Conversational AI • Last Updated 9/29/2023

Contact Center vs. Call Center: Here's How to Choose

Unsure of the differences between contact centers and call centers? Learn about the limitations and benefits of both.

By Brian Segal

Contact center vs. call center agents

It’s not uncommon for business lingo to get lost in translation. From the outside, buzzwords and titles seem interchangeable. For industry experts though, even seemingly minor differences can hold significant weight.

On the surface, the difference between call center vs. contact center seems like a grammatical decision. But the truth is, experts in the industry understand the subtle, yet crucial difference between the two.

Download: Contact Center Fact Sheet

In the article, we’ll highlight the key differences between call centers and contact centers. And more importantly, we’ll cover which model is the best fit for your business needs.

Call Center vs Contact Center

Aside from the name, the main difference between a call center and contact center is their communication capabilities. As the name suggests, a call center focuses solely on voice calls as a means of communication. On the other hand, a contact center has the ability to leverage multiple channels of communication.

To some, the difference may seem insignificant. However, as business communication continues to evolve, it’s important for companies to meet customers where they are. So, let’s take a deeper look into some of the key differences between call and contact centers to help you determine which approach your business will need.

What is a Call Center?

A call center is a specific department within a company that handles all inbound or outbound voice communications. Historically, call centers were large, open concept floors hardwired with phone lines where agents can field and make calls. Traditional call centers still exist today, but some companies have opted to go digital with what are known as virtual call centers.

These virtual call centers have all the same capabilities of their physical counterparts. However, one of the key differences is their flexibility.

With VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) options, call center agents can work remotely from just about anywhere in the world. In fact, it’s not uncommon to find call center agents with complete home setups, who are managed by team leads in a completely different time zone.

What is a Contact Center?

Similarly to a call center, a contact center typically refers to the department within a company that handles inbound and outbound communications. These channels include voice calls, live chat, customer support emails, and more. Contact centers tend to rely on the internet-based solutions for all their communication needs.

Also known as customer interaction centers, contact centers have been growing in popularity. The reason being, contact centers help facilitate an omnichannel approach to customer care and service, often resulting in improved satisfaction.

Which is Best for Your Business?

At this point, you’re probably wondering whether a call center or contact center is the right solution for you. For most businesses, a contact center makes the most sense. The reason being, it can handle all your communication channels, including voice.

Aside from call center limitations, there are also some key factors we believe a contact center will always be the best choice for your business. Here’s what you need to know.

1. Better Customer Experience

Building a contact center offers your customers a better overall experience. Voice calls will always be an important part of your business, but today’s consumers aren’t always looking to speak with your team over the phone. In fact, research suggests that nearly one-third of smartphone users would opt to remove the ability to make phone calls altogether.

This doesn’t mean that voice calls will be phased out any time soon. But it does point to a larger shift in the preferred method of communication. It’s why you’ll find more businesses adding instant chat features to their company website, or send SMS messages for important updates.

Contact centers provide options and flexibility to consumers who may find phone calls to be inconvenient or intrusive. Which is why contact centers are becoming more popular than their call center counterparts.

2. Actionable Insights

When it comes to the battle between contact centers and call centers, it’s hard to ignore one simple fact. Call centers rely solely on the information provided by the caller. While there are companies and databases that can help provide additional information, for the most part, your business will only have access to information provided by the caller.

On the flip side, contact centers offer additional insights into your audience profile.

With most contact center software, you’ll get a deeper understanding of who your customers are. Through different channels, you’ll be able to compile different data points into a customer profile that you just can’t get through voice calls alone.

3. Automation Through Self-Service

IVR (Interactive Voice Response) systems have been around for quite some time. So for call centers, automation is nothing new. While IVR systems have definitely evolved to recognize voice commands, automation is still somewhat limited.

With contact centers, automation has been taken to completely new heights.

For example, chatbots and messaging software can provide customers with answers in real-time. Additionally, the information requested is often received much more quickly, and is a far less frustrating customer experience.

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