Call centers are located in tall buildings while answering services are located in short buildings.
Ok. Just kidding.
Call centers, for the most part, all look the same. They are located in buildings. They are filled with cubicles and computers. And, of course, there are lots of phones. The difference between a call center and an answering service is not about the physical location; its about how each processes calls. A telephone answering service actually is a call center. It just has a different name because it handles calls differently than a typical “call center” would. Call centers and answering services both take inbound and outbound phone calls. Many of them both handle other types of customer service interaction such as email, web support and chat. To really draw a distinction between the two, we have to look at average call durations.
TELEPHONE ANSWERING SERVICE – Telephone answering services are geared to handle high volumes of calls. Operators are trained to handle up to three calls simultaneously. The calls themselves are usually short in duration; about 1 to 2 minutes long max. Answering service operators will gather key information from the caller such as name, telephone number, issue at hand and so on (probably 5 or 6 questions worth of information). Then, messages are quickly relayed to the client so that they can respond. Answering services handle everything from basic message taking to emergency call situations. Telephone answering services often handle thousands of different clients at the same time.
CALL CENTER SERVICE – Call centers, as most people understand them, are designed to handle just about any question that a caller might have. Call centers operate in a “scripted” environment where customer service reps can handle everything from tech support issues to billing problems to order taking. Call durations are usually much longer in a call center; about 5 minutes minimum. It is not unusual to handle calls that are 15 minutes longer or more. When you have calls of this duration and complexity, the answering operator is assigned a single call at a time. The operator will stay with that caller until the all issues are resolved. Then they will be assigned another call. This is different than telephone answering service in which several callers are handled at the same time. Call centers can support very complex calls that require focus on a large number of details. Some companies, like Sound Telecom, can offer the best of both worlds and provide both services for customers.
Remember, the difference between the two types of services is mainly found in the average duration of the calls handled. Answering services handle shorter duration calls while call centers process longer duration calls.