Contact Center vs Call Center: What's the Difference?

Share this page:
The rivalry is immensely rigid in every industry, so businesses currently encounter a huge challenge ‒ how to meet the demanding customer requirements? Whether you provide a service or sell a product, your business must guarantee a user experience supported by extraordinary business value. Here contact and call centers come into play!

The terms “contact center” and “call center” look synonymous, as both are tools for customer service, and both engage phone channels. This is what embraces the similarity, but there are also some features that differentiate them.

Contact center vs Call Center
Differences Between a Contact Center vs a Call Center Call Center or Contact Center ‒ Which One to Choose?

Let’s measure these two terms, find out what’s the difference between them and determine their possible ups and downs for your business.

Contact Center vs Call Center

Understanding the main differences between call centers and contact centers will help you to decide which solution is better to choose for your business.

What is a Call Center?

A call center can be a centralized office, or subdivision of a contact center that concentrates initially on voice communication channels only. A call center is consigned to adjust an immense number of calls. A call center usually focuses on not only inbound, but also outbound communications in order to operate inquiries like technical support, customer support, billing requests, order placement, status, or even promotion, marketing and surveys.

Clients don’t like to wait on hold.

According to the research, 32% of customers placed on hold will hang up immediately, 60% of customers will wait no more than one minute and hang up.

With technology development, interactive voice response (IVR) was implemented as an advanced function of call centers. IVR is a system that operates with callers and redirects them to a particular call center agent. It can accept voice input and touch-tone keypad selection, analyze it, and provide the corresponding answer in voice, callback, email, or another form. This system is a perfect option for call centers as it enhances the rate of agent productivity and client content.

Two main types of call centers are distinguished:

  • On-premises call center - this type operates right in your office, hardware, software, and infrastructure. Setting up, configuration, and handling of your PBX or IP PBX are on your team responsibility in most cases.
  • Cloud-based call center - this solution is prevailing, as it offers a quick, safe, and trustworthy platform without spending resources on infrastructure installation and handling. Another thing differing a cloud-based call center from the on-premise facility is that the specialized call center software provider is responsible for the whole service and infrastructure. Businesses can completely focus on attaining expected business results and nourishing their clients while the technical side will be managed by the provider.

What Can a Call Center Do?

Call centers can serve the following purposes:

  • Telemarketing. Cold calling to potential customers and selling products or services is one of the most spread goals of designing a call center. The cost of the organization is comparatively low if you select a cloud-based call center platform. According to a global survey of call centers, 66% of telemarketing call centers believe customers will place a high priority on the accuracy of the data provided, while 62% believe that customers will consider ease of interaction as a top priority when dealing with agents.
  • Fraud Prevention. To prevent fraud, operators of online shopping call centers usually call and clarify the details of each order, as well as identify the person in case of problems with payment.
  • Debt Collection. Debt collection centers function to contact as many debtors as possible. These centers are staffed with qualified and certified collection agents. Using the latest available contact information, debt collectors call the debtors and try to persuade them to pay off their outstanding invoices.
  • Lead Generation. For the sales team to constantly close sales in the proper way, there must be a constant inflow of leads. Prospects do not always look for call center services. In addition, sales teams may not always be able to receive potential offers if they are too occupied making efforts to close existing sales opportunities. It is here that lead call center services can change the ability of the sales team to turn more leads to customers. Lots of outsourcing call centers specialize in generating leads. They choose the agents specially trained to pre-qualify potential customers by identifying qualified individuals from the candidate list.
  • Feedback Collection. This is a key part of a call center strategy, as their satisfaction is pretty important. Gathering customer feedback and evaluating their content should be the foundation of your strategy.
  • Customer Service and Technical Support. As a rule, customers have many questions and claims, and call centers operate as an efficient way of resolving their issues and calming them down. The call center team can also make calls to the present customers in the form of follow-ups in order to check whether a delivery process was satisfactory and on time.

What is a Contact Center?

Whereas a call center adjusts voice communications only, a contact center does it all. As clients want to reach new ways, contact centers comprise all kinds of communication: email channels, live web chat interfaces, and social media. A contact center can even provide video communications between customers and business partners. Generally, a contact center is substantially the fundamental base of all communications and customer interrelations for a business and is the main aspect of multichannel marketing.

What Can a Contact Center Do?

Let’s look through some of the main features of a contact center:

  • Interactive Voice Response (IVR). Contact centers are equipped with the options consigned to hand out calls effectively in order to make the volume of fielded calls bigger while increasing customer satisfaction. An Interactive Voice Response expands the first call resolution by transferring a call to a more competent agent. This provides the diverse skills of your staff to be useful to your clients. IVR can also serve for self-service, when the caller can enter his ID code and receive information such as his mobile balance, etc.
  • Built-in CRM System. Agents of contact centers use it to store customer information as well as monitor the interaction history. This approach increases the flexibility and security levels, which is crucial for adjusting a big flow of calls.
  • Modularity. Managers of contact centers are able to shift their team members’ access and priorities for the highest performance in real-time. With shared contacts and objectives, contact center agents can operate as a team, even though they are all stand-alone entities. This also provides more steady security measures and secure data. Due to the flexible structure of a contact center, altering call volumes and objectives are adapted.
  • Call Scripts. Contact centers in their work usually use customized call scripts for every customer interaction. This provides agents with a foundation for sales and support and serves as a big help with confidence when facing complex occasions.
  • Real-time Monitoring & Reporting. Contact centers control agent productivity and customer content over a number of channels. These analytics are compound and versatile, and the data content is so immense that it can be compound to make eloquent conclusions. Accordingly, focusing on given KPI (Key Performance Indicators) is the way of making data-driven decisions for your contact center.

A contact center covers everything. If your business intends to receive an immense number of emails, social media, and/or telephone traffic, a contact center is undoubtedly the best option to choose.

Call centers constrain the agents to only one means of communication. With a contact center, the agents can assist a number of customers via online chat or texting. Of course, the customers will prefer this as well.

Differences Between a Contact Center vs a Call Center

As it was previously mentioned, when considering the call center vs contact center, the main feature that differs a traditional call center is its focus on inbound and outbound voice calls only, whereas a contact center enables interaction with customers over a range of channels, including traditional channels like inbound and outbound voice, emails, and chats, as well as advanced and emerging channels like SMS/text, video, bots, in-app, and social messengers

Let’s look through the differences between a contact center and call center in more detail.

Channels of Communication

The most significant feature which makes a call center different from a contact center is the channels they use in interaction with the customers. A call center uses the phone channel for communication only. Since telephone conversations take place in real-time, the call takes up the entire bandwidth of the agent. Thus, the only way to deal with peak volume time is by increasing the number of your staff during these hours. However, managing a big team may be pretty costly.

A contact center uses digital channels such as email, social media, live chat, etc. together with the phone to interact with their clients. Comparing phone usage as a single channel of communication with the use of multiple channels, the second option helps to provide faster solutions and better customer service. The agents can process three or more chats at the same time, which also brings down the number of employees and workloads.

Nowadays customers remain up-to-date with digital technologies. Usually, they spend about seven hours a day on the Internet. To be in sync with growing customer expectations, brands have to expand their support across various channels. This provides customers the freedom to raise their questions and look for help at any platform they choose. With the help of contact center software, brands can easily interact with customers and gain multi-channel experience.

Multichannel Queue Management

A call center needs a single solution to handle conversations coming in, as all conversations take place through the phone channel only. However, in a contact center, although you provide support across multiple channels, you still need one tool to manage all conversations.

Contact center software uses multi-channel queue management to handle conversations that come through any communication platform. This allows you to view each incoming request from a single platform, enabling administrators to easily distribute work on a team. In a like manner, agents can use one solution to handle their workload across all channels.

Traditional vs Digital

Due to growing customer expectations, business leaders are constantly adjusting their customer service strategies to keep up with their needs and requirements.

Traditionally, customers encounter problems and then contact support for help. Today, brands are struggling to forecast the problems customers may face and actively propose solutions before the problem worsens. In this way, they can pleasantly surprise the customer and provide the best solution to their problems.

Proactive customer service is very relevant in modern conditions since customers tend to adhere to brands that provide a consistently good experience.

Because contact centers operate in the digital space, they have an advantage when it comes to providing active support. Agents can monitor disappointment signals, such as violent clicks on your website or product, and actively contact the customer to offer a solution. Companies such as Amazon, Netflix, and Slack are some of the brands that have adopted a proactive approach to customer service. Because call centers only use the telephone channel for communication, they may not be able to predict problems as easily as contact centers.

Self-Service Management

For a long time, customers could contact the company's support team only via calls. Gradually, as communication channels developed, email became the preferred medium. Customers did not have to wait until they reached the agents. They could simply send details of their problem to customer support. However, in both cases, the clients depended on the time of the support service and workload management.

Today customers would like to find answers to questions on their own. In a contact center, you have the opportunity to embed the chatbot in the self-service portal. Therefore, when customers read an article about a solution and cannot find it on their own, they can quickly solve the problem using the chatbot. If the chatbot cannot solve the problem, the client will be connected with the agent who can offer a solution. Clients can still interact freely since the agent knows in advance about a problem that is registered as a ticket or fixed as chat in the contact center software.

A call center now can offer self-service via IVR, which often takes a lot of time. In addition, it is not easy to contact the agent, since the hours of waiting are still long in many industries, which causes customer dissatisfaction.

Ticket Routing and Automation

Contact centers use automation to direct tickets to appropriate agents taking into account keywords, previous customer histories, agent skills and so on. As a result, contact centers shorten the clearance time for customers and accordingly provide an optimized experience. In a contact center, in addition to routing tickets, automation is also used to classify tickets, update ticket properties and, what is the most important, track and close the cycle.

Contact center solutions also include features that are intended to increase agent productivity. Such options like standard answers and application forms, as well as templates, reduce the number of routine tasks and give agents more time to interact with customers.

Call Center or Contact Center ‒ Which One to Choose?

When you know the key differences between a call center and a contact center, the next question arises ‒ which one to choose? When considering customer service technologies, it is important to decide on the channels that you currently need and what will be needed in the future. Make no mistake by partnering with a call center software provider that offers voice communications only when you know you will need email or chat bots over the next few years. If you pick this approach, you will end up buying several products, which will lead to fragmentation and require agents to switch between multiple desktops. 

Reasons why a contact center is a better solution

The most significant difference between a contact center and a call center lies in delivering customer experiences.

difference between a contact center and a call centerDifferences between call centers and contact centers (source)

With a contact center, you can maximize the chances of giving excellent customer experiences by:

  • providing customers with multiple ways of reaching out to you;
  • adopting a proactive approach and meeting customers requirements;
  • engaging in conversations with 100% context of customers and their issues.

However, in call centers, customers will not walk away with much experience, as they:

  • have to wait in long queues to reach an agent;
  • are often redirected to different teams and agents.

While a call center solution helps you to conduct support operations, a contact center solution takes a step forward and helps to perform the best in your customer support team.

Now, knowing the difference between call centers and contact centers, it is easier to decide which option to choose for your business.


Originally published on 2019-11-04, updated on 2020-04-07

Tanya Gonchar

Expert in call center process automation, Head of Marketing at Voiptime Cloud. Interested in customer service, B2B sales, marketing, business analysis.

We use cookies to offer you a better browsing experience, analyse site traffic, personalize content, and serve targeted advertisements. Read about how we use cookies in our Privacy Notice.

Customer Contact Central