Call Center Vs. Contact Center: What's the Difference in 2024?

Aksheeta Tyagi

February 2, 20245 min read

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People have called up call centers to find answers for decades now. Typically, an IVR menu greets them and descends into annoying elevator music which is quite frustrating, to say the least.

“Oh god, don’t they have anything besides call support?! I wish I could find help elsewhere!”, they wonder.

Even to you as a customer, this question probably hits too close to home.

Customers expect to find help on more channels than just phone — and that’s where contact centers come in. To many of us, call center and contact center might sound like they mean the same thing, but that’s not true. So, for you to figure out which one’s the best, we need to settle the central debate of call center vs contact center. Let’s get right into it.

Table of Contents

What is a call center?

A call center is a centralized facility where service agents provide support to customers over the phone. Usually, the call center houses multiple agents with individual telephonic systems to talk to customers.

Mainly, there are two types of call centers:

1. Inbound call center

An inbound call center receives all incoming calls from customers and works to guide confused users, resolve complaints and take feedback. The inbound call center delivers services like tech support, upgrades/renewals/cancellations and appointment bookings. The main KPIs for an inbound call center uses to measure its efficiency are:

  • first-call resolution

  • average resolution rate

  • customer satisfaction

2. Outbound call center

Whereas, an outbound call center initiates calls to customers, clients, or prospects. The purpose of these calls is usually for sales, surveys, telemarketing, lead generation, debt collection and appointment reminders.

Call centers typically use features like auto dialer, automatic call distribution, and call monitoring to provide call center services.

Learn More: Different types of call centers and their functions

What are the advantages of a call center?

Call centers were a giant leap to improve customer service delivery. Here are a few benefits of a call center.

  • Firstly, call centers are adept at performing such use-case-specific tasks like sales and telemarketing.

  • Secondly, call centers humanize customer service since agents have 1-on-1 conversations with customers.

  • Call centers also help businesses collect real-time feedback from customers after each service call.

As it is with most things in this world, call centers have their benefits and drawbacks

Limitations of a call center

Call centers often pay attention only when problems crop up for customers. Their passive approach to customer service often leaves customers feeling ignored and unimportant.

Only 33% of customers feel agents know or care about what they want and need.

Source

Some of the disadvantages of a call center are:

  • Customers can only contact call centers through phone calls, which may lead to the loss of valuable customer data.

  • Call centers struggle with reducing call center attrition when agents quit their often monotonous and stressful jobs.

  • They can be expensive to operate because they require a heavy investment in maintaining a real-estate facility and coaching customer service agents.

Contact centers are a step ahead of call centers. They look at customer services from a more holistic viewpoint. Let’s take a closer look.

What is a contact center?

A contact center, as the term suggests, lets customers reach out and get help from every channel of contact — not just by phone. While customers want more accessible customer service, brands are rethinking customer experience from multiple angles. That’s how contact centers come into play.

Customer expectations are dynamic. And newer technologies today are helping old, outdated call centers to keep up with them.

Your modern consumers are like acrobats, who are simply not limited to a single channel. They hop between platforms — and you need to ensure you stay agile and responsive on all of them. Let’s take examples of how a contact center would render an omnichannel customer service.

  • Customer conversations from paid ads via Instagram DMs

  • Product-related questions on in-app or website support

  • Critical, time-sensitive issues via phone calls

  • Annual sale promotions through SMS and WhatsApp

The two most common types of contact channels are:

  • Multichannel: use multiple, yet disconnected channels of communication

  • Omnichannel: use multiple and integrated channels to ensure seamless knowledge transfer

Advantages of contact centers

To the 22% of service leaders who feel they are unable to unify and deliver integrated service experiences, contact centers offer freedom. Here are a few advantages of a contact center:

  • Customers can reach out for help from any channel they want, which augments their service experiences

  • Unified contact centers with a single view of the customers deliver relevant and helpful solutions.

  • Multiple-touchpoint interactions equip agents with user insights which result in consistent and proactive customer service.

  • In-depth customer knowledge also boosts productivity of contact center agents.

Limitations of a contact center

Well, a difference between call center and contact center is that agents in the latter might find managing multiple channels challenging. You’d also need to constantly train agents to ensure they stay adept using every contact channel.

Moreover, a contact center uses multiple capabilities to empower agents to deliver delicately woven experiences that flow seamlessly between channels — and that mightcome in at a hefty price.

In other words, it is vital to upskill the team and update the tech stack if you want to future-proof your contact center.

Key differences between call center and contact center

The key difference between a contact center and a call center narrows down to the type and the number of channels each use. While call centers only use traditional telephonic systems to deliver customer service, contact centers rely and harness the power of multiple digital channels customers frequent today.

Here’s a rundown of the differences between a call and contact center.

Criteria

Call Center

Contact Center

Communication Channels

Legacy phone systems

Wide array of digital channels

Agenda

Provide singular, one-off solutions

Build stronger customer relationships with solutions and experiences that glide through different channels effortlessly

Approach

Reactive — agents only deliver help when prompted

Proactive and reactive — agents not only respond to users but proactively come up with solutions that fix problems during any stage of the customer journey

Agent Dependence

Intensely rely on individual performances of each agent

Contact center automation can handle repetitive tasks, requiring agents to step in for critical cases

Scalability

Hard to boost call center capacity

Easier to scale as demand increases, without incurring additional overheads

Technological differences between contact center and call center

Both customer service facilities are built to serve a specific way. Before we jump into the key differences between the two, let’s see how their technical capabilities vary.

Call Center Technologies

Contact Center Technologies

Interactive Voice Response (IVR) and Automatic Call Distribution (ACD) redirect call to an agent through

Customizable agent interface to optimize tasks and manage interactions from a single space

Call routing to deflect inquiries based on caller’s intent

Omnichannel routing to pull in inquiries from various channels and deflect them based on factors like user intent, complexity of the issue and agent’s skills

CRM integration to fetch basic user information

Workflow automation to track, analyze, report and optimize contact center processes

Automatic call dialer to call and queue up customers during outbound reach outs

Team collaboration to ensure synergy and enable agents and supervisors to interject when required

Call monitoring to listen in on and analyze conversations

Deep AI-powered analytics that help you measure performance across channels

Call center or contact center — which is better for customer service?

The answer to this is that it’s subjective.

Choosing a call center or a contact center depends on your customer service goals and how you want to interact with your customers. If your communication needs are telephonic and fairly linear, a call center with queueing, routing and auto dialing can be an affordable and efficient solution. It’s also important to keep in mind that call centers work best for businesses that aren’t looking to drastically scale up their service operations.

A contact center is perfect when you need to provide multiple service channels to your customers and ensure that they receive consistent support across all of them. Contact centers are also ideal if building stronger relationships with customers and superior brand recall are on your radar.

Satisfy the 93% of customers who expect seamless omnichannel customer service

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