smiling woman in call center

It doesn’t take a business-minded savant to figure out that good customer service is one of the pillars of operating an effective business. Providing a valuable customer experience goes a long way in both retaining current customers and attracting new ones. Therefore, it is essential to provide either a department or service to which customers can reach out should they have any questions, comments, or concerns.

 

This is the basic idea behind both call and contact centers. They are either a department of a business or an outsourced service that provides customers with a point of contact should they need to reach a business, whether it be to exchange a product or offer feedback. In that regard, on a fundamental level, both call and contact centers serve a very similar function.

 

So, if they are so similar, then why do we even need to bother differentiating the two of them?

 

The truth is, many people don’t even bother to, using the two interchangeably. That being said, there is a considerable difference between the two service offerings, especially as it relates to the breadth of customer support each can respectively handle.

 

With that in mind, let’s take a look at both call centers and contact centers. We will break each down into their various functions and consider the pros and cons of each. Finally, we will provide you with the information you need to decide whether a call center or contact center is ideal for your business.

What is a Call Center?

As the name might suggest, a call center is the department of a business that fields incoming calls from, or places outgoing calls to customers. Typically speaking, the agents in a call center are customer service oriented, but they can also handle other duties such as billing, debt collection, or even marketing. While some companies provide their own call centers, it is also quite common for call centers to be outsourced to professional services that focus solely on the function of fielding and placing calls.

What is a Contact Center?

Like call centers, contact centers also provide customers with a point of contact. However, while call centers focus on a single channel—telephone calls—contact centers utilize a variety of channels through which customers can contact a business. These channels include phone calls, text messages, internet chats boxes, social media, email, and even video calls, among many more.

 

Contact centers may also rely on automation, helping customers to solve generic issues they may be experiencing before connecting them to an operator for more complex support. Live agents in a contact center might focus on one specific channel or provide service across multiple channels, depending on the setup and the needs of the company.

What are the Pros and Cons of a Call Center?

woman working in a call center

For decades, call centers were the premiere means of providing customer service away from brick and mortar establishments. As such, they do have their strengths. With that said, with the advent of the internet and rapid technological progression, there are certain aspects of call centers that simply cannot keep up with the changing world.

Pros of a Call Center

  1. Simplicity for Agents – The primary pro of call centers boils down to one thing—simplicity. Whatever the function of the agents may be, they only need to focus on one thing, phone calls. This can simplify training and make the agents more effective as they aren’t worried about fielding requests across multiple channels at one time.
  2. Simplicity for Customers – Call centers also make it simple for customers to figure out how to contact a business. After all, all they need to do is find your phone number and place a call. For many customers who have become used to calling customer service lines, this is often their first instinct when in need.
  3. Live human interaction – As nice as automation can be, let’s face it, nothing beats speaking with a real person. Not only can humans express empathy, but they can also help to solve more complex problems that robots cannot.

Cons of a Call Center

  1. Limited Accessibility – While phone calls are still prevalent in today’s society, more efficient ways of communication have overtaken them, especially for younger generations. Many people would much prefer to send a text or online message than place a physical phone call to work out their issues.
  2. Long Wait Times – Because call centers only focus on the singular channel, incoming calls from customers may outnumber the amount available agents, creating a bottleneck that results in long wait times, thus hurting the customer experience.
  3. Cost – Relying on live agents to handle all contact between a business and its customers is far more expensive than allowing automation to handle the simpler queries customers might have.

What are the Pros and Cons of a Contact Center?

graphic showing different forms of online communication

Contact centers also come with their own pros and cons. While they provide customers with more channels for reaching a business, they also increase complexity.

Pros of a Contact Center

  1. More Accessible – Contact centers allow customers to reach the business through whichever channel they prefer, including phone calls should they so choose. They also provide a clearer view of the full customer journey as businesses are able to identify the channels through which they best interact with their customers.
  2. Improve KPIs and Efficiency – By cutting down on handle time—the amount of time an agent is on the phone with a customer—through the implementation of automation, businesses can cut down on hold times and satisfy customers looking for more general information.
  3. Improved Customer Experience – By allowing customers to reach a business in the manner they prefer, cutting down on hold times, and satisfying customer inquiries through automation, contact centers generate an overall better customer experience.

Cons of a Contact Center

  1. Complexity – For contact centers to be effective, every channel has to work in conjunction with one another. This can require complex setups to work efficiently. Luckily, there are professional services that provide contact centers for both small businesses and large corporations.
  2. Agent Efficiency – Depending on the setup of the contact center, agents may need to focus on several different channels which can keep them from working as efficiently as possible. However, through automation, agents have more time to deal with each individual customer through whichever channel they choose.
  3. Customer Frustration – Nobody wants to spend their day being kept on hold. However, it can be equally as frustrating trying to work your way through an automated list of options, trying to get through to a real human agent.

How to Choose the Correct Option for Your Business

Despite being similar in purpose, call centers and contact centers differ greatly in the means by which they aid the customer journey. Furthermore, while call centers may still serve a purpose, it is clear they cannot maximize customer interaction in the same manner as contact centers.

 

With that in mind, the best option for your business comes down to what you need. Call centers can still prove beneficial for both customers and businesses. However, they will always fall short when it comes to keeping up with changing communication trends. Furthermore, they require more staff to field calls, which creates high operational costs, and they are overall less efficient when it comes to supporting a high volume of customers.

 

Still, the best option for your business is the one that provides the most support to your customers while maximizing your ROI.