Contact Center vs. Call Center: Which One Do You Need?

April 18, 2022

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The call center has served as the hub of customer service for decades. With the advent of toll-free 1-800 numbers and technologies like private branch exchange (PBX) and interactive voice response (IVR) in the 60s and 70s, organizations were able to field customer calls at scale. But today, your business has more choices – you can use a contact center or a call center.

Contact centers rely on more advanced technology, and they offer more communication channels. However, there are significant similarities. Both contact centers and call centers use inbound and outbound agents. And both are ground-zero for delivering excellence in customer service.

If you’re setting up a customer service hub for the first time or considering upgrading your existing call center, you need to decide which is better for your organization in the long run. To help you choose, we’ve unpacked the details of each option in this contact center vs. call center comparison guide.

How Do Call Centers Work?

A traditional call center is an office staffed by agents who handle most of the communications with customers. There are two types of call centers: inbound and outbound.

With an inbound call center, customer service agents take calls from customers. Call center agents generally address customer support issues and billing questions. They can also act as a knowledge base for customers who need information or help using a product.

Outbound call centers make calls. They might be calls for fundraising requests, marketing offers, surveys, or sales calls.

The main distinction of the call center is that it has one communication channel – phone calls. In the past, this involved on-premises PBX phone systems, which meant call center staff worked from an office. But with cloud-based phone systems, your organization can function with a remote call center.

How Do Contact Centers Work?

Contact centers have the same purpose as call centers – agents are there to converse with customers and handle all of the customer support and telemarketing functions. But, the difference is the communications technology your agents are using.

Contact centers are the evolution of call centers. They still revolve around phone calls, but your agents can also communicate with customers via SMS messages, video, and email. This opens up new possibilities for enhancing the customer experience because you can connect with customers on their preferred channels.

Contact Center vs. Call Center: Which Will Future-Proof Your Organization?

While a call center can still be used to offer call-based support and outbound communications, it probably won’t fit your organization’s needs in the future. As consumer expectations keep shifting toward omnichannel interactions, the call center can’t compete with the more dynamic contact center.

The reality is, voice is still number one, but a lot of your customers would rather converse via chat, email, or text messaging. According to a recent survey of U.S. consumers, phone is the most popular channel at 37 percent – but chat, email, and text account for another 44 percent.

With contact centers, you can live up to customer expectations for a more streamlined, omnichannel experience. This isn’t just convenient – being able to connect in different ways is becoming essential for competing in a customer-centric world.

  • Omnichannel communications are linked with higher engagement rates – a 2020 study showed that omnichannel campaigns earned a 287 percent higher purchase rate than single-channel.
  • With features like real-time order status updates and chat support options, you can give your customers faster support – a McKinsey survey found that 75 percent of consumers expect help within five minutes.
  • Another distinction is the technology itself. With a modern, cloud-based contact center solution, your company can access custom reporting. With rich analytics on first-call resolution, talk time intervals, and more, you can continually optimize the contact center experience, which can elevate the level of customer support your customers receive even further.

Contact Center vs. Call Center: Which One Is Better for Remote Teams?

A lot of businesses are shifting to remote and hybrid work models because of the added flexibility. According to research by Gartner, by 2023, 35 percent of the customer experience workforce will be remote – this is up from 5 percent in 2017.

With remote agents, your business can save on office space, hire from a wider talent pool, and appeal to workers who prefer to work from home.

Both the call center and the contact center model are a good fit for remote and hybrid organizations. However, you can do more with a remote contact center.

If you want to virtualize your call center, you can by switching to VoIP (voice over internet protocol) phone technology. Your agents can work from home and still offer the same high level of service. It’s also easy to set up a cloud phone system – there’s no need to make a large hardware investment or to undergo a heavy technical setup. Your users simply need an internet connection, VoIP phones, headsets and other accessory hardware, and software.

You can also operate with a remote or hybrid contact center, giving your agents the option to work in the office or at home. With contact center software, you can get all the functions of a call center – IVR, call queues, and call routing. But you’re also able to connect via any channel – voice, chat, SMS messages, and email.

Additionally, you can integrate with your CRM (customer relationship management), creating a single source of truth for your customer data.

Which Is Right for Your Business?

When comparing contact centers vs. call centers, there’s no question that a contact center offers more tools for enhancing customer experience. And with today’s cloud-based platforms, your business can access all the benefits of contact centers – omnichannel communications, analytics, and integrations – without a large IT budget.

If you’re looking for a solution that will help your organization compete now and in the future, explore Intermedia Contact Center. It has everything your business needs to deliver leading-edge customer experiences.

Kirsten Barta

Kirsten Barta is Sr Marketing Communications Manager at Intermedia

April 18, 2022

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