Contact Center

What’s the difference between call centers and contact centers?

September 27, 2021 By: Alex Torres

Call Centers vs. Contact Centers: What’s the difference?

What’s the difference between call centers and contact centers, anyway? Call centers provide inbound and outbound calls by voice, whereas contact centers employ multiple channels for communication, including native app, kiosk, texting, and social media. 

Call center and contact center are often used interchangeably, but it might be better to think of the contact center as the next evolution of the call center, which limits the way people communicate. After all, today’s contact centers provide a robust, connective, and interactive ecosystem, which makes it easier to understand complex customer journey mapping.

Let’s take a closer look at the difference between call centers and contact centers.

What is a call center? 

In call centers, there are inbound, outbound, and blended agents. Agents can make and/or receive calls. Call center agents handle telephone inquiries, including customer questions, payment processing, and refund support. Call centers generally use PSTN or VoIP telephone software, which means they make phone calls from their work desktops. 

Starting in the 1960s, call centers were supported by on-premise software, built with telecommunications technology. Call centers are often used in telemarketing, surveying, debt collection, billing, and other similar functions. They were primarily used for taking orders and providing customer service for complex tasks, such as refunds. Today, call centers are often used as a last resort. 

Modernized call centers use data analytics to automatically allocate inbound calls based on an agent’s availability. The latest call center tools reduce costs by helping agents to resolve calls faster, answer more calls each day, and reduce the number of agents. 

As average inbound calls have become more complex, call centers have invested in new technologies, including CRM, backend systems, NPL-driven dynamic agent scripting, and knowledge libraries.  

One major drawback with call centers is that agents often need to put a customer on hold as they escalate a problem to their manager or another department. This creates a problem: People do not like being put on hold. 

Call centers are important in a number of industries, including retail banks, utility companies, electronics, credit cards, and nonprofits.

What is a contact center? What’s different from call centers?

Unlike call centers, contact centers are the main point of communication in an enterprise, as the majority of customer communication is centered through it. Contact centers enable customers to reach out to agents across multiple channels, including VoIP telephone, WhatsApp, phone, SMS, chatbot, and other options. Many contact centers enable agents to send SMS messages from desktops directly to client phones. 

People prefer live agents vs. self-service, but they don’t want to be put on hold. This is causing a boom in non-voice traffic at call centers, which is projected to increase in the next few years. Contact centers evolved out of call centers, and customers wanting less service over the phone. 

Contact centers are more likely to use cloud services, which makes it possible to integrate every single channel. This means that agents can move between different channels such as texting, webchat, email, and social media without disrupting their service. This leads to more engaged customer service agents, who can avoid frustrated customers over the phone. Today’s contact center agents need writing skills, social media etiquette, and the ability to shift between channels seamlessly. 

In the post-pandemic shift to digital-first, contact centers are helping companies cultivate a consistent brand image by providing customers with more options. Contact centers also provide more resources that empower self-service, such as AI-driven chatbots and FAQs. Such features can help contact centers better predict customer intent and find the right agent to address the problem faster. Contact centers provide proactive customer service by anticipating customer needs, which reduces cost and raises customer loyalty.  

Contact centers have become an integral part of industries such as retail banking, energy, government, healthcare, insurance, retail, telecommunications, travel, and hospitality

Call center vs. contact center: Overcoming data silos.

Both call centers and contact centers are using data analytics to build individual customer profiles. Contact center software aggregate data from every single channel, which helps companies overcome data silos and provide a single view into the customer experience. Call centers, on the other hand, are often siloed from company data. Many call centers, in fact, are outsourced to third-parties all together. 

Contact centers offer more channels, which allow teams to track engagement and data on each individual. This allows for advanced routing to the right agent in call centers, which helps teams predict when they should call, text, or engage in web chat next. 

While call centers have improved operational efficiency by using automation to eliminate repetitive tasks, contact centers provide agents with more customer insights, which makes it easier to anticipate their needs. Call centers alone don’t provide a clear view of individual customers, whereas contact centers help agents navigate through the entire customer journey. 

Now you can answer the question, What’s the difference between call centers and contact centers?

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