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Call Center vs. Contact Center: 6 Key Differences

Call centers are often put under the same bracket as contact centers. However, the truth is somewhat deviated from reality and shouldn’t be used interchangeably. In reality, call centers are part of a bigger set, namely, contact centers.

Call center agents are trained to primarily handle inbound and outbound calls. Inbound calls are mostly about technical support, complaints, inquiries, delivery related issues, and general customization-based requests while outbound calls focus on cold calling or telemarketing, lead generation, scheduling sample demonstrations, customer retention, and fundraising for charitable institutions.

Call centers aim to provide reliable and timely customer service through a widely perceived channel – the phone.

Contact center agents are part of a bigger system that offers a wide range of services outside of just inbound and outbound calling. From indulging lengthy interactions to catering personalized support and requests, a contact center agent juggles multiple responsibilities across different channels. The channels include phone, email, social media, live chat, and more. Agents are assisted by advanced contact center software, an all-encompassing platform through which they can handle conversations requests pouring in from separate channels.

Contact centers aim to provide an omnichannel customer experience through strategically planned operations.

What are the key differentiators between a call center and a contact center?

This new-age era demands every customer to be educated and be aware of the sources that are present for their help. Here’s a list of key differentiators that will lead you to make informed decisions in the future.

  1. Channels of communication: Call centers and contact centers both specialize in customer service and outreach; but the channels they use to interact with their customers is different. While call center agents make use of a singular channel – the phone, contact center agents connect through multiple channels that are present now.Contact center agents engage with their customers through social media platforms such as Facebook, twitter, LinkedIn, emails, messaging apps, live chat, and more.
  2. Data collection: The channels through which customer data is collected vary. Call centers collect data through calls. They also get help from a specialized software to analyze calls and gain clarity on customer requirements and preferences. Contact centers collect data through all the aforementioned channels of communication. Once data is classified under the concerned categories, call center agents work towards customer profiling for a smoother CX.
  3. Industry specific usage: Contact centers strive to always provide a connected experience to their customers. For this reason, it is preferred by the travel and tourism industry, educational institutions, healthcare, and fintech companies. Whereas call centers connect through direct calls for catering requests, endorsing new schemes, offering technical support, and more. Thus, banking, manufacturing, and hardware industries prefer call centers over contact centers.
  4. Queue management: A queue is where customers wait to interact with a call center / contact center agent. Call centers have a hectic environment as a lot of work is expected to be done in a finite span of time. They make use of workforce management applications for forecasting and agent scheduling. Through these applications, calls are evenly distributed amongst agents on a priority basis. Contact centers communicate through various channels. A lot of planning, research, and follow-up has to be done in the background. Hence, most contact center agents are equipped with a tool or software that offers omnichannel routing, contact center analytics, CRM, and workforce management simultaneously.
  5. Customer self-service (CSS): Call centers use interactive voice response (IVR) systems. With nothing but the automated voice of an individual, every time you enter a number on the keypad, IVR systems are advanced enough to route callers to available agents and perform clerical tasks. The CSS arrangements of a contact center are far ahead than those of a conventional call center. The list includes chatbots, online knowledge forums, and dedicated FAQ pages. All these help customers find answers independently. Contact center CSS also includes push notifications, automated text messaging, and in-app chats.
  6. Agent skills: It is essential for both call center and contact center agents to have some basic customer service skills. They are:
    • a) excellent interpersonal communication,
    • b) empathy to understand the customer’s predicament, and
    • c) patience to guide the customer throughout the journey.

Additionally, given the different environments and set-ups, call center agents and contact center agents must be well-versed in certain areas. Call center agents offer customer service via the phone. This is why they should possess good verbal communication skills, a pleasant demeanor while interacting, and presence of mind for tricky situations. Contact center agents provide customer service through text-based mediums such as email, live chat, and social media engagement. Therefore, contact center agents must be good in written communication, possess a sound knowledge of the product/service they are trying to assist about, social media etiquettes, and multitasking.

In recent years, many contact centers include a call center, handling communication through all kinds of digital channels, such as social media, email, live chat, WhatsApp, text messaging, and more. With multiple channels, organizations can collect more data and offer the customers to interact with the brand in their chosen way. Having established that, it is important to note that both call centers and contact centers work towards achieving the same goal which is – improved customer experience.

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