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Contact Center vs. Call Center — What’s the difference?

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While many use the two terms interchangeably, the difference between a contact center and a call center lies in the services offered.

A traditional call center handles inbound and outbound service support for businesses. This can include purchase orders, post-purchase surveys, order placement and status, technical support and more.

Contact centers represent an evolution of the call center and handle customer service in today’s digital age. They handle and process a business’ communication needs in multiple formats: telephone, email, live chat, snail mail, and in a growing trend, social media interactions.

What are the pros and cons for each center type? Traditional call centers can help ease the day-to-day burden on your business. They enable you to focus on managing and running the core functions of your business while by handling the telephone inquiries/interactions, general Q&A, order placement & status, front desk functions, technical support/help desk, and much more. Typically, the services offered by these providers costs less than a full contact center, and for many businesses, telephone handling is all that may be needed.

Contact centers, on the other hand, cover everything. If your business has a heavy volume of mail, email, social media, and/or telephone traffic (both inbound and outbound), a contact center is an option worth exploring.

What is the importance of live chat and support for social media? The internet never sleeps and the potential of a customer contacting your business, at any time of the day/night, never stops either. Many times, the availability of live help is a vital factor in customer satisfaction rates. This makes live chat an important part of your customer communications/interaction program. Add in the growing functionality of mobile devices, and live chat/social media interactions gains even more importance. Agents at contact centers have the ability to handle chat requests and social media posts/interactions 24 hours a day. They become ‘virtual assistants’ who help customers get the information they need without time-consuming phone calls into your office.

Why do people mix or confuse these two terms? Most businesses in the industry are contact centers that offer different levels of service. Companies may hire them for telephone services only, or they may use the center for all communication needs. Some businesses, however, have stuck to their expertise as call centers and do not offer other services. Therefore, all contact centers are call centers, but not all call centers are contact centers.

What is a universal agent or shared services environment and when might this be beneficial?  A “universal agent” or “shared services” environment describes an agent who handles all the services the center provides — a ‘jack of all trades’ who may handle not only different service support options for your company, but also for other companies as well. For call centers, this means the agent has expertise in answering customer calls as well as performing other services — live chat interactions, email transactions and support, data entry, social media interactions, etc. It is worth noting, however, that not all centers operate in a shared environment model. Some assign specialists who focus on one or two communication methods or clients – which is known as a ‘dedicated model’. A shared service environment also allows the costs associated with your program to be spread across a larger platform many times making this option more economical than outsourcing your service support to a dedicated team.

This entry was posted in BPO (Business Process Outsourcing), Call Center News, Telecommunications by John Dubay. Bookmark the permalink.

About John Dubay

As Director of Operations, John Dubay is responsible for managing the day-to-day operations of Sound Telecom's multiple service delivery centers and for ensuring the highest levels of service, support, quality and value for Sound Telecom's many clients. John brings 20+ years of experience in client services, account management and operations management with outsourced BPO and customer service organizations worldwide to Sound Telecom. His ability to leverage previous experiences in multiple industry verticals and successes in the consistent management and delivery of client specific operational metrics adds value to both Sound Telecom and our diverse client base. John earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Washington State University where he studied business administration, international business and economics.