Contact center and call center sound like two names for the same thing. They often are used interchangeably in the business world.
However, there are differences between contact center services and call center services, and understanding them will help you make an important decision: do you need a contact center or a call center? This article will explain the differences and why a contact center is ultimately better suited for most businesses than the other.
What is a Call Center?
As the name suggests, a call center traditionally focuses on voice calls. Incoming calls are automatically redistributed to the next free agent and typically recorded. The phrase immediately conjures an image of royalty-free hold music, long rows of tables, headsets, and dozens of agents in front of laptops, answering questions, taking orders, or noting down service disruptions.
However, a call center does more: Telemarketing, troubleshooting, debt collection, billing, market research, and many other customer-related services are possible.
Call centers are very data-driven, and every interaction with a customer is measured to feed data such as ”agent response time,” “Net Promoter Score (NPS),” “resolution time,” and many more to KPIs.
What is a Contact Center?
A contact center might process incoming calls from customers, but it also processes and communicates across multiple channels: messaging, social media, email, and calls.
It is important to understand that a contact center is not just a call center that also answers emails. It is one central point where all brand-customer communications flow.
A call center conjures dread and negative images for many customers, who consider it a last resort option to solve their problem. A contact center, by contrast, is designed to provide customers with an individualized approach and to be able to switch conversations across channels seamlessly.
Therefore contact center agents undergo training to be effective communicators across all channels. As such, the metrics that define contact center operations are different. There is no average call duration in a messaging app.
What are the differences between a contact center and a call center?
1. Agent skill requirements
A contact center agent typically has to interact across different channels and needs to be equally proficient. Skills like multitasking, social media etiquette, and writing skills are just as valuable as clear diction on the phone.
2. Agent hiring
Because of the emphasis on cross-channel communication skills, the hiring process for a contact center agent differs from a call center. Many skills cannot be taught, so perfect spelling and grammar are must-haves.
3. Agent training
On the other hand, many needed skills can be obtained through training, such as social media etiquette or software skills to manage omnichannel communications.
4. Quality management
Both call centers and contact centers have quality management processes, but it is a more complex matter for contact centers because of the need to accommodate the additional channels. For example, in addition to recording the voice conversation, the agent’s screen will be recorded, and a copy of a chat conversation saved.
Scheduling agents in a contact center is more complex than a call center. Typically an agent will handle multiple channels during one shift. Schedulers have to anticipate the volume of not only incoming calls but also email and text messages.
Forecasting, too, becomes more complex. Unlike a phone call or chat support, a conversation by email or messaging is asynchronous – customers do not expect an instant reply. Forecasting has to account for those delays in response time to predict future contact volume.
Contact centers have at least the same, if not stricter compliance requirements, because of the amount of written communication. For example, when recording and storing transcripts of conversations with clients, security guidelines must be followed.
Not unlike the call center, a contact center also needs to redistribute incoming contacts to free agents. In a typical setting, a phone call or chat request has a priority over an email or social media message.
9. Workforce management
Because of the higher complexity in tasks of contact centers, agent training, agent skills, and forecasting, the workforce management system has to be flexible and sophisticated enough to manage the requirements of multichannel communications.
10. Support software
Similarly, contact center agents will be working with software that lets them switch across channels over the time of a shift to accommodate incoming messages and calls.
11. Analytics and Reporting
Contact centers, like call centers, are governed by KPIs. Some are similar to call centers–e.g., customer satisfaction rates, first call resolutions, NPS, and others. However, they will be grouped by channels to assess individual efficiency.
12. Customer Experience and Agent Experience
In the future, customers will expect a seamless switch between channels when talking to a business. Agent satisfaction in contact centers outperforms that of call centers when they have the appropriate tools. A happier agent makes for better customer communication.
Below the line
Overall, a contact center is superior to a call center for most businesses. Multiple benchmark studies confirm that customers prefer companies that they can contact in various ways.
It all comes down to improving the customer experience and lowering the customer effort. Leaving the choice between email, chat, and call up to them, does just that.
Ultimately the choice is with the business; but in our opinion, a contact center offers more opportunities to use new technologies and developments in how a brand and a customer talk to each other.
If you have any questions about the differences between call center and contact center,or how to best implement a contact center, please call, email, or fill out the form below. We’d love to hear from you!