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Contact center vs call center

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Contact center vs call center

Although the terms ‘contact center’ and ‘call center’ seem synonymous, there are some key differences between the two.

A contact center is a hub for managing customer communications and customer service across multiple channels, including phone, email, live chat, messaging, and social media. Customer-facing teams use a contact center software as a single platform through which they can handle conversations coming in from all channels.  

A call center, on the other hand, is a hub for customer conversations that occur exclusively via the phone channel. A call center system is used to handle all inbound and outbound phone calls. 

But the differences don’t end here. Contact centers and call centers are used for varying business objectives and deliver different experiences to customers.

8 key differences between a contact center vs a call center

#1 Communication channels

Contact-center: Phone, email, live chat, social media, and more

Call-center: Phone


As previously mentioned, the most basic difference between a contact center and a call center is the channels they use to engage with customers. Call centers, as the name suggests, only use the phone channel for communication. Since phone conversations happen in real-time, a call takes up an agent’s bandwidth is entirely. So, the only way to handle peak volume hours is by staffing up for peak volume hours. However, running a large team can turn out to be quite expensive. 

On the other hand, contact centers use digital channels – such as email, social media or live chat, in addition to phone – to engage with customers. In comparison to using the phone as the single channel of communication, using different channels helps in delivering faster solutions and better customer experiences. For instance, with email, you can distribute the load across the team better. Plus, since agents can handle three or more chat conversations in parallel which also reduces staffing/workloads.

Over the years, customers have become more digitally advanced. In fact, customers spend an average of six hours a day online. To keep up with the evolving expectations of customers, brands have expanded their support on different channels. This gives customers the freedom to raise their issues and seek help from any platform they prefer. With the right contact center technology, brands can effortlessly interact with customers and deliver an omnichannel experience.  


#2 Usage

Contact center: Customer service and customer relationship management

Call center: Technical support, telemarketing, and sales

Contact centers are used for offering omnichannel customer service and customer relationship management. Digital natives who want to provide connected experiences across platforms prefer contact centers. So, contact centers find their use in industries that require multichannel communication including healthcare, education, and travel, and hospitality.

Since call centers focus solely on phone-based customer communication, they are usually used to make inbound and outbound calls as well. For instance, they are used for managing telemarketing and sales, in addition to technical support. Call centers are perfect for industries where customers prefer a traditional channel like phone. These industries include banking and financial services, manufacturing, and non-profit.

#3 Queue management

Contact center: Omnichannel queue management across channels

Call center: Call distribution

A contact center software uses omnichannel queue management to route customer inquiries coming in through all channels. Modern cloud contact center software like Freshdesk Omnichannel come with advanced queue management that can prevent routing chat conversations or emails to agents who are already on a call. This goes a long way in saving a contact center manager or admin’s time and also improves support efficiency.

Contact centers also use automations to route tickets to the right agents based on keywords, previous customer history, agent skills, and channel, to reduce the resolution time for customers and deliver a streamlined experience.

In a call center, all customer interactions happen only via the phone channel. So instead of an omnichannel routing system, modern call center software have automatic call distributors that route incoming calls to the right agents. This, too, helps call center managers improve their operational efficiency.

#4 Workforce management

Contact center: Reduces dependence on agents

Call center: Requires high dependence on agents

Call centers are heavily manpower-dependent. Since phone conversations happen in real-time, interacting over a call can take up a call center agent’s bandwidth entirely. So, the only way to handle peak volume hours is by staffing up. Sometimes, some parts of the seasonal workload is also outsourced. Some businesses even opt to hire seasonal employees. However, both these options again can add to support costs.

Compared to using the phone as the single channel of communication, using different channels helps businesses scale customer service without necessarily scaling their teams. Contact center agents can handle two or more chat and email conversations in parallel. This enables agents to deliver fast resolutions at scale, without compromising on customer experience, and reduces the need to expand your team.

#5 Proactive vs reactive

Contact center: Proactive and reactive support

Call center: Reactive support

Proactive customer service is highly relevant to today’s context as customers tend to stick to brands that deliver consistently good experiences. The penalty you have to pay for bad customer service can get as severe as losing one in three customers after just one bad experience.1

Since contact centers operate in the digital space, they have an edge when it comes to delivering proactive support. The availability and abundance of data that cloud-based solutions offer paints a complete picture of a customer’s journey. 

So agents can track signals of frustration such as rage clicks or dead clicks on your website or in the product and proactively reach out to the customer to offer assistance.

Companies like Amazon, Netflix, and Slack are a few brands that have adopted a proactive customer service approach. 

Since call centers only use the phone channel for communication, they might not be able to predict issues as effortlessly as contact centers do. Data, if captured, reflects only one piece of this larger picture, and usually does not provide the right insights for a proactive support strategy.


#6 Self-service management

Contact center: Self-service portal, support chatbot, and community forums

Call center: IVR system

For too long, customers could only reach a company’s support team through calls. Slowly, as the channels of communication evolved, and emails became the preferred medium – customers didn’t have to wait on hold to reach agents. They could simply send the details of their issue to the support team. However, in both cases, customers were at the mercy of the support team’s timings and workload management. 

Customers today prefer finding answers to questions on their own.

In contact centers, you have the option of embedding a chatbot in a self-service portal. So when customers read a solution article and aren’t able to find an answer on their own, they can quickly raise the issue with the chatbot. In case the chatbot isn’t able to resolve the issue, an agent can follow up and offer a solution. Customers can still have a seamless experience throughout as the agent has prior knowledge about the issue which is logged as a ticket or captured as a chat in the contact center software. 

On the other hand, call centers now offer self-service through an IVR, or interactive voice response, which is often a time-consuming process. Plus, getting in touch with an agent isn’t easy as there are still long wait hours, and a customer might be put on hold for too long.

So modern call center software offer voice bots that can provide answers around-the-clock, and improve customer satisfaction by enabling immediate solutions.

#7 Workflow automations

Contact center: Automations on ticket creation, updates, assignment, and time-based triggers

Call center: Automations on voice mails, outbound dialing, and call routing

In contact centers, apart from routing tickets, automation is also used to categorize tickets, update ticket properties, and most importantly, follow up and close the loop with customers.

Contact center solutions also have features that are designed exclusively to improve agent productivity. Features such as canned responses, canned forms, and ticketing templates, reduce repetitive tasks and give agents more time to engage with customers. This decreases the chance of burn out and thus, keeps agents on their feet.

On the other hand, call center software offer productivity-enhancing automations such as power dialers to automate outbound dialing, and options to personalize voicemail greetings, route after-hours calls to voicemail, and drop voicemails.


#8 Unified customer view

Contact center: 360-degree view of customers with integrations

Call center: Not applicable

The center of focus of the call center lies with the phone channel. This means any customer data collected is primarily from telephonic conversations with customers. So call center software might not paint the entire picture of the customer journey or tell you anything about the experience you are delivering.  

However, contact center software has a repository of data aggregated from across channels. You can also integrate your contact center software with your CRM software and get a unified view of your customers. Since all of your support channels are plugged into one platform, you can get a 360-degree view of your customer. Agents can also attach feedback forms at the end of every conversation to gauge if they delivered a good experience.  

Plus, you can also integrate your contact center with tools like team collaboration software, marketing automation platforms that you might be using such as Slack, MailChimp, etc, to extend the capabilities of your tool. 

3 reasons a contact center is the better solution 

The most important difference between a contact center and a call center is related to delivering customer experiences. In today’s digital world, delivering good customer service does not suffice. Brands need to go above and beyond their ways to deliver stellar customer experiences to make a mark and retain customers. 

In contact centers, you’re maximizing the chances of providing great customer experiences by
giving customers multiple ways of reaching out to you
adopting a proactive approach and delighting customers engaging in conversations with 100% context of customers and their issues.
However, in call centers, customers don’t walk away with a great experience as they have to wait in long queues to get through to an agent are often rerouted to different teams and agents

While call center solutions help you carry out your support operations, contact center solutions take it a step further and help you bring out the best in your customer support team.

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