Customer service is as old as sales, since the key to maintaining a presence in the marketplace is to ensure the satisfaction of customers. Few companies who do not have monopoly control can remain competitive for long if they fail to keep their customers happy. Throughout most of history, sales were made in person and effective customer service relied on direct interactions between buyers and sellers. Producers and sellers knew, and were known by, their customers on a personal level. With the development of less-personal purchases, both in the form of larger stores in which employees and customers could no longer make a direct connection and the development of mail-order purchases, sellers needed to create new methods by which to ensure the satisfaction of their customer base.
By the early 20th century, the telephone offered a solution to the problems created by less-personal sales. The telephone gave customers a path to contact both large sellers and distant producers more directly and conveniently. The increased communication made manufacturers and salesmen more responsive to the complaints and desires of their customers and helped not only to increase the effort to provide effective customer service, but also to gather the information necessary to develop new and better products and services. The development of the touch-tone telephone in the 1960s and the Interactive Voice Response (IVR) System in the 1970s increased businesses’ ability to handle significant customer call volumes and fostered an expansion of customer service groups. In the 1990s,companies began to develop dedicated help desk or customer service call centers to route and handle all inbound calls more effectively, allowing them to resolve service issues more quickly and thoroughly. The development and widespread use of the Internet by the end of the 20th century established email communication as a new and efficient means of customer communication.