Did you know that modern customers find it more confident to speak with a live person when making high-stakes purchases than buying online without human interaction? This means a reliable and efficient contact or call center is a must-have for businesses.
But what exactly is the difference between a contact center and a call center?
In this article, we’ll delve into the nitty-gritty of these two types of customer service environments and explore what sets them apart from each other. At the end, you’ll also find a list of top contact and call center software solutions that will help you provide efficient customer contact service.
But let’s start with the basic definitions.
What Is a Contact Center, and How Does It Work?
When a customer reaches out to the contact center through any of these channels, the interaction is routed to an appropriate agent who addresses the inquiry. But of course, this is a very basic description of how a contact center works.
With an increasing demand for high-quality customer contact service, companies are constantly exploring new ways to improve their contact center operations. As a result, numerous types of contact centers have emerged.
Four Types of Contact Centers
Basically, contact centers boil down to two types: one based on the connection between channels and the other based on deployment.
Based on the connection between channels
Multichannel сontact сenter
A multichannel contact center allows customers to interact with a business through multiple channels. Since each channel is managed separately, agents must switch between different systems.
Omnichannel contact center
In an omnichannel contact center, one platform integrates all channels. The platform also tracks, records, and stores all interactions in one place. This allows agents to access the complete history of a customer's interactions and make informed decisions quickly when addressing customer inquiries.
Based on deployment type
On-premise contact center
This type of contact center is located on the premises of an organization. If it’s an off-the-shelf software solution, the company takes responsibility for the hardware: purchasing, installing, maintaining, and upgrading it. If the company also develops the software, it must also maintain and update the software.
With this model, the company can fully adapt the contact center’s hardware and software (if it’s a custom solution) to its needs because it has full control over it. In addition, the company stores all data on its own servers, which allows for increased security and control over sensitive customer information.
However, on-premise contact centers have some drawback. They require significant investment in infrastructure and are dependent on location. They have limited third-party integration capabilities. And it can be challenging to quickly scale an on-premise contact center to accommodate changes in demand, as scaling requires adding new hardware and software components.
Cloud-based contact center
Cloud-based contact centers platforms integrate and host all communication channels on remote servers, accessible over the internet. In most cases, the platform is an off-the-shelf software-as-a-service (SaaS) product, but it can also be a custom product running on third-party servers.
With SaaS products, companies don’t need to maintain hardware or software on-site, which lowers upfront costs. SaaS platforms offer more flexibility in terms of integration with other systems, and updates and new features are the vendor’s concern. In addition, it lets your agents work from anywhere.
However, company data is stored on the vendor's servers, which can raise security concerns, and customization options are limited to what the vendor offers. In addition, the company must dependent on the vendor for maintenance, upgrades, and support.
What Is a Call Center, and How Does It Work?
Call center employees rely on a computer-based system that integrates telephony technology and customer relationship management (CRM) software. The call center can operate internally in the company's office (an internal call center), or its functions can be outsourced to an external call center.
With advances in technology, call centers have evolved. Below, we’ll explore the key types of call centers to help you understand which might best fit your business.
Six Types of Call Centers
The number of call center software options might seem overwhelming, but we can categorize the different types of solutions based on the direction of calls they handle, deployment type, and the level of automation.
Based on the direction of calls
Inbound call center
An inbound call center primarily handles incoming calls from customers to address their inquiries and resolve their issues.
Inbound customer service call centers rely heavily on platforms equipped with features like call routing and forwarding to quickly connect customers with an available agent; call whispering, so agents can surreptitiously get verbal advice from a more experienced colleague while on a call with a customer; call barging to let two or more agents participate in a call, and call monitoring and recording.
Outbound call center
An outbound call center focuses on outgoing calls to customers and prospects. Agents are trained to make high volumes of calls to achieve specific goals.
In addition to experienced specialists, a call center’s success depends on using the right software. The software should provide a range of features to help agents efficiently handle calls, including recording and monitoring calls, automated dialing, call scripts, and modifiable outbound caller ID. The latter lets call centers choose which number to display on the customer’s phone.
Blended call center
A blended call center combines both inbound and outbound calling capabilities, and its staff typically includes customer service agents, sales representatives, and technical support specialists. To support their work, blended call centers use technical solutions that can be found both in their inbound and outbound counterparts.
Based on deployment type
On-premise call center
An on-premise call center relies on software installed on hardware physically located at the business. It’s a great option for companies with a small customer base, as well as for organizations with existing call center hardware and access to IT expertise.
Cloud-based call center
A cloud-based call center uses cloud computing technology to handle customer interactions. The software for a cloud-based center can be either a custom solution or a SaaS product.
Cloud-based call centers let agents work from anywhere using use their own devices and offer support whenever customers require it. For the latter purpose, cloud-based call center solutions are often equipped with time-based and hours-based routing capabilities.
Based on the level of automation
All types of call centers mentioned above are usually at least partially automated, and some rely fully on technology.
Automated call centers typically focus on making outbound calls that play prerecorded messages that confirm or update customer information, conduct surveys, or give reminders. Inbound automated call centers let customers resolve inquiries using an interactive voice response (IVR) system.
As you can see, contact centers and call centers both play a crucial role in customer service, but they vary in their scope of responsibilities, the channels they support, and the technologies they use.
Contact Center vs Call Center: Pros and Cons
Contact and call centers offer similar benefits. For example, highly automated contact and call centers can both reduce costs, compared to hiring personnel to perform all functions.
They also share similar challenges. For instance, implementing and maintaining an on-premise contact or call center can be expensive. In addition, in some regions, a limited pool of qualified candidates can make it difficult to find and retain staff for both types of facilities.
Now, let's examine the unique advantages and disadvantages of each.
A wide choice of communication channels. This lets companies resolve issues for customers with different communication preferences.
Faster service. Since an agent can handle several non-voice interactions at the same time, they can address customer inquiries much faster.
Complexity. Using multiple communication channels in a contact center can complicate operations. It requires cross-training agents in multiple skills to handle customer queries over different channels, making it challenging to manage and maintain consistent service quality.
High cost. A contact center typically costs more than a call center, due to the broader range of services and capabilities it provides.
Affordability. A telephony system, whether on premises or cloud-based, usually costs less than the multichannel software required for a contact center — simpler technologies have lower maintenance costs and less need for specialized technical support.
Employee retention challenges. The high volume of calls in a call center can stress agents, leading to high staff turnover. Finding individuals with strong technical knowledge, great communication skills, and good stress resistance can be challenging.
Limited customer base. Call centers typically handle voice interactions only. This means that you leave behind customers who prefer other channels.
Longer wait times. Because call centers handle voice interactions only, they can quickly become overwhelmed during peak periods, leading to longer wait times for customers.
As you can see, contact centers seem to have more pros and fewer cons than their telephony-based counterpart. Still, each variety has its own use cases.
Contact Center vs Call Center: How to Choose
When is it best to use a call center and when a contact center? We’ll explain below.
Choose contact center software if:
- Your customers don’t want to talk to a live agent over the phone, and you aim to enhance customer engagement by promoting seamless communication across multiple channels.
- Customers contact you with issues that can be efficiently addressed through other channels.
- Your budget will cover all expenses associated with running a contact center.
- Your staff can't handle a high volume of phone calls.
Choose call center software if:
- Your customers or your business relies on voice calls.
- You have a limited number of customer requests, or it’s more affordable for you to hire more agents than switch to a more complex technical solution.
- You have a small budget.
To maximize efficiency and effectiveness, you must choose the right software to handle your contact and call center needs. The market is flooded with a wide range of options, each offering unique features and capabilities.
List of Software Solutions That Will Help You Provide Superior Call or Contact Center Experience
After you select between a contact and a call center, seek out the best technical solution for your business needs. Although you can develop your own, this may not be practical if your company lacks enough technical or financial resources. In this scenario, selecting from ready-made cloud-based solutions is preferable.
Here’s a list of some of the most widely used cloud-based solutions for both contact and call centers.
LiveAgent is a comprehensive help desk platform that lets you personalize customer interactions with a unified solution.
Along with inbound and outbound call center capabilities, it includes sophisticated IVR trees, call routing, and an unlimited number of call recordings. It also has a ticketing system; it transforms all customer requests into tickets, which agents can open, assign, track, and close, thus streamlining the workflow. Customers can submit inquiries to a customer portal and track the progress of their requests.
LiveAgent measures customer service team performance based on different metrics such as call volume, average handling time, and customer satisfaction rates. It then summarizes those data into comprehensive reports.
Freshdesk Contact Center
The Freshdesk Contact Center is a cloud-based call center solution that improves the customer experience by automatically routing incoming calls to the appropriate team member. This solution allows you to:
- Buy local numbers to establish a local presence in regions where the business doesn’t have a physical location
- Buy toll-free numbers that allow distant customers to call a business free of charge
- Receive notifications about incoming and waiting calls
- Make detailed notes for each call
- Create custom greetings
- Run performance analytics
Aside from standard incoming and outgoing call queue management features, advanced capabilities include automated call distribution, agent access to customer history and call notes, and agent performance monitoring and reporting.
24/7 technical support helps ensure uninterrupted availability and smooth operation of the call center, even in the event of a cloud server outage or other disruption.
Dixa is ticket management software for contact centers, distinguished by its conversational, friendly, and engaging approach.
Dixa unifies voice, email, chat, and social media messaging in a single platform. It’s equipped with real-time notifications and powerful automation capabilities. To collect customer feedback, Dixa uses chat ratings (after the chat ends, the customer can give a thumbs-up or thumbs-down) and chat feedback (after the chat ends, a customer can provide feedback in a free-text field). The software notifies agents each time a customer leaves feedback.
Zoho Desk is a cloud-based omnichannel ticket management solution for contact centers that centralizes customer interactions from a variety of channels in a single location.
Zoho Desk tracks the time spent on each customer interaction, including phone calls, emails, and chat sessions. In addition, using data harvested by the time-tracking tool and other information, managers can evaluate the performance of their teams against various KPIs.
Agents can use Zoho Desk from a mobile device, such as a smartphone or tablet.
ServiceNow CSM (customer service management) is a cloud-based contact center platform that agents can access from desktops and mobile devices.
As an omnichannel solution, it provides a centralized location to manage customer requests and transforms them into cases. Similar to tickets, cases can be created, assigned, tracked, and closed.
Aside from agent-assisted support, ServiceNow’s virtual agent chatbot offers self-service capabilities. It also uses machine learning to identify trends and patterns in customer behavior to improve the customer experience.
As you can see, the main difference between a contact and a call center is the scope and range of their operations. Contact centers and call centers each have their strengths and weaknesses, making it crucial to select the solution that aligns best with your business objectives.
If you’re using a tool for your contact or call center and considering changing to another, Help Desk Migration is at your service.