According to Robert Benchley’s Law of Distinction. “There are two kinds of people in the world, those who believe there are two kinds of people and those who don’t.”
Similarly, there are two types of customer support models — call centers and contact centers. Like Benchley’s Law of Distinction, there are people who believe they are the same and those who believe that they are two different things.
The fact is, call centers and contact centers are different as chalk and cheese. Of course, they perform the same duties of resolving customer issues in the swiftest manner possible. Yet, the way they function, the kind of tools they use and the purpose for which they are used are different.
What differentiates a call center from a contact center
There are three major differentiators that set apart call centers and contact centers.
Support mediums offered
Call center primarily handle inbound and outbound calls only. They make maximum use of the phone channel as the medium of communication. They are best suited for businesses that want to offer their customers a truly personalized 1:1 customer service that yields the best results. It is also the right choice for businesses belonging to industries where customer support needs to be provided with urgency.
Call centers handle only phone calls — inbound as well as outbound, they have the capacity to handle large volumes of calls throughout the year. They also have call center agents who are well-versed in handling customer queries and resolving them over a phone call. They usually have scripts for each scenario or are provided training on how to converse with callers to ensure uniform call quality.
Contact centers, on the other hand, provide customer support across multiple channels. Like call centers, they do provide phone support. Additionally, they also provide customer support through email, chat, social media and website interactions. They help businesses to listen to customer queries from all mediums. They basically converge all customer queries or issues under one roof and offer resolutions in an effective way.
Contact center agents have access to all communication mediums — like email, chat, call, social media, etc. through which customers would try to contact them. This helps them have a bird’s eye view of customer interactions and provide support accordingly.
Tools used for providing support
Call centers need extensive telephony tools and IT infrastructure to orchestrate phone support. Unlike the olden days when analog phone devices ruled the roost, modern-day call centers use VoIP phone systems, call center software, call routing engines and similar technologies to run their operations.
Of course, there are call centers that still use desk phones for telephony operations. A wide majority of them have SIP connections which makes it possible to use desk phones to be used as VoIP phones. Call centers also use an Automatic Call Distribution system to balance call traffic to each agent and team.
There are also other technologies like IVR (Interactive Voice Response) system, call conferencing and call forwarding that enables call centers to route the call to experts who can handle specific types of calls.
Since they provide customer support through multiple channels, contact centers need multiple tools like email response systems, knowledge base, social media management, and live chat monitoring tools in their arsenal. They also use telephony infrastructure like call centers to manage their telephony operations.
Purpose used for
The primary purpose of call centers and contact centers remain the same — providing customer support. But, call centers can be set up for other purposes as well. Outbound call centers, for instance, can be used for telemarketing, cold calling, background verification, customer feedback/surveys, inquiry call management, etc. This makes call centers a vital outreach tool as well.
Compared to call centers that can handle outbound calls, contact centers handle only inbound queries or calls. Contact centers are primarily used for handling inbound customer queries from multiple sources like email, website chat, social media and also voice calls. The primary purpose for which they are used remains to provide customer support.
In a nutshell
Call centers have been around for a long time. Contact centers came into existence in recent years when omnichannel customer support became a mandate for modern-day businesses. Both call centers and contact centers perform the basic function of providing customer support through virtual means. Call centers offer customer support through telephony terms while contact centers offer support through multiple channels.
Apart from the medium through which the service is rendered, the tools that they use, and even the purpose for which they are used are different from each other. Call centers are ideal where customer support requires personal interaction through verbal communication. Contact centers are ideal where the business has queries flowing in from multiple mediums all of which have to be served and monitored centrally.