Thought Leadership

What’s the Difference Between a Call Center and a Contact Center?

Contact Center Employee

Outsourcing with call and contact centers has grown in popularity over the years, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, many companies were unprepared for the complications that came with the ongoing pandemic, and because of this, there has been a surge in demand for call and contact centers. Many people and businesses do not know the difference between a call center and a contact center, oftentimes not knowing which they need.

This article will go in-depth on what exactly call centers and contact centers are as well as the main differences between the two. Hopefully, this article will aide you in deciding which one will work perfectly for you. 

What is a call center?

A call center is where outbound and inbound calls are made, usually for customer service or telemarketing purposes. A call center’s primary communication tool is making and receiving calls for a business. Traditional call centers focus on customer service issues but can assist with telemarketing, debt collection, billing, and more.

Here are the different types of call centers you should be aware of: 

Inbound call centers

Inbound call centers focus on only taking calls from customers and assisting them with various issues. An inbound call center is a good option for your business if you have a high volume of calls. 

Outbound call centers

Outbound call centers typically make calls to your customers and clients. These types of call centers help with tasks such as appointment setting, customer surveys, billing information, and even marketing research if they have the capacity for it. 

Omnichannel call centers

Omnichannel call centers expand beyond just making and taking calls to/from customers; they use additional communication tools to address each customer’s needs. This type of call center is helpful to use to keep up with the trends. Many people do not like to call or be called, so it is essential to use other communication channels. These types of call centers are morphing into contact centers more and more. 

Automated call centers

These types of call centers are more modern and have the ability to offer 24/7 customer service through automation. These services include automated call services and customer service, which offer more availability.  Use this type of call center when you want to offer 24/7 customer service to your clientele. 

Keep these various types of call centers in mind when deciding what type of center is best for your business. There are many to choose from, so make ensure you are making the right decision. 

What is a contact center?

A contact center is typically a centralized office that handles all inbound and outbound customer interactions and not just through calls. In addition to phone calls, contact center agents also deal with customer inquiries via email, web chat, and social media. Contact centers often have a more omnichannel approach, meaning they focus on providing a seamless customer experience regardless of the channel the customer uses. 

A contact center can adapt more quickly to new trends and technology because they use various channels for customer contact. They may use a universal system for the different communication channels or separate systems for each channel. These systems include web chat, automatic call systems, email response management systems, intelligent call routing, and so much more to facilitate customers.  

Much like call centers, there are several different types of contact centers, such as:

Inbound contact centers

Inbound contact centers operate the same as inbound call centers but do much more than take inbound calls. They can receive other types of inbound contact like SMS texts, emails, and web chats. Use this type of center when your company needs help reaching out to customers. 

Outbound contact centers

As mentioned, outbound contact centers operate like their call center counterparts but with more channels. Outbound contact centers typically use customer relationship management (CRM) systems to keep track of contacts, leads, and calls. CRM often comes with various channels to communicate with customers for billing, scheduling, and marketing issues. 

On-premise contact centers

These types of contact centers reside where the name implies, on the premise of your company. On-premise contact centers mean that you are not outsourcing this type of labor, and while you do have more control over this area, your business is responsible for all equipment, labor, and other technology costs. 

Virtual contact centers

A company typically outsources virtual call centers. This way, a company is not responsible for any additional costs. Your company should still have access to the software used by the contact center to get information and updates on cases. They may have many different types of communication channels and software since they are not just a call center. 

Use this information to decide what type of contact center suits your company best. 

7 Differences Between a Call Center and Contact Center

Now that you know the definitions of a call and contact center, it’s time to dive deeper into the main differences between the two. It’s important to know and understand these differences in order to make the best choice for your company and its needs. With technological advances in recent years, the line between the two has become blurred and has caused confusion. Here are the seven main differences between the two:

#1: Size of facility, staff, and workload ability 

The size of each facility can vary, but call centers are generally much smaller than contact centers. Call centers only do inbound and outbound calls, so not as much equipment and staff are needed compared to a contact center. However, contact centers are responsible for much more than call centers, which will be discussed more in another point. 

Contact centers allow your customer more of a choice in how they receive assistance, and with the COVID-19 pandemic as well as shifts in communication, this is a great feature to add for your customers. For this reason, contact centers typically have a more extensive staff, facility, and capacity for more customers. In addition, with more staff and equipment, contact centers are able to have lower wait times and assist more customers throughout the day, especially with the use of automation.

The ability to handle an immense workload has led many companies to use contact centers instead of call centers. Whether it be on-premise or an outsourced contact center, businesses are more drawn to contact centers for their complex customer service needs. The limited staff and services that come with call centers stop companies from using their services over contact centers. As mentioned above, some call centers are forced to turn into contact centers to stay in business. 

#2: Types of technology used 

Since call centers are only responsible for inbound and outbound calls, limited technology is needed. The technology required for call centers can include:

These examples are only a fraction of what a call center may need to operate and assist customers fully. In addition, many call centers handle the workload of several different companies, so many kinds of software may be required, or one large software with separate sections for each company is used. As a result, the technology needed can vary per company and call center. 

A contact center needs even more types of technology since they offer various forms of communication.  Contact centers handle much more than just inbound and outbound calls. They manage communication channels such as social media, emails, and web chats, so a different type of technology may be needed for each channel.  The required technology for contact centers can include:

This is just a small list of what technology a contact center may use. There is much more technology that goes into successful operation. With all these various technologies involved, contact centers may require more of their budget for software and other technology needs, as well as more staff. 

#3: Services offered to businesses

Another difference between these two types of centers is the services they offer. As mentioned, a call center typically provides inbound and outbound call services for customer service assistance, whereas a contact center will offer various customer interaction services. Here are the services a contact center may provide to your business:

If your company needs assistance with these types of communications, a contact center is the way to go. Call centers are rapidly becoming outdated as they only do calls, and consumers typically do not like to call or be called due to increased spam calls and scams. Also, consumers no longer want to waste time on the phone, instead, they want quick answers online or through a bot. All consumers want is the best customer service possible without talking on the phone. Ensure that all other channels of communication are up-to-date and ready to help a large consumer base to keep up with this trend. 

#4: Availability of analytics 

Contact centers are able to gather more information from your customers compared to call centers. By using other technology, it is easy to collect and store personal information from your customer’s inquiries. This information can include:

These analytics can be helpful when wanting to analyze your customer database for marketing or research purposes. Call centers can only have so much information since all they do is make and receive calls. Some customers may not feel comfortable giving much personal information over the phone. An online form can reassure customers their information is safe with firewalls and other security measures. 

There has been a rise in consumers no longer trusting phone calls from unknown numbers. People do not want to answer unsolicited telemarketing or spam calls. It is now easier to get ahold of people through SMS text, or even email, and contact centers are easily keeping up with that trend through their analytics on how customers prefer to communicate. 

#5: Cost of services

The cost of each type of center varies per month. Some centers charge by the agent, for example:

As you can see, the cost of using a contact center is higher than for a call center. This is because contact centers have to utilize many communication channels, not just calls, so their cost will always be higher. These prices are also expected to rise due to inflation, labor shortages, and many new companies being started. New companies and old companies need outsourced labor for their customer service needs. 

Utilizing a call or contact center is an excellent investment for any company; just be sure you have the means to maintain a contract. It can seem like a great deal of money to some, but it does with a large portion of work for any company. Look into which type of center has the best prices and suits your company’s needs best. 

#6: Types of companies catered to

Call and contact centers are more or less popular with certain companies. Every company has different needs. Some companies need only inbound and outbound calls to be made on their behalf. Other companies may need all forms of communication to be done for them. It depends on the type of company as well as how prominent its client base is.

Some types of companies that may only need call centers are:

These types of companies do not need other types of communication often, so a call center is best. Inbound and outbound calls are their priority, so all they typically need is a call center. Some may even have their own small departments for customer service, but outsourcing is becoming increasingly popular. 

As with call centers, certain companies will benefit more from a contact center. These companies include:

Companies such as these may require more methods of communication. For example, online retailers have grown to use chatbots, emailing, and texting to communicate with their customers. Also, financial and insurance agencies often communicate through email, so a contact center is the best fit. 

It all comes down to the needs of the company and the budget. Some companies cannot afford a complete contact center even if they need it. Ensure you are allocating your budget to what is best for your business. If your company needs more than what a call center offers, do not settle. 

#7: Skills of agents

The final difference to discuss is the difference in skills between agents at a call center versus a contact center. Call center agents only need to know how to operate telephones and a few computer systems at most. These agents only focus on one type of interaction: making and receiving calls. While a call center agent can still be a difficult job that requires much patience and skill, there is much less going on than at a contact center. 

Contact center agents must have additional skills such as:

In addition to these skills, contact center agents must have additional empathy and patience for customers. It can be a harrowing job at times, but it can be rewarding and easy once an agent gets used to it. These additional skills explain why contact centers are more costly than call centers. In addition, contact center agents may also require more training on the various programs used for each communication channel. On the other hand, call center agent training is typically much shorter as there is not as much to learn besides the phone and computer systems. 

Remember these seven differences between call centers and contact centers when deciding between the two for your company. Both kinds of centers have pros and cons, and it is essential to do your research before committing to a center. 

How to Decide Which Center Is Best for You

Now that you know the main difference between call centers and contact centers, it’s time to see how you can decide which one is best for your company’s needs. Use these four steps to help you decide:

Step #1: Assess your needs

The first step is to assess the communication needs of your company. For example, do you just want to make calls? Or do you want to send out SMS texts and emails to your customers? You must know what your company wants to do for its customers before fully committing to a center.

Step #2: Do your research 

Every company offers something different. For example, Datamark provides the use of global contact centers, enterprise content management, finance & accounting BPO, and so much more. Other companies may offer just inbound/outbound calls or only provide service for specific industries. Look on each company’s website or call to find out more information!

Step #3: Find the right company 

After you assess your needs and do your research, it’s time to find the right company and sign a contract to begin services. This is a big decision and can be expensive for your company, so be sure you choose the right center, whether it be a call or contact. Then, look over the contract with a lawyer and start serving your customers!

Step #4: (Optional) Get feedback from your customers 

One way you can fully understand what your company needs from a call center or contact center is to send out a survey to your customers. You can ask them questions like:

These types of questions can help you gauge what kind of services you should provide and which type of center you should recruit for your company. 

Use these steps when you begin your journey to find the right call or contact center for your company. 

Final Thoughts 

Throughout this article, you have learned the definitions of a call and contact center, their main differences, and how to decide which center is best for your business. Many companies offer the services of a call or contact center, so much research and consideration must be done.  

Overall, either center can be an excellent investment, especially if your company needs extra help in customer service and online management. You can find a local center near you or one that assists customers worldwide. Outsourcing is gradually taking over the service sector, growing at an annual rate of 8%. As time goes on, more companies will need outsourcing, so call centers and contact centers need to ensure they keep up with the rapid growth. With the recent inflation issues and labor shortages, it may be hard to keep up. Increasing employee incentives and ensuring agents are treated well is key to hiring and retaining employees. 

Be sure to check out Datamark for all your call and contact center needs. You can visit the website to learn more and submit a contact form. We specialize in industries like healthcare, transportation, finance, and insurance. Check out what we offer here, and keep an eye out for future blog posts! 

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