On "Seth's Blog":http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2008/11/how-to-answer-t.html he makes the claim that making customers go through a bunch of phone menus is bad for business. I understand this, and agree, but I disagree with a broader implication I think he's making: That contact centers _as technology solutions_ do not help when it comes to solving customer problems.
I don't believe this is true. Firstly, they help simple access to their data without the internet. Even though the internet is more prevalent than ever, sometimes all you have is a phone and a desire to find out how much money you have, or have spent, or... something.
Secondly, when someone answers the phone, you need to ensure that the person has enough knowledge, or the correct knowledge, to solve the problem the customer is having. There's also dealing with the financial pressure of measuring and controlling the flow of calls to ensure that agents aren't sitting in a call center twiddling their thumbs.
Thirdly, even if the problem is easy to solve and there's an agent available and you end up talking to them, there's the added problem of putting up with the _agent_ as they fiddle through _their_ system. Recently, I've had to wait for many minutes whilst agents had to fill in various details, and were in turn waiting for _their_ system to load data (likely web pages) from the server, or otherwise had to fill in unnecessary forms for common activities.
Don't get me wrong. I believe industry best practices for call centers can be much improved, and public hatred of phone systems is well justified. However, tacitly _hating_ them without reserve is not helpful.