Call centers and contact centers are used interchangeably. However, they are not the same thing. They are two distinct modes of business communication. Assuming that the two are the same can be a huge business mistake. Both call centers and contact centers are effective channels for building connections with customers. Both are tools for customer service and involve phone channels but that’s about the only similarities they have. The main difference between contact centers and call centers lies in the method of communication and overall experience. In this article, we shall cover the following topics:
1. What Is A Contact Center?
2. Features of a Contact Center
3. Benefits of Contact Centers
4. What Is A Call Center?
5. Features of a Call Center
6. Benefits of Call Centers
7. Difference Between Call Centers and Contact Centers
8. Does Your Business Need A Contact Center or Call Center
What Is A Contact Center?
A contact center addresses the growing need of providing omnichannel customer support. Now more than ever, customers expect businesses to have presence on several channels and offer consistent qualified service on all of them.
Contact centers are operated by foreign companies and primarily handle customer service. There are times when they also handle telemarketing, debt collection, and billing services. Contact centers have been supported by mathematical models and operations research, considered one of the best ways they solve a wide variety of optimization problems.
Features of a Contact Center
Here are key features of a contact center:
Advanced call distribution
Contact centers are equipped with features designed for efficient call distribution. A good example of this feature is Interactive Voice Response, a software that can boost first call resolution by routing a call to the most qualified agent. With IVR, you get to maximize your team’s skillsets to be useful to your clients.
In contact centers, managers can toggle access and priorities of team members for maximum efficiency in real time. Shared contacts and objectives mean that agents can work as a team even though they are assigned to different stations. This gives an assurance of tighter security measures and secured data. Contact centers have a flexible structure to allow them to adapt to fluctuating call volumes and objectives.
Contact centers utilize customized scripts when interacting with customers. It provides a framework for sales and support and helps agents become confident in handling tricky situations. While scripts are designed to work over the phone, it can also be effective for other channels. However, to be a good contact center agent, you need to learn how to improvise and deviate from the script if necessary.
Contact centers keep track of agent performance and customer satisfaction over different channels. These numbers can be complex and multi-faceted. The volume of data can be enormous so drawing meaningful conclusions can prove challenging. Focusing on certain Key Performance Indicators can help generate data-driven decisions to contact centers.
Benefits of Contact Centers
In choosing between call center vs a contact center, you need to determine the benefits of each as well. Here are the benefits of hiring a contact center for your business.
- View complete lead information. Contact centers use and hold more customer data compared to a call center. Most contact center software provides information on previous interactions with a customer not just over the phone. This could include interactions over the phone, email, text, chatbot, or website chat.
- Provide better customer satisfaction. Being passed around when contacting a company can be frustrating for customers. When you ask for help for a certain issue, you are passed to a different agent and you have to explain your issue again. Since contact centers are an omnichannel center, all customer data is available for agents.
- Improve marketing and advertising campaigns. When your company launches a highly visible marketing campaign and a prospect inquires about it, will your staff be able to guide them to the right salesperson? Sadly, many companies fail on this aspect. In a contact center, the system can route the customer to the right agent.
What is a Call Center?
Like a contact center, call centers operate over the phone. They are designed to handle a massive volume of calls. In general, call centers handle customer service, technical support or sales. They make inbound or outbound calls or be a hybrid of both. With a call center, you can blend the skills and roles of agents for accrued efficiency. Call centers can also do the following:
- Telemarketing. Telemarketing is one of the most common functions in a call center because the cost is usually less expensive than hiring in-house.
- Fraud Prevention. Call center agents help in fraud prevention through follow up of purchases and transactions.
- Collection. A call center agent may be tasked to make collection calls and follow up on debts without delegating it to your in-house employees.
- Information Gathering. Call centers may also be tasked to gather information about leads or conduct short surveys to determine what products or services would best serve their needs in the future.
There are two types of call centers today:
- On-premises call centers. These are call centers found right in your office, hardware, software, infrastructure and all. Your team will manage the installation, configuration, and maintenance of your PBX or IP PBX.
- Cloud based call centers. Software hosted in the cloud by a service provider. You only need a computer or smartphone with an internet connection to make the service accessible. Unlike an on-premise call center, maintenance of a virtual call center is the responsibility of the service provider so you can focus on running your own center.
Benefits of a Call Center
Here we focus on the benefits of a call center for your business:
- Ability to handle high volume of calls. The biggest benefit of a call center is that they can handle a large influx of phone calls. Call centers are designed to scale phone-based communications. Setting up the phone system only takes minutes to get started.
- Call centers are less expensive. Call centers are cheaper than omnichannel centers. The scope of their tools and function is narrow, so are their costs. With VoIP technology, the costs of call centers are extremely competitive.
- There’s less risk with a call center. A call center is less risky even compared to a complete contact center solution. The reliability of Voice over Internet Protocol allows reliability in distribution to agents.
- Call centers are great for remote teams. VoIP systems are effective in an office, at home, or in a coworking space. This can lead to employee satisfaction. The trend of remote work is likely here to stay. More than 4.3 million people in the USA work remotely, comprising of 3.2% of the entire workforce.
- Access to in–depth call analytics. Most platforms allow access to in-depth analytics because the software only handles voice. Call center analytics provide assistance to workforce management. You are provided with detailed information about your calls, such as real-time performance of agents and calling trends.
Difference Between Call Center and Contact Center
Now that you know their features, let us now take a look at the difference between call centers and contact centers.
1. Voice vs Digital Service Channels
The main difference between call centers and contact centers is the customer service channel. The former communicates over the phone while the latter include text, webchat, video chat, social media, email, and more. Communication channels employ advanced technology and work on desktops. With the demand for over-the-phone service dropping and demand for other channels increasing, digital solutions can help improve customer experience.
2. Predictive and Proactive Customer Service
With new tools and analytics, customer service has gone beyond responding to inbound calls. Monitoring buyer behavior makes it possible to reach out and answer questions even before the customer calls.
Although this is possible in a call center, it doesn’t work well in practice. Outbound messages from call center agents are sent over the phone. If the agent calls the customer at home, chances are they aren’t there. Aside from that, customers are extremely cautious in answering unfamiliar numbers so outbound invoice calls are often ineffective.
On the other hand, contact centers allow customers to choose the way they can be contacted which makes proactive communication more effective in reducing costs and boost loyalty.
3. Empowering Self-Service
Both call centers and contact centers use automation through an IVR. With call centers, it will be hard to talk to a live agent as opposed to contact centers which design their IVRs with brand and CX in mind. IVRs help predict caller intent and direct the customer to the best agent who can resolve the issue or even address their concern without involving a human representative.
4. More Engaged Customer Service Representatives
In any organization, everyone wants to feel like their job is important. However, this isn’t always the case in a call center especially when customers start shouting or making rude comments out of frustration. By cutting down on wait times and letting people interact on their preferred channel, the experience can be more enjoyable for consumers and agents.
By engaging in intuitive self-service channels such as a website or IVR, agents will respond to fewer basic questions. However, it will make the average inbound call more complicated. With proper scripting, CRM or backend systems and compiling knowledge libraries, agents will have the necessary tools to ensure a great experience for customers.
5. Individual Customer Profiles
When a customer contacts your business, they share their personal information. In a call center, agents can monitor customer data. However, the digital channels of contact centers make the process much simpler. Contact center software compiles all the information agents need into a single customer view. As customer engagement varies on each channel, more data becomes available. This makes exceptional service possible during each single transaction.
6. Advanced Routing to the Right Agent
With customer information available, it is now much easier to direct customers to the most qualified representative or department. This is applicable to both call centers and contact centers. The difference between call center and contact center starts from point number 5. In a contact center, data is pulled from several channels making it easier to determine
7. Better, Consistent Customer Experiences
Through employee training, customer profiling, and consumer experience strategy, exceptional experiences are possible in both call centers and contact centers. 42% of consumers worldwide would be willing to shell out more money for great customer experience. When customers pick up the phone, they expect a certain level of service from whoever responds.
In a contact center, where interactions come from calls, texts, and other channels, some may think that creating consistency is unlikely. But contact centers consist of truly connected, interactive solutions. The software remembers interaction in one channel even if the customer chooses a new channel next time. Compared to a call center, customers have far more freedom.
Does my business need a call center or a contact center?
When choosing between a contact center vs a call center, it will all boil down to which channel is more preferred by your customers. A call center interacts with customers over the phone while contact centers allow contact through any customer service channel.
Call centers are limited to inbound and outbound voice calls. Contact centers, on the other hand, handle all forms of communication. So how do you determine which is right for your business?
If you are running a large business, a contact center may be the best choice. You can have an “all hands on deck” approach to customer service. For example, you can have one agent generate leads from any contact channel. When the customer sends a text message, the agent can check their CRM to view the chat.
BY providing excellent customer service, customers no longer need to be passed on to several agents to explain their problem. Your agents need not waste their time on problems that may have already been addressed. In this way, call distribution becomes more effective.
But what if you have a large business but customers communicate with your agents over the phone most of the time? Say 85% of customers contact you by phone 85% of the time compared to just 15% via email. In such a case, you are better off partnering with a call center as they offer phone-based benefits.
Your choice will also depend on your future needs. If your business is really tied to a phone system, then choose a call center. But if you opt for a digital transformation, a contact center might be optimal. In the end, you might choose to pick one solution and add the other as your business grows.