactions from his clients move from 99.9 percent voice and one percent chat, to 60 percent voice and 40 percent chat during the last five years.


Shervin smaller

Shervin Talieh is the founder and CEO of Drumbi–a technology startup focused on mobile and social customer service. Drumbi leverages voice and data synchronization to streamline call routing and phone customer service. Previously, he also served in leadership positions for Goldeneye Solutions and Accenture.

Talieh believes that in the long run technology could feasibly kill the call center, but not because consumers will stop calling. He says increasingly sophisticated mobile customer service technology will instantly route calls, making voice support more efficient and massive operations unnecessary. In addition, companies such as TaskRabbit and Mechanical Turk offer an “on-demand” workforce. At the same time, he sees social cutting the company out of the picture as a sort of crowd-sourced self-service center.

Laura Avaya smaller

Laura Bassett is the director of customer experience management and emerging technologies for Avaya Inc. Avaya designs, builds and manages business communications applications for more than one million businesses worldwide, including more than 90 percent of the FORTUNE 500 companies.

Bassett believes that new technologies actually make the contact center more important than ever. She said developers are creating myriad new products that improve the voice response experience. This includes innovations such as website behavior tracking that instantly escalates a problem if the customer gets stuck in self service. Then, the responding agent has immediate context into the interaction based on what the caller was looking at on the website and their login information. This will prompt customers to start calling for service more.


Mike Hennessy is vice president of marketing for IntelliResponse. His company provides “Virtual Agents” and other customer self-service offerings. Previously, he worked for Truition and as a communications consultant for, Dell, The Royal Bank of Canada, Hewlett-Packard, and Pfizer Pharmaceuticals.

Hennessy believes customer service preference will continue to shift online as software developers release increasingly sophisticated services for voice, chat, self service and social. At the same time, all of these services still require human oversight. Whether that will be a call center is yet to be seen.

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