While the terms ‘call center’ and ‘contact center’ tend to be used interchangeably, they are in fact very different. Both tools help businesses deliver customer service, and both use phone channels as a means of customer communication, but the similarities tend to stop there. 

In this article we explore the differences between a call center and a contact center, identifying the features that help businesses deliver personalized customer experiences that increase customer satisfaction scores and ultimately drive customer loyalty.

What is a Call Center?

A call center (or call centre) is the more traditional function of the two, servicing inbound and outbound phone calls from customers. Call center agents, often referred to as Customer Service Representatives, handle customer inquiries, tech support, and customer service issues. They may also provide other services such as billing, debt collection, sales calls or telemarketing. 

For the most part, a call center is often depicted by a large on-premise office space filled with desks and cubicles, and countless customer service representatives sitting side-by-side with headsets on, constantly transitioning from one customer call to the next. 

By focusing solely on telephone calls as their customer service channel, call centers prioritize KPIs such as Average Speed of Answer (ASA) and Average Handle Time (AHT), optimizing the phone channel to make the customer experience as efficient as possible. 

What is a Contact Center?

A contact center (or contact centre) is the more modern adaptation of the call center, offering a wide breadth of customer service channels in addition to phone calls. Recognizing the importance of providing omnichannel customer service, contact centers allow customers to engage with a business via multiple channels - from voice to email, social media and mobile messaging, SMS and web chat. 

In today’s world, consumers expect to contact businesses via the channels they use in their everyday lives such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Twitter, SMS and email. They want the convenience to choose. Contact centers support this growing trend, offering more customer engagement touchpoints and providing businesses with a centralized system for managing their omnichannel strategy.  

Without the sole focus on phone calls, contact center agents can manage multiple customer conversations at once, therefore increasing their productivity and reducing the need for more agents. Businesses save costs with reduced labor expenses and by deflecting calls to lower cost digital channels. By offering the convenience that customers want, Average Time in Queue and Average Abandonment Rates improve, as do Customer Satisfaction scores (CSAT) overall.

Virtual call centers and virtual contact centers

Something that crosses both functions is the necessity for secure business continuity options. The global pandemic has proven that neither call centers nor contact centers can rely on traditional on-premise offices. They need reliable and secure solutions allowing their staff to work remotely. As a result, cloud contact centers and virtual call center solutions have sky-rocketed in popularity. Leading cloud contact center provider, Amazon Connect, onboarded over 5,000 new contact centers in March and April alone as many businesses experienced an exponential increase in call volume.

Choosing the best customer service solution

Beyond the key differences outlined here, there are many other factors for businesses to consider when deciding whether a call center or contact center is best suited to their needs. These include skills-based routing, automation, software consolidation and CRM integration. Businesses must also consider how the customer service solution they choose will drive them towards the future. There’s no reason to make the same mistakes again. Getting caught in the trap of outdated and expensive infrastructure will only result in tacking on disparate solutions which silo information and make the agent experience more cumbersome. Businesses must consider what customers want and employees need. By making a contextual, future-proof decision, businesses can keep their customer service operations scalable, their costs minimal, and the customer experience exceptional. 

Considering implementing an omnichannel contact center solution? Learn how Local Measure Engage for Amazon Connect can help.