There are a number of intensely frustrating experiences in life: sitting in a traffic jam; waiting for a delivery which will arrive “some time between 7am and 9pm. No we can’t give you a narrower window”; being stuck in a phone queue waiting for what seems an eternity for an operator to pick up your call while listening to awful music and being told how important your call is.

Not all call centres are like this, of course, but how promptly a call is answered is an unmistakable sign of a company’s quality of service. However, before reallocating staff to the phone lines, take some time to consider whether it is actually the best use of your resources.

Between emails, texts, online forms, chats, apps and social media, there is now a multitude of digital channels available to communicate with customers. According to a recent survey of some 900 call centres in 72 countries by technology company Dimension Data, communication via digital channels now account for over a third of all contacts, and this number is expected to rise to more than 50% within the next 2 years.

Unsurprisingly, given the choice between waiting for 30 minutes before talking to anyone or sending an email, customers will choose the latter. There is also the aspect of availability: contact centres won’t always be open when it is convenient for a customer to call, namely in the evening or at the weekend, and this flexibility explains this growing trend.

Digital communication channels offer many other advantages to companies too. For example, some staff aren’t comfortable dealing with strangers over the phone and it can be easier to recruit operators to engage with customers through digital media.

Chats, texts, etc… leave a record of queries, which is very useful for large call centres where different operators are likely to deal with the same query, as they will have access to the whole history of the call. Likewise, whereas only a single call can be handled by one operator at a time, several digital interactions can be managed simultaneously, making a contact centre more cost-effective.

So does it mean that the days of traditional call centres are numbered? Absolutely not! There will always be queries that are too complex to handle digitally and which require direct human interaction as well as customers who don’t feel comfortable with computers. But it is likely that, in the future, calling a contact centre will be seen as the last resort.