SOME FUNCTIONS currently handled by call centres could transfer entirely to the Internet within the next decade, Peter Wood
warned the Scottish Call Centre Conference
this month. 'We are already seeing this happening with banking on the Internet', said Wood, founder of direct-sell financial services giant, Direct Line. 'Many of the transactions for which customers use telephone banking can now be done on a PC. And in some cases, it is cheaper to provide fulfilment using the Internet rather than an agent. New entrants will exploit that cost differential and cut-out the call centre just as Direct Line cut-out the broker.' The industry will continue to grow, he predicted, but only by adapting to the Internet, and by exploiting fiscal incentives and labour availability in other countries. Call centre owners must pass on cost benefits to their customers if they are to compete in this new environment.