Contact Center Experience: 6 Lessons from the Silver Screen

Contact centers are changing. A recent Forbes piece says they're in the midst of a "Model T" moment, swapping manual methods for automation and voice calls for chatbots. But as CustomerThink notes, human-to-human interaction can make a huge difference.

So what's the best bet? Automation or manual connections? Chatbots or human operators? Forget dry statistics and KPIs, let's dive into movie versions of the concept and see what the silver screen has to say about the contact center experience.

Man ensures customers and co-workers get an excellent contact center experience.
Here are six films that feature lessons learned through contact center experience. Check them out, and don't forget to take notes!

'The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel'

This 2011 film follows seven retired British ex-pats looking for a new start in Jaipur, India, at the luxurious but surprisingly low-cost Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Upon arrival, they discover the owner, Sonny, embellished the "luxury" adjective, hoping instead to attract wealthy British retirees whose money will go farther in India than the UK. Among the seven new arrivals is Evelyn (played by Dame Judi Dench), a recently widowed housewife with huge debts to pay off but few available funds.

The contact center side of the story starts when Evelyn realizes she can't even afford the Marigold and takes a job at a local marketing call center. Her role? Teaching staff how to better interact with their British contacts to close deals and make sales. It's a critical lesson for improving contact center experience: No matter where you're outsourcing, you need someone on the ground who understands your target market.

'8 Minutes Idle'

A 2012 indie film based on the '90s novel of the same name follows path-of-least-resistance protagonist Dan as the real world forces him to grow up and make hard choices. He doesn't have any money or anywhere to live, so he moves into the crawlspace above the bathroom in the call center where he works. While the movie wasn't well-reviewed, it did get points for exploring the intersection of life and work — when does one start to bleed into the other? For companies relying on call centers, this balance matters: Well-rested, well-respected, and well-compensated staff provide the best customer service possible for customers.

'Big Nothing'

This 2006 film starring Simon Pegg and David Schwimmer isn't exactly full of laughs and good cheer. Schwimmer's "Charlie" is an out-of-work professor down on his luck who gets fired on the first day of his contact center job, and then gets involved with a local scam artist. No surprise, things go south and the ending isn't great for our hero. The important plot point here? That Charlie loses his job at the call center on the first day. This really is a critical problem for companies; they need to ensure that they're hiring the right people for the right positions in evolving cloud contact centers. Staff members like Charlie not only tank productivity but waste precious time, since organizations then need to restart the hiring process and fill the gaps, leaving customers with longer wait times and poor service.

Want a better call center experience? There's a lot to learn from (wildly inaccurate) portrayals of contact centers on the silver screen.

'Outsourced'

Seattle call center manager Todd finds his job outsourced to India and is given one final project: train his replacement. Cross-cultural misunderstandings, romantic mix-ups, and achieved sales targets later, Todd finds a new life and the outsourcing trend continues with another, even more cost-effective option. The question is familiar — should companies keep contact center operations close to home or make the move overseas? Ultimately, it's a question of quality versus quantity: While larger call volumes at a lower cost are possible in outsourced locations, the contact center experience may suffer, in turn reducing consumer loyalty.

'The Other End of the Line'

Connections matter. That's the message of 2008's "The Other End of the Line," which finds Indian call center operator Priya smitten with handsome American Granger when he calls his credit card company's contact center to deal with fraudulent charges. The two agree to meet in San Francisco and — after a series of hilariously predictable events — wind up together. The lesson for call centers? Ignore the blossoming love part of the equation and focus on connections: Well-trained staff that are able to empathize with customers, assist with their immediate issue, and put them at ease are indispensable.

'Telephone Operator'

This is a real "silver screen" example. The 1937 film "Telephone Operator" depicts Helen Malloy covering the call center for a friend when the city is hit by a flood and her switchboard lights up. Rising to the occasion, she becomes the critical link between emergency services and panic-stricken citizens. The takeaway for modern-day organizations? Technology plays a critical role in the efficacy of call centers and the contact center experience. Sure, Helen managed with her switchboard, but it wasn't easy or smooth — consider upgrading contact center technology to help agents better serve customers while collecting critical call data.

Want a better call center experience? There's a lot to learn from (wildly inaccurate) portrayals of contact centers on the silver screen.

Is your contact center offering ready for its close-up? Talk to Vonage Business.

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