The Evolution of the Contact Center


Contact centers (traditionally known as call centers) have always been a crucial part of the customer experience. However, in past decades, the role of contact centers has been drastically evolving in order to meet customer expectations.

When thinking about “call centers”, most people imagine a roomful of robotic customer service agents answering customer support phone calls. But this isn’t necessarily the case as the new meaning of this term now reflects a much wider function.

In order to appreciate where we’re going, it’s important to remember how we got here. Before reflecting on the new standard, let’s take a mini history lesson to understand the evolution of contact centers and then close on what to expect in the future.

Early Communications: 1840s – 1960s

1844 started the period of time known as the “Early Communications” era.

Let’s start with the first instance of long distance communication. Samuel Morse, an American painter, and inventor known for the invention of the telegraph and Morse Code (co-inventor, technically), sent the first ever telegraph message. The telegraph was sent from Washington D.C. to Baltimore, Maryland. It was the first major communication innovation of it’s kind.

In 1876, the first successful phone call was made possible by inventor Alexander Graham Bell.

1894 brought about the invention of the telephone switchboard. Before this innovation, telephones were sold or rented out in pairs, and communication was limited to the owners of the telephone pair. To correct this limitation, the telephone switchboard allowed wealthy individuals who had telephones at home to call others freely.

In the 1960s, Automatic Call Distributor (ACD) technology was first introduced. This innovation was the first foundational step towards the concept of the call center (besides the telephone itself!). ACD technology allowed large companies to filter incoming calls and assign them to agents.

The primary purpose behind call centers was to provide more efficiency in business. The 1960s marked the start of a more cost-efficient way for people and businesses to communicate.

The Start of the Technological Evolution: 1960s – 1980s

During the 1960s, up to the beginning of the 1970s, the Private Automated Business Exchange (PABX) system came into prominence in England. PABX was an automated telephone switching system within private enterprises. The primary purpose of this system was to serve subscription and travel industries.

PABX systems started to include ACD technology, which allowed the development of wide-range contact centers. In 1965, the first instance of a call center using GEC PABX 4 ACD was set up in the United Kingdom at Birmingham Press and Mail.

By the 1970s, the advancement of Interactive Voice Response (IVR) was introduced into call centers. IVR technology allowed a computer (automated system) to interact with callers through the use of voice and DTMF tones inputted via a keypad.

In the 1980s, the term “call center” became widely used. At the same time, the outbound dialer was first introduced, which created more opportunities for call centers in marketing and sales. During this time, call centers became more computer-integrated, which made recognizing callers much easier for agents.

The Beginning of the Internet Era: 1980s – mid-1990s

The 1980s through the mid-1900s was the era where the Internet was first introduced to the world, and its invention drove major dynamic growth for businesses of all types.

The Internet created a new channel for customers to reach out to companies with questions, complaints, and compliments. Businesses started developing websites to serve this new medium of contact. The internet brought about the rise of chat, like the one-on-one chat (known today as live chat support), which allowed contact center personnel to interact and serve customers directly.

In 1983, the traditional term “call center” was changed to “contact center.” Technology was responsible for this change, as contact centers were beginning to take on a multichannel environment thanks to the Internet.

ARPANET adopted TCP/IP on January 1, 1983, and from there, researchers began to assemble the “network of networks.” But it wasn’t until 1990 that it took on a more recognizable form.

In the 1990s, online chat became more popular, making online web chat possible. By this time, CRM software was also starting to develop. This marked the start of a new level of providing a better customer experience for businesses.

By the mid-1990s, electronic mail, (or “email” as it is known today) was introduced. This tool would become the most popular communication means for consumers all over the world.

Contact Centers: 1990s – early 2000s

At this point in time, companies starting taking advantage of available technology that allowed them to place online ads, but they were still not able to properly calculate metrics around how many people would see these ads. As a result, companies were struggling to cope with orders and demand. Customers had multiple channels from which to contact companies, which confused customer support employees. Though online ads provided many opportunities for businesses, they also represented challenges for companies trying to scale their services and fulfill operations.

Despite these struggles, more innovations kept popping up around this time, which resulted in continuous improvements for contact centers.

The Private Branch Exchange (PBX), a private telephone network used within a company, began its own set of improvements. These improvements lead to cost-savings for internal phone calls.

From the 1990s to early 2000s, cloud technologies were also introduced – notably in 1999. Salesforce delivers enterprise applications through their website and software solutions.

By the early 2000s, social media and mobile use were on the rise. Social media provided a new point of contact for customers looking to connect with brands, and mobile phones made it easier to get in touch, affecting overall call volume. Brands seized the opportunity to take these tools into account within their customer service departments.

The Modern Contact Center: mid-2000s – present

In 2007, the first ever iPhone was released – another big turn for mobility and communications. The move from simple mobile phones to smartphones represented a new way for companies to stay in touch with consumers.

By 2011, Workforce Optimization (WFO) solutions were introduced. These solutions helped customer service agents with time management and helped them to create a structure for dealing with high-volume call hours.

In 2014, software solutions were created to manage the web, email, mobile/phone, social media, SMS, and other channels (also known as single omnichannel). Glia is a great example of an enterprise-level omnichannel platform because it integrates the data gathered from each of these customer touch points, allowing agents to act on it in an organized fashion.

The Contact Center of the Future

Technology will continue to push the limits for what the contact center will become. We believe the contact center of the future will be one where context ultimately directs the customer experience to a place where minimal customer effort is needed. At Glia, we believe we’ll see Bots becoming more prevalent, but in a way where they serve as a supplement to humans – not a replacement.

What do you see happening in the future for contact centers? Tweet @Glia with your thoughts, and we’ll share our favorites!


  1. Its like you read my mind! You appear to know so much about this, like you wrote the book in it or something. I think that you could do with some pics to drive the message home a bit, but other than that, this is wonderful blog. A fantastic read. I will certainly be back.|

  2. Appreciating the dedication you put into your site and in depth information you present. It’s good to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same old rehashed information. Fantastic read! I’ve saved your site and I’m including your RSS feeds to my Google account.|

  3. Can I simply say what a relief to discover an individual who genuinely knows what they’re discussing on the net. You actually realize how to bring an issue to light and make it important. More people ought to check this out and understand this side of the story. I was surprised you are not more popular since you most certainly have the gift.|

  4. This is very fascinating, You’re a very professional blogger. I have joined your feed and sit up for in quest of extra of your wonderful post. Also, I’ve shared your site in my social networks|

  5. Excellent post. I used to be checking continuously this weblog and I’m impressed! Very useful info specifically the remaining section 🙂 I care for such information a lot. I was seeking this certain info for a very long time. Thanks and best of luck. |

  6. Howdy I am so happy I found your blog, I really found you by mistake, while I was looking on Askjeeve for something else, Regardless I am here now and would just like to say thanks a lot for a marvelous post and a all round entertaining blog (I also love the theme/design), I don’t have time to go through it all at the moment but I have book-marked it and also added your RSS feeds, so when I have time I will be back to read a lot more, Please do keep up the superb work.|

  7. Hi! This post could not be written any better! Reading this post reminds me of my old room mate! He always kept chatting about this. I will forward this article to him. Pretty sure he will have a good read. Thanks for sharing!|

  8. I just couldn’t leave your website before suggesting that I extremely loved the usual information an individual supply on your visitors? Is going to be back often to check up on new posts|

  9. We stumbled over here by a different page and thought I might check things out. I like what I see so now i am following you. Look forward to looking at your web page again.|

  10. This is very interesting, You are a very skilled blogger. I have joined your feed and look forward to seeking more of your excellent post. Also, I’ve shared your web site in my social networks!|

  11. I was excited to find this web site. I need to to thank you for ones time due to this fantastic read!! I definitely really liked every bit of it and I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff on your site.|

  12. Thank you for some other great post. The place else may anybody get that type of information in such a perfect method of writing? I have a presentation next week, and I’m on the look for such info.|

  13. Hi, Neat post. There is an issue with your web site in internet explorer, might check this? IE still is the marketplace chief and a good part of folks will pass over your great writing because of this problem.|

  14. I don’t even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was good. I don’t know who you are but definitely you’re going to a famous blogger if you are not already 😉 Cheers!|

  15. Hello very nice site!! Guy .. Excellent .. Amazing .. I will bookmark your blog and take the feeds also? I’m happy to seek out so many helpful information right here in the submit, we want develop more strategies in this regard, thanks for sharing. . . . . .|

  16. Thanks for another excellent post. The place else may just anyone get that kind of information in such a perfect manner of writing? I’ve a presentation subsequent week, and I am at the search for such information.|

  17. Wow that was odd. I just wrote an extremely long comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t appear. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again. Anyways, just wanted to say wonderful blog!|

  18. First of all I would like to say wonderful blog! I had a quick question in which I’d like to ask if you do not mind. I was interested to know how you center yourself and clear your mind prior to writing. I have had a difficult time clearing my mind in getting my ideas out. I truly do take pleasure in writing but it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are lost just trying to figure out how to begin. Any suggestions or tips? Many thanks!|

  19. Have you ever thought about including a little bit more than just your articles? I mean, what you say is fundamental and all. However just imagine if you added some great visuals or videos to give your posts more, “pop”! Your content is excellent but with pics and clips, this website could undeniably be one of the very best in its niche. Amazing blog!|

  20. Whats up are using WordPress for your site platform? I’m new to the blog world but I’m trying to get started and create my own. Do you require any html coding expertise to make your own blog? Any help would be greatly appreciated!|

  21. I have learn some good stuff here. Definitely worth bookmarking for revisiting. I surprise how so much effort you put to create this sort of fantastic informative site.|

  22. We’re a group of volunteers and starting a new scheme in our community. Your website provided us with valuable information to work on. You’ve done an impressive job and our whole community will be grateful to you.|

  23. Admiring the commitment you put into your website and detailed information you offer. It’s nice to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same unwanted rehashed material. Excellent read! I’ve saved your site and I’m adding your RSS feeds to my Google account.|

  24. Very good blog! Do you have any tips and hints for aspiring writers? I’m hoping to start my own blog soon but I’m a little lost on everything. Would you propose starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid option? There are so many options out there that I’m totally overwhelmed .. Any tips? Kudos!|

  25. Thanks for a marvelous posting! I truly enjoyed reading
    it, you could be a great author.I will be sure to bookmark your
    blog and definitely will come back very soon. I want to encourage you continue your great job, have a nice evening!

  26. Cool blog! Is your theme custom made or did you download it from somewhere?
    A design like yours with a few simple adjustements would really make my blog jump out.
    Please let me know where you got your design. Cheers

  27. We are a bunch of volunteers and opening a brand new scheme in our community. Your web site offered us with helpful info to work on. You have done an impressive task and our whole neighborhood will be thankful to you.|

  28. Simply want to say your article is as astounding. The clearness to your submit is simply excellent and that i can assume you’re a professional on this subject. Well together with your permission allow me to seize your RSS feed to keep up to date with forthcoming post. Thanks a million and please carry on the rewarding work.|

  29. Wonderful goods from you, man. I have understand your stuff previous to and you’re just extremely wonderful. I actually like what you’ve acquired here, certainly like what you’re stating and the way in which you say it. You make it enjoyable and you still take care of to keep it sensible. I cant wait to read much more from you. This is really a wonderful web site.|

  30. What i do not realize is in truth how you’re no longer actually a lot more well-liked than you might be now. You are so intelligent. You already know thus significantly on the subject of this topic, produced me for my part consider it from so many numerous angles. Its like men and women don’t seem to be involved unless it’s something to accomplish with Woman gaga! Your personal stuffs outstanding. Always care for it up!|

  31. Hello There. I discovered your blog the usage of msn. This is an extremely neatly written article. I will be sure to bookmark it and return to learn more of your useful information. Thanks for the post. I will definitely return.|

  32. Thanks for a marvelous posting! I really enjoyed reading it, you can be a great author.I will be sure to bookmark your blog and will eventually come back very soon. I want to encourage one to continue your great job, have a nice evening!|

  33. Hi, i feel that i noticed you visited my blog so i got here to go back the choose?.I’m trying to to find things to improve my website!I suppose its good enough to make use of some of your concepts!!|

  34. Wonderful blog! I found it while searching on Yahoo News. Do you have any tips on how to get listed in Yahoo News? I’ve been trying for a while but I never seem to get there! Many thanks|

  35. I feel that is among the so much important information for me. And i’m satisfied studying your article. But wanna statement on some general things, The web site taste is wonderful, the articles is actually excellent : D. Excellent process, cheers|

  36. Wonderful beat ! I wish to apprentice while you amend your site, how can i subscribe for a blog web site? The account helped me a applicable deal. I have been a little bit acquainted of this your broadcast offered bright clear idea|

  37. I seriously love your website.. Excellent colors & theme. Did you make this site yourself? Please reply back as I’m looking to create my own personal blog and want to learn where you got this from or exactly what the theme is named. Thanks!|

  38. This design is wicked! You obviously know how to keep a reader entertained. Between your wit and your videos, I was almost moved to start my own blog (well, almost…HaHa!) Great job. I really enjoyed what you had to say, and more than that, how you presented it. Too cool!|

  39. My brother suggested I might like this web site. He was totally right. This post truly made my day. You can not imagine simply how much time I had spent for this information! Thanks!|

  40. I’m now not sure where you are getting your info, however good topic. I needs to spend some time studying much more or working out more. Thanks for excellent information I used to be in search of this info for my mission.|

  41. I blog often and I genuinely thank you for your information. The article has really peaked my interest. I will book mark your website and keep checking for new details about once per week. I opted in for your RSS feed too.|

  42. This is very interesting, You’re a very skilled blogger. I’ve joined your rss feed and look forward to seeking more of your fantastic post. Also, I have shared your site in my social networks!|

  43. Thanks for the marvelous posting! I genuinely enjoyed reading it, you can be a great author.I will
    be sure to bookmark your blog and will come back someday.
    I want to encourage you continue your great work, have a nice morning!

  44. Thanks for a marvelous posting! I seriously enjoyed reading it, you may be a great author.
    I will be sure to bookmark your blog and may come back later on. I want to encourage yourself to
    continue your great work, have a nice day!

  45. Aw, this was an incredibly nice post. Spending some time and actual effort to create a very good article… but what can I say… I hesitate a whole lot and never manage to get anything done.|

  46. Magnificent items from you, man. I’ve bear in mind your stuff previous to and you are just extremely great. I actually like what you’ve got here, certainly like what you’re saying and the way in which wherein you say it. You are making it enjoyable and you still care for to stay it smart. I can not wait to learn much more from you. That is really a great site.|

  47. Hi, I do believe this is a great site. I stumbledupon it 😉 I am going
    to come back yet again since i have saved as
    a favorite it. Money and freedom is the greatest way to change,
    may you be rich and continue to help others.

  48. Hi there, just became aware of your blog through Google, and found that it is really informative.
    I’m gonna watch out for brussels. I’ll be grateful if you continue this in future.
    A lot of people will be benefited from your writing. Cheers!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here