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April 16th & 17th 2025

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Call Center Evolution: How Customer Interaction Has Changed Over the Years

With the rise in work-from-home call centers, CRM systems, and artificial intelligence, the aspects that make the best call centers have changed significantly in recent years. We’ve put together this blog to investigate call center history from their inception to now, so you can better understand the role they play in the modern customer experience. 

The Origins of Call Centers

To fully ascertain the relevance of modern call center evolution, you first have to get a better grasp on how the system was used in its first inception. Call centers have their origins in the 1960s, with the first known one being used at the Birmingham Press and Mail, which utilized a Private Automated Brand Exchange (PABX) system, allowing for both outside callers and staff to make use of multiple phone lines. 

By the 1980s, the term was well-known across the world, with call center employees in the states even unionizing to establish the Communications Workers of America

Early Functions and Roles:

Initially, call centers were mostly used as hubs for handling inbound and outbound telephone calls, offering basic customer service, and managing inputs to prevent core staff from becoming overwhelmed. In this vein, as industries like telecommunications, banking, and insurance became more global, people needed ways to access customer service reps without having to journey out of the house.  

Typical calls included: 

  • Basic customer inquiries

  • Booking requests

  • Issues and complaints

Beyond the use of PABX systems, early call centers were fairly basic, utilizing simple phones, manual routing, and paper-based records. With that in mind, the concept of remote call center jobs was utterly foreign, with every agent working from a desk in a physical office. 

Widespread Industry Adoption

While industries such as telecom and utilities started using call centers early on, the adoption wasn’t widespread from the start. It was only during the 1970s and 80s that sectors like retail and ticket sales started to utilize the system. The reasons for adoption were manifold, including: 

    • Improvements in Technology: As systems such as automatic call distribution (ACD) and computer-telephony integration (CTI) began to be worked in, more companies opted to set up call centers. 

    • Business Expansions: Businesses started to grow and enter new markets, meaning that call centers had to be employed as a means of effectively scaling up operations. 

  • Increased Demand: Similarly, when businesses scale up, this comes part and parcel with a degree of increased demand. This means an influx of customer interaction, resulting in the employment of call centers. 

  • Cost-Effectiveness & Efficiency: Customer service solutions such as in-person support or direct mail systems can be expensive and time-consuming. Call centers offered a centralized system, saving valuable time and money.

By the end of the 80s, most major companies had some sort of call center, whether for the processing of orders, the confirmation of bookings, or most-commonly, customer service. 

Globalization and the Rise of Outsourcing

In the 1990s, the dynamics of contact centers experienced a seismic shift – outsourcing. As the impacts of globalization started to bleed into more mainstream society, many businesses opted to outsource their call center operations to countries with lower labor costs. 

Typical countries that took on outsourced contact center work include: 

  • India

  • The Philippines

  • Mexico

  • Malaysia

  • Brazil

While this was an effective money-saving move for many businesses, it was criticized by many customers and competitors alike. Some argued that the practice damaged the western economy by taking jobs away from American/UK soil, while many also noted that the standards of customer service dropped due to issues like language barriers. 

Evolution of Modern Call Center Practices

While early call centers were fairly basic, they have made leaps and bounds in terms of sophistication and comprehensiveness. Computers were the true game changers in call center operations, allowing for many advances, including: 

Automation: Automation Tools such as predictive dialing and call routing were introduced into the fray, allowing for mundane tasks to be completed via computer, removing the need for human operators. 

Interactive Voice Response (IVR) Systems: These systems utilized voice recognition and keypad inputs, allowing for calls to be routed by pre-recorded voice messages, rather than having to be handled by human operators. 

Centralized Data: By keeping data in centralized locations on computers, agents were able to access core information about customers at the touch of a button, streamlining their support capabilities. 

Recording of Metrics: The automated recording of metrics like average handling time (AHT) and first-call resolution (FCR) to measure key performance indicators (KPIs) allowed centers to track their performance and adjust strategies accordingly. 

With these computerized tools, call and contact centers were able to reach new heights in terms of productivity and efficiency. 

Multichannel and Omnichannel Support: 

As the internet grew to become a more omnipresent aspect of modern life, multichannel and omnichannel support became prevalent in all businesses and contact centers. 

Multichannel Support: This was the integration of email, chat systems, and social media to allow customers to choose the avenue that best suited their preferences. 

Omnichannel Support: The step up from multichannel support, omnichannel systems allow for the same variety as multichannel systems, centralizing the information from each. This allows customers to switch between channels, with consistent responses across the board. 

These kinds of advances have been crucial to businesses trying to foster true satisfaction and loyalty amongst their customers. 

The Rise of Virtual Call Centers

As the traditional internet transitioned into the Cloud technology, employers had more of a capacity to facilitate remote work and widely spread networks of operatives. This means that today, remote call center jobs are commonplace, with employees able to work from anywhere with an internet connection, essentially eliminating the need for physical call centers. 

Benefits of the virtual model include: 

  • Reduced Costs: The lack of offices massively reduces overhead costs for businesses. 

  • Flexibility: Working from home generally facilitates a more flexible schedule, while also accommodating time zone differences.

  • Global Talent Pools: Virtual call centers allow for operatives from all over the world to share their insights, talents, and language capabilities. 

In a post-covid world, where working from home has become the norm for millions worldwide, this has allowed for call centers to remain operational and progressive. 

The Integration of Artificial Intelligence

In today’s business landscape, the hot topic on everyone’s tongue is of course AI, and the call center is no less of a suitable arena for these discussions. 

AI in Interaction:

With the rise of machine learning, natural language processing in virtual assistants, and chatbots, some are arguing that basic customer service employees are becoming all but obsolete. These tools are capable of handling routine tasks and responding to customer inquiries, offering serious support to businesses with masses of customer interaction to deal with.  

AI in Automation:

AI has taken automation steps ahead of predictive dialing and call routing, completing tasks like data entry and appointment scheduling without the need for manual entry. This has further enhanced efficiency, reducing wait times, eliminating human error, and ultimately leading to faster resolutions. AI can also offer valuable performance insights, leading to more positive customer experiences.

However, while AI has undoubtedly got plenty of great selling points, it’s not a topic without its fair share of controversy. 

Challenges Posed By Call Center Evolution:


Data Privacy: With so much data being stored and passed around all the time, many are concerned about how secure information is in such a highly digitized industry. 

Lack of Human Touch: Despite the need for efficiency, interactions require empathy and personalization, which will be hard to maintain in increasingly automated landscapes.

Potential for Obsolescence: Many argue that the insistence on using AI will force many out of work, doing damage to the economy and people’s lives. 

Future Trends and Predictions:

With any growing developments, there’s plenty of speculation about what’s to come next. We’ve collated some potential predictions of trends that are likely to arise in the near future. 

AI Will Continue to Advance: As systems become more sophisticated, AI will become more and more capable of providing an effective customer experience. 

Call & Contact Centers Will Become More Comprehensive: The modern contact centers will look more like comprehensive customer engagement hubs, leveraging AI and automation to anticipate and fulfill customer needs faster than ever.

Hybrid Models will Become the Norm: The combination of automation with human expertise will become commonplace, balancing efficiency with personalized service delivery.

These predictions indicate that while AI will continue to grow in prevalence, it will be about employees adapting to the new landscape rather than being replaced by machines. 


Looking back over the years, it’s clear to see that the call center has changed in ways that would’ve once seemed impossible. From the introduction of IVR systems to the eventual introduction of AI, call center modernization has resulted in leaps and bounds in the sense of technology, efficiency, and customer experience.

For more in-depth insights into call centers, technological advancements, and all things customer experience, you might want to attend this year’s Call & Contact Center Expo at the Las Vegas Convention Center. With keynote speeches from the best in the business and showcases from hundreds of cutting-edge companies, it’s set to be an industry highlight for all customer-facing businesspeople! 

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