Businesses lose an estimated $75 billion annually due to poor customer service. It’s best to invest in solutions like call centers and contact centers to mitigate this problem.
The terms “call center” and “contact center” may seem interchangeable, but there are distinctive features to each solution. A call center company is a solution for customer communication via phone calls, while a contact center allows communication with customers across multiple channels, such as phone, live chat, email, and social media.
However, their differences don’t stop here. In this contact center vs call center article, we’re going to compare how these two solutions differ in terms of usage, workforce management, queue management, self-service options, cost, and more.
If you’re struggling to decide which solution can fill the needs of your business, we’re here to help!
Table of Contents
What Is a Call Center?
A call center, as its name implies, is solely focused on managing phone calls between a business and its client base. They’re primarily used for customer support, telemarketing, and market research.
There are many different types of call centers. Some handle only incoming calls (customer support), while some only make outgoing calls (sales). There are also blended call centers that make both inbound and outbound calls. To lessen the volume of calls that agents receive or make, they can also be automated via a call center IVR system.
Additionally, call centers can be in-house and managed by the company using them, or they can be outsourced to third-party companies.
What Is a Contact Center?
A contact center is similar to a call center, but in addition to phone calls, they also handle emails, live chat, SMS messages, video calls, and social media messages to and from a business’s client base. A contact center can also offer inbound-only, outbound-only, or blended communication.
Beyond providing additional modes of communication, contact centers also provide workforce management that allows admins to monitor, automate, and modify agent activity in real time.
Contact centers are mainly used by companies in healthcare, healthcare insurance, financial services, and eCommerce.
7 Key Differences Between a Contact Center and a Call Center
We already know that a call center typically manages phone calls, while a contact center handles communication via different channels. However, what other differences are worth noting in our contact center versus call center knowledge quest?
- Call center: Phone and SMS
- Contact center: Phone, SMS, live chat, email, video, social media, and more
In the past, customers could only contact a company’s customer service team through calls. Nowadays, there are more channels of communication, with emails being the preferred medium for 72% of consumers.
As we’ve discussed earlier, the primary difference between a contact center and a call center is the mode of communication they use to engage with customers. As is its namesake, call centers mainly use phone calls.
As such, they’re able to handle a high volume of calls, which is perfect for businesses that have become overwhelmed with the number of calls they’ve been getting daily.
Contact centers, on the other hand, can communicate with customers via multiple, primarily digital channels. Compared to just using one form of communication, having a multichannel approach can help in providing faster solutions and ensure a positive customer service experience.
Contact centers can either utilize a multichannel or omnichannel approach to customer communication. The former offers all forms of communication to the customers but they’re not integrated, while the latter combines numerous forms of communication into a single unified interface. This allows companies to have a complete view of a customer’s communication history during each interaction.
- Call center: Telemarketing, customer support, market research
- Contact center: Customer support and customer relationship management
Since call centers focus on providing phone-based customer interactions, they’re usually used for making inbound or outbound calls. This includes telemarketing and sales, technical support, customer support, and market research. Call centers are perfect for companies that only use one form of communication or those that are overwhelmed by the volume of calls they’re getting.
Since contact centers offer multichannel customer service, they are great for maintaining complex customer relationships. That’s why contact centers are a popular solution among companies in the healthcare, travel, education, insurance, and financial services industries.
- Call center: Highly dependent on agents
- Contact center: Less dependent on agents
Call centers depend largely on manpower. When an agent answers or makes a phone call, they can no longer make another one, so their time is consumed entirely by that one phone call. As a result, you’ll need to hire more people if you receive a larger amount of phone calls, such as during peak hours and certain seasons.
Compared to call centers, contact centers provide businesses the option to scale their customer service without having to expand their teams. Contact center agents can handle multiple chats or email conversations, allowing them to provide faster resolutions in larger volumes without compromising the customer experience and thereby reducing the need to hire more people.
- Call center: Call distribution
- Contact center: Omnichannel management
Call center software features automatic call distribution systems that route incoming calls to appropriate agents and departments. This helps improve efficiency and productivity.
Meanwhile, contact centers use advanced queue management tools, such as Zendesk, to effectively route customer inquiries and concerns coming in through multiple channels. For example, this prevents emails from being routed to agents who are on a call.
Like the call distribution system in call centers, this helps improve support efficiency and save time. Such systems distribute support tickets to the appropriate department based on the communication channel, keywords, and customer history.
Proactive Versus Reactive Support
- Call center: Reactive
- Contact center: Proactive and reactive
Another category in the contact center versus call center comparison is the proactiveness of the support provided. An example is when a business proactively sends alerts and notifications to customers in case of a shipping delay of products.
Customers appreciate it when companies are proactive; in particular, statistics show that 77% view a company positively after experiencing this type of support.
In this regard, call centers fail to hit the mark. Since they mainly offer phone support, they can’t predict issues that customers are facing. The data their software captures is often lacking, so it doesn’t provide valuable insight for a proactive support approach.
Contact centers function in the digital space, so they have the upper hand when it comes to providing proactive support. Data is available and abundant in cloud-based solutions, so you get a complete view of a customer’s history and can offer assistance proactively. Companies that have adopted this type of support include Slack, Netflix, and Amazon.
- Call center: Voice bots, IVR
- Contact center: Chatbot, self-service portal, and community forums
With the vast amount of resources available today, consumers prefer to find out the answers to their questions without relying on a company’s support team. Self-service options empower consumers while reducing agent workload.
Call centers provide self-service options via an IVR system. However, statistics show that 61% of consumers think that having such systems in place negatively affects their experience. If you’re wondering why, most of them think it’s too time-consuming, while others find it irritating to have to repeat themselves over and over again.
However, some modern call center software provides voice bots that immediately provide answers to simple queries, thereby improving customer satisfaction.
Contact centers have a more sophisticated self-service approach. You can access a company’s self-service portal, where you can find solutions to common issues. If you still can’t find an answer, you can get immediate answers from a chatbot. If your problem still isn’t resolved after all that, an agent can come in and help.
- Call center: Cheaper option
- Contact center: More expensive option
Call centers typically cost lesser than contact centers. The former typically charge $50 to $100 per agent per month, while the latter charges an average of $60 to $100 per agent per month. Contact centers offer a more comprehensive solution to your business needs, so it’s only understandable that it would cost more.
Additionally, hiring people in contact centers can be costly because they need to undergo a longer training period to be well-versed in handling various forms of communication.
Call Center Vs Contact Center: Which One Does Your Business Need?
By now, you should already have a pretty clear picture of which of the two solutions will be most beneficial for your business. However, we’d like to summarize it for you.
When to Use a Call Center
- Your company’s main communication channel is VoIP audio calling.
- Your business has scaled to a point where you need to manage calls more efficiently without overwhelming employees with numerous communication channels.
- You need call center reporting to gain insight into how to drive up customer engagement.
- You want an affordable customer communication solution that still offers flexibility for employees.
When to Use a Contact Center
- You want to increase customer engagement levels by adopting a multichannel or omnichannel communication system.
- You find out through market research that your customer base prefers to reach you via other communication channels other than voice calls.
- You want to lessen agent workload by using comprehensive self-service options.
Contact Center Vs Call Center Conclusion
Both solutions have their own advantages and disadvantages; it all depends on the gaps you need to fill in your business. What’s important is that your knowledge of contact centers versus call centers has now widened, and you have clarity on the differences between the two. Now, you can make a firm and informed decision on whether your business needs a single-channel or multichannel approach to customer communication.