Call centres which cannot cope with Internet and interactive television customer enquiries will be dead within two years.
According to Paul Broome, director of group IT at free ad newspaper Loot. Broome said at a recent call centre seminar: "The principle driver behind the migration to online services and, latterly, to interactive TV, is cost reduction.
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"Given that scenario and the relative overheads associated with recruitment retention and training of staff, the switch to more automated channels to market has become inevitable."
Broome said the introduction of the wireless application protocol (Wap), to enable customers to stay in touch with companies via the Web through handheld devices, would place even more pressure on call centres to become Web-enabled.
Broome said Loot currently receives 40,000 phone calls and more than 4,500 faxes and e-mail enquiries a day.
He claimed Loot.com was now the UK's fourth most popular Web site, and that since putting it on Cable & Wireless's interactive TV service in Manchester, it has received one million page views in just two months.