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Call Centers vs. Contact Centers – What’s the Difference?

The terms “call center” and “contact center” are often used interchangeably. While they are indeed similar, they’re not the same. Call centers are all about routing voice calls to agents, while contact centers build upon those voice capabilities to further enhance the customer’s experience. Let’s explore the similarities and differences between these two mission-critical components of your business.

The Value of a Call Center

A call center is a great tool for handling large volumes of inbound and outbound calls effectively, which is still a cornerstone for customer satisfaction. Even though social media or chats might be the shiny new way to communicate with customers, the “old-school” phone call is still the first line of connection between businesses and their customers, accounting for the largest percentage of interactions across the board.

That’s why it’s crucial that call quality is high, and frustrations (such as with an overly convoluted phone tree or high wait times) are kept at a minimum. Responsiveness is high on the list of expectations when someone calls customer service. In fact, a full 83 percent of business buyers in Salesforce’s State of the Connected Consumer report said that it’s important to be routed to the agent who is most knowledgeable about their company’s issue, and 80 percent expect companies to respond to them in real-time.

A properly implemented call center is purpose-built to help you serve your customers in a seamless way. And they’re not just for large enterprises: A company of only five employees can adopt a call center platform that will give the impression that it’s a much larger organization, thanks to smart routing, entrance messages, comfort messages, alternate off-hours routing, and more.

Step Up to a Contact Center

A contact center builds upon those core values of a call center to include additional mechanisms for customers to reach you (such as callback queues), as well as enhanced reporting and monitoring tools (such as a supervisor dashboard and a call recording system). It too can be used for both inbound and outbound communication.

Compared to call centers, a contact center incorporates more robust call routing tools right out of the box, such as auto attendants and ACD (automatic call distribution) features. For example, you could combine skill-based routing with ACD to specify that tech support calls from your customers in Mexico should be routed to available agents who are knowledgeable about the product in question and can speak Spanish – a combination which will undoubtedly result in much greater customer satisfaction.

You might be able to build this type of solution with a call center, but it would be an a la carte add-on approach and the capabilities may be limited. To put it another way: if a call center were a hotel for your agents, a contact center would be an all-inclusive resort. Both achieve the same basic purpose, but the contact center gives you everything you need in a single, all-inclusive price.

Which Should You Choose?

There’s no right or wrong answer to this question – it all depends on your business and its requirements. If you need a simple yet powerful way to route inbound calls to a queue of agents, a call center will do wonders for your business. If you’ve got a larger or more complex organization, or if you need more advanced reporting capabilities, a contact center is the ideal solution to suit your needs.

Whether your business chooses a call center or a contact center, the idea of customer-centricity should be at the core of the decision. Even though most businesses strive for a perfect customer experience (CX), only 17 percent would rate their average CX as “excellent.” Your organization therefore has an opportunity to differentiate itself on that front.  One way to do that is by accessing reporting tools that will help you analyze the call or contact center’s performance, then make adjustments to your strategy accordingly.

Interested in upping your call/contact center game? Call your TPx representative today to find out about our customer-centric hosted call center platform, and our new contact center release.