A Brief History of Customer Care

Gone are the days when people had to argue their way around a refund for a faulty product they bought or service they were not happy with. Customer care revolutionized the relationship between businesses and their buyers.

From the invention of the first phone through the introduction of e-mail to the AI era of bots and chatbots – let’s go back in time to see how this industry has evolved to leave us where we are today.

Where did it all begin?

Back in the day, if you had a complaint to make, the only way to get customer support was to write a letter or two or to go to raise the stink personally … on foot, which, as one can imagine, was often inconvenient.

General Store Owners, Source: Laurel Mercantile

Between 1760 and 1840 – when the Industrial Revolution took place – many factories with high-speed machines were built, and products were made at a volume never seen before. More products meant more buyers, and more buyers meant, of course, more complainers. Hence, the demand for qualitative customer support ascended.

Women working on machines at the American Woolen Company, Boston, Source: Britannica.com

Thankfully, Alexander Graham Bell invented the phone just on time (1876). It not only hanged the entire course of human communication but reversed the entire logic of the business-customer relationship. As telephones grew accessible, businesses became reachable.

The first telephone, 1876, Source: American Academy of Arts and Science

The new way of communication revealed hundreds of new verticals to explore and slowly, but steadily shaped the need for an external business entity, which would take over the organization and the management of the already huge number of calls-to-be-processed, namely the Call Centres. The recorded set-up of call centres is around the 1960s. Call centres allowed companies to take even more calls and offer better support.

Long distance telephone operators, 1969, Source: tumblr.com

Moving forward

The invention of the computer further altered the course of customer care, especially when the Internet emerged a decade later, in 1983. Communication became immediate and customer support way more convenient.

The iconic Charley Kline in 1969, then a student, captured at UCLA sending the first message on the #ARPANET (the precursor to the Internet) to the Stanford Research Institute. What did it say? It said, “Lo.” Source: Los Angeles Magazine.

The 80s also brought up the very first Customer relationship management (CRM) under the name of ACT, which fostered a more sophisticated customer data tracking system. Companies then began rewarding loyal customers by providing gifts and special discounts.

Glancing at the future

Customer care nowadays is built upon technology. CRMs are now so developed that they manage businesses’ interactions with both current and potential clients.

Social platforms such as Facebook and Twitter arose and were accommodated to suit customer support needs accordingly.

Moreover, AI now finds its way through customer interactions, too. And as some predict, it might completely substitute human agents in the span of a few years.

Pepper, the robot, uses inner speech to solve moral conflict, Source: The Guardian

Although this fact is debatable, it proves that customer service has walked a long, long way in just less than two centuries. Impressible! And we can’t wait to see what it would be like in two more.

Share now: