Contact Center vs. Call Center

By Neil Zawacki
Updated: February 22, 2011

Every business should have a professional communication center to interact with their customers. They need to be able to provide technical support when issues arise, answer questions about their products, take orders for services, and make outgoing sales calls. There is a notable distinction, however, between a call center and a contact center.

What is a Call Center?

A call center is a centralized office that manages the phone traffic for a business. It uses a public switched telephony network and multiple call center agents to handle all of the incoming and outgoing phone calls. It is also generally capable of handling a substantial number of phone calls at the same time since it can place callers on hold and answer them in the order they were received.

What is a Contact Center?

A contact center is similar to a call center, but expands the methods by which the company deals with the public. The business can still make and receive phone calls, and this may be the main function of the contact center, but it can also accept emails, faxes, instant messages, public switched calls and web-based calls (usually through Voice over Internet Protocol).

This difference might seem subtle, but it can have a powerful impact in the modern business world. Each generation of customers is becoming more technologically-savvy and inclined to submit questions over the internet. It is often considered preferable to write a quick email than to make a phone call and potentially wait on hold for an extended period time. Instant messages are even faster and can provide the customer with direct answers to their query.

Web-based calls are also increasing in popularity. Many people use VoIP to send phone calls over the internet as a means of saving money (especially with long distance calls). If a company is not properly set up to accept these types of calls, the customer may choose to contact a different business that does have the capability.

The multiple means of contact also allows for specialization within the customer support team. You can have contact center agents who deal primarily with email correspondence and instant messaging, and others who are tasked with answering the phone. This can make better use of employees who possess fast typing skills and resolve issues with regional accents.

Furthermore, if a company is small in size, it can create ‘universal’ agents for a contact center. These are customer support representatives who answer phone calls, respond to emails, and reply to instant messages as needed. Phone calls can still be given priority since the other communication methods can be easily put on hold until the agent has sufficient time to deal with them.

Call centers and contact centers are often referred to in an interchangeable manner by business professionals, but they are not the same. A call center will provide your company with the ability to speak with your customer base, but a contact center does so in a manner that can maximize the potential methods of communication.

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