Contact center vs call center: 5 key differences to know

by Andy Nguyen
contact center vs call center

When a customer contacts your business or brand, they may do so via your customer service. 

Traditionally, the communication happened exclusively through voice calls in call centers. However, customers can now contact a company through multiple communication channels like emails, website chatbots, social media, etc., managed via contact centers

But what exactly are the differences between contact center vs call center? 

Don’t worry. In this article, we’ll cover a detailed comparison of contact centers vs. call centers and highlight three advantages of contact centers over call centers. 

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Let’s get started.

Contact center vs call center: A detailed comparison

Before we jump into the differences, let’s understand what call centers and contact centers are.

A. Call center

Call centers are offices where agents handle both inbound (calls initiated by customers) and outbound calls (calls originating from a customer service representative, usually sales calls). 

These agents take calls from both new and existing customers.

B. Contact center

In contrast, contact centers handle many different communication channels such as telephone calls, SMS, email, social media, etc. 

This omnichannel communication allows customers to move smoothly from one channel to another. It also gives them the freedom to choose how they want to communicate. 

Now that we have a basic understanding of the two, let’s analyze their differences:

1. Omnichannel vs. single channel communication

An average individual spends about 7 hours online every day

So it’s natural to assume that they’re more likely to use digital channels to reach your customer service. Statistics also show that millennials make up the bulk of online shoppers, and they tend to avoid phone calls

A traditional call center with a single channel (incoming and outgoing calls) is often inadequate for this. But an omnichannel contact center can meet these demands. 

Moving from a single communication channel method to an omnichannel approach (email, social media, live chat, etc.) empowers your customers to reach you through their preferred channels. 

It also allows them to switch between channels easily, enhancing the customer experience.

Although this system requires more training for your agents, it speeds up the overall time taken to resolve customer problems. It can improve the two crucial performance metrics: first call resolution (FCR) and average handle time (AHT).

2. Proactive vs. reactive support

Customers expect brands to predict problems they might face.

But even the most dedicated call centers can’t proactively offer every customer solution. Instead, they are primarily reactive — offering support only as a reaction to customer problems. Reactive support only works if the customers know what challenges or issues they face.

However, as contact centers operate digitally, they can use different technologies to predict customer issues.

Here, the workload is divided between AI (Artificial Intelligence), chatbots, and human agents. As a result, the customer is served quickly and can form a positive association with the brand. 

Gartner even predicts that proactive support will overtake reactive engagement by 2025, making this the right time to invest in a contact center solution.  

3. Online self-service vs. traditional customer support 

Some customers are digitally savvy and more likely to self-serve through contact center services like your website, FAQs, and chatbots. 

Not only is this more convenient, but it also helps customers feel more confident about their purchase, reduces buyer’s remorse, and helps them feel more engaged with your brand. 

Additionally, it can introduce them to new products, new features and help you track their behavior for targeted marketing.

However, not every customer wishes to self-serve. 

Some might require specific guidance or explanations, done best through human interaction. There’s also a possibility that your customer can’t solve their queries through self-service. 

That’s where traditional call centers provide the necessary phone support required for an enhanced customer experience. But remember, since contact centers offer omnichannel support, they’ll be able to provide traditional customer support too.

4. Centralized vs. specialized services 

A contact center is centralized as one center manages the complete customer database and related services. However, a call center tends to be less centralized, as each call center may offer a specialized service. 

Depending on your business, you may not require a centralized contact center; you simply need a traditional call center providing a specialized service.  

Call centers can handle all inbound and outbound calls, and manage a large volume of voice calls effortlessly. This makes your phone channel as efficient and optimized as possible.

After all, telephone calls are still the preferred medium for customer service for most  age groups. It’ll also help keep frustrated customers at bay as they can contact your business the way they choose — which can boost your customer satisfaction ratings. 

On the other hand, contact center agents have to juggle multiple mediums as they provide centralized services. But as you’ll have a central repository of customer information, it’s easier to provide personalized services. 

5. Consistent vs. inconsistent customer experience (CX) 

Customer experience (CX) has overtaken both product and price for several businesses as the key brand identifier.

But traditionally, call center data can be scattered across too many systems and may not be utilized properly. This might create a disconnect during inbound calls, leading to an unhappy customer and inconsistencies in customer experience.

However, a contact center utilizes existing business tools, data strategies and adopts intelligent automation integration

Any contact center agent can easily access and use the customer’s data to help resolve their concerns. They also use technologies like Automatic Call Distributor (ACD), Interactive Voice Response (IVR), predictive dialer, etc., to route queries and calls to the right agent. 

That’s why contact centers generally deliver a consistent customer experience. 

3 key advantages of contact centers 

Now that we’ve covered contact center vs call center differences, let’s see three advantages contact centers have over call centers. 

1. Addresses common criticisms of call centers 

There are some criticisms directed against call centers, such as language barriers due to outsourcing, long wait times, and a lack of interdepartmental communication.  

However, contact centers drastically reduce the severity of these. Here’s how:

A) Can overcome language barriers 

Call center outsourcing is a common and cost-effective business practice. However, this can lead to a disconnect between callers and the customer service agent due to language barriers.

In contrast, contact centers eliminate language barriers due to self-service portals, chatbots, and Artificial Intelligence (AI) that support multiple languages.  

Additionally, you can employ remote agents proficient in your preferred language by choosing a virtual contact center. This can help you save on operational cost. 

B) Better communication 

Traditionally, call centers don’t have dedicated communication systems in place to manage customer data. This can result in customers having to repeat the same details constantly.  

However, contact centers use an omnichannel approach. 

Here, your customer can reach you through their communication channel of choice. As all their interactions are centralized, they don’t need to repeat their queries.

A contact center also creates an individual profile for every customer.   

These profiles help collect the Voice of the Customer (VoC) in the form of customer feedback. It can help you strategize on how to improve your service level and customer experience.

C) Reduced wait times 

Long wait times are usually common with call centers and can seriously decrease your Key Performance Indicators (KPI). 

However, since contact centers don’t depend on voice communication as the first point of contact, chatbots and AI can reduce these long wait times. If the customer sends an email or text, the CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software can alert agents of the same. 

As people get comfortable with alternative communication methods along with phone calls, your customer support can respond to multiple queries in one go. 

2. Provides a 360-degree view of customers 

A 360-degree view is the collection of various customer data points into one place. These include social media activity, prior customer service experience, and purchasing behavior. 

Let’s analyze the different factors that make up this 360-degree view in a contact center:

A) Predictive behavior analysis  

In an omnichannel contact center, you can store all customer data in one place. This data helps you understand your customer’s behavior patterns. 

For instance, if your customer just bought a phone cover, you may refer to previous purchases to see whether this is for a new phone. If it is, you could recommend they purchase other accessories for that phone. 

With predictive behavior analysis, your customer service representative can be in a better position to address customer concerns. This may be through repeating purchases, suggesting upgrades, or even new features. 

B) Personalized customer profiles 

Today, customers have multiple brands fighting for their attention. And one of the easiest ways to stand out is to provide personalized service. 

When you have a comprehensive view of your customer, you’re in tune with their wants, needs, and desires. In addition, it makes your job easier as your customer is more likely to engage with you because you understand them — helping you nurture a relationship from the very beginning. 

If you’re confused about your customer’s wants, you can ask them through an online survey or questionnaire. Such simple communication goes a long way towards improving customer loyalty. 

Customized profile recommendations are also important for retention as one-third of customers end a business relationship because the brand didn’t personalize their experience enough. This way, you can reduce churn and boost customer loyalty.

3. Results in a higher ROI through automation

We know that automation can increase your company’s overall productivity. It also leads to a significantly higher Return on Investment (ROI) when utilized correctly. 

Let’s look at some common contact center automation tools that’ll boost your ROI: 

A) AI for operational efficiency 

AI-based technologies apply machine learning to generate effective contact center analytics. 

For example, AI technology can manage real-time customer analytics, chatbot predictive analytics, natural language processing (NLP), and skills-based routing. This can help you save about $4 million a year

A report found that companies with AI technology noticed a 90% increase in new accounts and a 40% increase in their digital sales. 

They also noticed higher customer satisfaction (CSAT) ratings, a significant decrease in cost per transaction, and customer loss. This is particularly important as loyal customers are likely to spend more and have more frequent transactions. 

AI can also take over mundane, repetitive tasks and help your employees focus on meaningful aspects of their jobs. This allows you to retain good talent and avoid turnover costs.

B) Chatbots as a cost-saving measure 

Chatbots can help reduce costs all across the board. 

According to one study, companies spend roughly $1.3 trillion on customer service per year. Chatbots can reduce these costs by 30%. 

And with more than two-thirds of all customer interaction taking place virtually (without human intervention), this can save your business about $8 billion every year. 

By learning from every interaction, chatbots can also change the way customers interact with your business. 

They can answer basic questions, positively affect customer experience, and are actually preferred by most people. Additionally, these bots can run 24×7, providing customer service all across the globe. 

C) Cloud technology for data security

CCaaS (Contact Center as a Service) hosts the contact center software in the cloud, significantly reducing the operational cost of your business process.

It makes accessing AI, advanced analytics, and omnichannel communication effortless. You can also hire more remote agents for these cloud-based contact centers and save up to $25,000 annually per agent. 

And since most customers may already interact with cloud tech every day, you can easily leverage it for higher customer engagement and increased revenue.

Wrapping up 

While both call centers and contact centers aim to improve the customer experience, they do so differently. 

A call center connects customers to agents through outgoing and incoming calls. On the other hand, contact centers enable customers to self-serve or connect with agents over multiple communication channels. 

But due to digitization and changing customer expectations, most companies prefer a contact center service. However, call centers can handle a high volume of customer calls and are cheaper to maintain. They also add a human touch to the entire customer journey. 

Ultimately, you need to assess your company’s needs and goals and know which channels your customers prefer. This will help you provide the best possible service level.

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