- Call centers are businesses that manage phone-based customer service of a company whereas contact centers include all modes of communication including phones.
- While contact centers have more benefits than call centers, they’re more complicated and tricky to manage.
- The future of customer support revolves around AI-automated tasks, more personalized interactions, lesser response times, and the availability of omnichannel communication.
Contact centers are an upgraded, more complex version of call centers.
While call center agents manage customer service through voice calls only, contact center agents manage it through various channels such as calls, email, live chat, and social media.
Call center agents not only receive calls to address customer queries, known as inbound calls but also make outgoing calls for sales purposes, known as outbound calls.
On the other hand, contact centers take an omnichannel approach to customer support and include calling as well as emails, live chat, and social media.
Calling has remained one of the most important elements of customer support. That’s why call centers gained sudden importance not too long ago and are still just as famous.
However, as businesses scale and the level of required customer support changes, the need for multiple support channels arises, and call centers have started transforming into contact centers.
Furthermore, with the increase in the need for quicker, shorter responses, the need for an omnichannel support center is increasing.
Despite the numerous benefits of a contact center, however, a Customer Contact Central survey suggested that customers still prefer phone calls over other forms of communication!
Nevertheless, the ultimate goal of both these centers is the same – to provide excellent customer experience despite differences in fundamentals and functionalities.
Recommended: The Benefits of Live Chat Support
Contact Center Fundamentals
What is a Contact Center
A contact center is a customer service facility that manages customer support across different communication channels, including phone calls, emails, live chat, and social media.
Such a level of support is known as omnichannel support and provides customers with a seamless experience by addressing customer queries throughout the different channels.
Are Contact Centers Just Call Centers With More Channels
Well, can we say that contact centers are a multiplied version of call centers? Not really!
Can we say that they’re a buffed-up version of call centers? Definitely!
Uncle Ben had said, “With greater power, comes greater responsibility”, and he was right.
Since contact centers offer omnichannel routing, they’re much more complex than call centers.
Assigning contacts to the right contact center agent at the right time isn’t an easy task.
Furthermore, a contact center does not merely operate on the basis of multiple modes of communication, it acts as a centralized hub for all customer communication and data.
Omnichannel Customer Support
The prefix omni means all.
When a business offers all kinds of communication channels, they’re said to be providing omnichannel customer support, and they’ve got a contact center.
It is an integrated approach that coordinates between multiple channels and helps customers switch between channels without losing context or experiencing disruptions.
This also suggests that while a contact center might sound good in theory, managing it on practical grounds can be tricky.
However, they’re especially important in today’s context when customer support has taken a different shape.
Unlike the previous generation, Gen Z does not like calling as much as they like texting. Therefore, having a channel where customers can text you is just as important as having a call option.
In summary, by providing a consistent customer experience across all these channels, contact centers can better fulfill the expectations of today’s consumers.
Key Features and Technologies
Contact centers have advanced technologies in place meant to deliver the best quality of customer interactions and support operations.
Since there are multiple modes of communication, they use different software to keep all the hassle in check.
Some of these include CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems, which collect customer data and history in one place, modern AI chatbots, which help customers with simple queries and tasks, and analytics tools, which enable companies to monitor performance, derive insights, and identify areas for improvement.
Additionally, contact centers manage their workforce in a manner that optimizes the scheduling and training of customer service professionals, known as contact center agents.
Since most contact centers offer 24/7 customer support, the agents work shifts throughout the day.
Advantages and Limitations
In the race between contact center vs call center, contact centers have a better, understandable edge.
These include personalized and consistent customer experiences, various communication preferences available to the customer, and comprehensive support solutions for them.
From a business point of view as well, why wouldn’t you want a contact center?
The capability to keep an eye on a customer’s journey throughout various touch points and multiple channels is massively beneficial.
Mapping customer engagement throughout their journey is a huge plus point since it reveals the weaknesses in the customer lifecycle.
Contact centers also enable businesses to collect and analyze customer data, leading to improved customer retention and loyalty.
However, contact centers may face certain limitations which include higher costs due to the implementation of multiple communication channels and the use of advanced technologies.
Furthermore, they can be a bit more complex when it comes to their workforce management, as they require coordination across various platforms and teams.
Call Center Fundamentals
What is a Call Center
A call center is a department of a business where the company’s customer service representatives manage numerous incoming and outgoing phone calls.
The primary function of these centers is to address customer inquiries, complaints, technical support, and sales, with a focus on phone-based communication.
Numerous call center operatives handle different calls, usually throughout the day, based on the type of campaign on which they’re working.
Inbound and Outbound Call Center Operations
Inbound call centers concentrate on handling incoming calls from customers and addressing their questions, concerns, or complaints.
These calls may involve technical support, billing issues, product details, or general customer service.
Conversely, outbound call centers involve representatives proactively calling customers or potential clients for various reasons such as sales, surveys, or appointment setting.
Key Features and Technologies
While call centers usually aren’t as advanced as contact centers, they do utilize a range of technologies to ensure efficient call management and routing.
Essential features include Automatic Call Distributor (ACD) systems, which forward incoming calls to available agents.
Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems, which navigate callers through automated menus before connecting them with an agent.
Computer Telephony Integration (CTI), which links call center software with telephone systems for seamless communication and data sharing.
Advantages and Limitations
Call centers have several benefits including economical customer service, smooth communication, and the capacity to handle a large number of calls.
They also allow businesses to monitor and assess key performance indicators (KPIs) like average handle time, first call resolution, and customer satisfaction scores (CSAT).
However, call centers also have some drawbacks, such as relying solely on phone communication, which may not address all customer preferences.
Furthermore, the long waiting times due to interactive voice responses (IVR) result in declining customer satisfaction.
Call centers may experience high employee turnover rates, about 30-40%, which leads to inconsistency in delivering personalized customer experiences due to their emphasis on rapidly resolving issues and managing high call volumes.
Also Read: 15 Ways to Increase Inbound Calls and Boost Sales
Contact Center vs Call Center: Key Differences
What They Do
As I’ve explained above, call centers are kind of old-school.
They mostly deal with phone calls for customer service, telemarketing, or tech support.
Contact centers, on the other hand, are more like the Swiss Army knife of customer communication.
They handle all kinds of stuff, from customer support to sales, marketing, and other direct communication with customers.
How They Talk to Customers
Call centers are all about phone calls.
A customer calls the business, the agent answers their questions.
Or an agent calls a potential customer, the customer hangs up on them.
Either way, they work by means of phone calls.
Contact centers, however, are more flexible when it comes to chatting with customers.
They’re on the phone, sure, but they’re also handling emails, live chat, social media, and even video calls sometimes.
It’s all about making it easy for customers to get in touch however they prefer.
For example, a customer could be chatting with a support rep when they realize that the problem could be better explained on the call.
So the customer calls the business, and the same agent picks up the call rather than a new one.
This ensures a seamless customer experience since the customer doesn’t have to explain the problem from scratch!
This is known as omnipotent routing – ensuring the right agent at the right time.
The Tech They Use
Call centers use traditional phone systems to handle lots of calls, which works fine for what they do.
However, contact centers are a bit more complicated like you’ve learned above.
They use all sorts of software and tools, like CRM systems, cloud-based communication platforms, and support systems.
This helps in eventually providing a seamless customer experience, on which I stress repeatedly!
Anyways, it’s like comparing a rotary phone to a smartphone. No offense, veteran rotary phone.
The Info They Collect
Call centers keep track of the basic stuff.
They keep a record of the number of calls they got, and for how long the call went on, and monitor performance based on several metrics.
For a call center, that’s apt of course, but otherwise, it doesn’t tell the whole story.
Contact centers are more like data detectives. They gather and analyze information about customer interactions from all those different communication channels I mentioned earlier. Contact centers can even use data collection tools to collect feedback on important metrics like NPS and CSAT to gauge customer satisfaction. These help contact centers measure the success of the work they do day to day and learn where improvements are needed to enhance the customer experience.
This helps them learn more about what customers want, how to serve them better, and what marketing strategies are most effective.
Based on the differences above, one could say that it’s kind of like the difference between a single-function gadget and a versatile, do-it-all tool.
The Evolution From Call Centers to Contact Centers
Call centers are evolving on a regular basis to keep up with the fast-changing digital world.
Back in the day, and even now for many businesses, call centers are the go-to for companies looking to provide customer service.
But as technology has advanced and customers look for more personalized interactions, businesses need a way to keep up.
This is the major reason why call centers are transforming into contact centers.
Since contact centers are equipped with the ability to handle multiple communication channels, they allow companies the means to meet their customers wherever they are – whether on the phone, email, social media, or live chat.
Customer Expectations in the Digital Age:
Customer expectations have increased a lot in recent times.
According to HubSpot, customer-centric companies are 60% more profitable than those that aren’t.
Competition has increased in today’s world and customers are well aware of it.
There’s an abundance of options for them and they weigh those options on every factor before opting for one.
They expect quick responses, personalized service, and options for how they communicate with companies.
With so many digital tools at their fingertips, customers expect businesses to adapt and provide the kind of service that makes their lives easier.
Benefits of Contact Centers
Let’s repeat the benefits of contact centers and why call centers are transitioning into them.
Firstly, they allow companies to engage with customers using their preferred communication method, making interactions smoother and more personal.
Secondly, the advanced technology and data collection tools in contact centers help businesses gain valuable insights, which can be used to improve customer service, optimize marketing efforts, and drive growth.
Thirdly, they help customers prevent long hold times when they approach a business via phone call since a suitable alternative is present.
Contact Center or Call Center: Which is Better?
To answer this question, one needs to define “better” in the context of the specific business.
Of course, contact centers are more comprehensive and offer a wider range of options, but if your business primarily needs phone-based support, then a call center might be the right choice for you.
In essence, it’s all about finding the sweet spot that balances customer expectations, business goals, and available resources.
Business Size and Needs
One size definitely does not fit all when it comes to choosing between a contact center and a call center.
The right choice will depend on factors like the size of the company, the type of services offered, and the specific needs of the business.
Customer Demographics and Preferences
Another factor to consider when choosing between a call center and a contact center is the target audience.
Businesses need to understand their customers’ demographics, preferences, and communication habits to make informed decisions.
Budget and Resources
Money matters and businesses need to weigh the costs and benefits of implementing a call center or a contact center.
That means you need to consider factors like staffing, infrastructure, and technology expenses.
Integration with Existing Systems
Businesses also need to think about how a call center or contact center would fit into their existing operations.
This could involve integrating new technology with current systems, training staff, or modifying workflows. The goal is to create a seamless transition that will improve customer service without causing major disruptions.
Conclusion – Contact Center vs Call Center
In conclusion, the debate between contact centers and call centers represents a significant change in the way businesses communicate with their customers, both presently and in the future.
A clear understanding of the differences between the two is necessary because this knowledge will equip you with the right tools to choose the right customer service department for you.
Let’s recap: the primary distinction between the two lies in the scope of services offered.
Call centers are centered around telephone interactions, while contact centers provide a more comprehensive, multi-channel communication approach that includes email, chat, social media, and video support.
As we progress through 2023, the demand for personalized and seamless customer experiences continues to grow, making the adoption of contact center solutions increasingly crucial.
Moreover, advancements in technology have led to the integration of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and analytics, which provide contact centers with the tools to analyze customer behavior, predict trends, and improve performance.
In traditional call centers, this level of seamlessness isn’t available.
In the end, the choice comes down to your company’s priorities, resources, and objectives.
While call centers can still serve specific needs, forward-thinking businesses are progressively adopting contact center solutions to meet the ever-evolving expectations of today’s consumers.
Being aware of these key differences is the first step towards making the right decision for your organization, and ultimately, providing exceptional customer experiences.