Call center vs. contact center: What’s the difference?

Call Center vs. Contact Center


The difference between a contact center and a call center comes down to how companies and their customers talk to each other.

Call centers are based on telephones and have been around for decades. Contact centers are based on digital interactions and have become more prominent with the rise of the internet, cloud technologies and mobile communications.

Any company that devotes a notable amount of time to customer conversations needs a way to make these engagements more efficient and less costly. Smart companies create a hub for voice calls or digital contacts (emails, texts, videos), which helps them keep the conversations flowing smoothly.

That’s a good idea because as long as you’re talking to people, you’re cultivating relationships that can help land new customers and outfox competitors.

Introduction: Inbound or outbound?

Companies’ interactions with customers are either outbound or inbound. This distinction is a handy starting point for the call-center-vs-contact-center conversation:

  • Outbound: Businesses proactively contact people, typically customers or research subjects. This requires a savvy strategy for finding people willing to talk to you and figuring out how they prefer to communicate. Avoiding spam is essential.
  • Inbound: Businesses reactively manage conversations, typically with customers or vendors. A-well-thought-out strategy can prevent inbound communications from overwhelming your business.

What is a call center?

A call center manages voice communications via landline and mobile telephones. The most likely users of call centers are telemarketing and survey research organizations.

While a call center implies an office with masses of people taking (or making) calls, many call center agents work at home because it’s easy to forward calls to and from their personal phones.

Call center advantages

A call center might sound limiting because it sticks to managing voice conversations. But there are many scenarios where a call center is a practical choice, including:

  • Direct sales: Some companies are built on taking and making voice calls. They don’t worry about other communication channels. A call center for centralizing and managing their call volume improves efficiency and reduces waste, bolstering their bottom line.
  • Research and polling: Call centers help with political campaigns and in-depth studies of customer preferences and buyer behavior.
  • Business-specific use cases: Government agencies, for instance, often have call centers to answer the public’s questions and help them determine eligibility for benefits programs. Some companies build a business or product line around a specific toll-free number and a catchy advertising campaign, requiring a call center to deal with customers.

What is a contact center?

Contact centers are natural evolutions of call centers. They manage voice calls plus any other messaging channels a company needs.

The appeal of a contact center is that a customer can get in touch with a business on a wide variety of devices and software platforms. The customer chooses the one they like best, so they can reach out via a smartphone or social media site, for example.

Contact center advantages

A contact center can manage any kind of interaction between companies and customers. These are some of the ways contact centers improve business outcomes.

  • Modes: Two-way, interactive communication can happen via voice, texting, chatbots, email and videoconferences.
  • Channels: Companies and customers can come together on websites and social platforms like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter.
  • Devices: PCs, tablets, smartphones and conventional phones can be integrated into a contact center solution.
  • Apps: Companies with mobile apps can add communication features to encourage customer engagement.

The cornucopia of contact center options can seem intimidating at first glance. How does a manager know which ones to choose? The best route is to invest time in learning where your customers congregate online and which options they prefer the most. If your customers spend lots of time on Facebook, make sure they can reach you there.

The technologies of call and contact centers

It’s also helpful to understand the technology for conversational hubs, which help businesses in two primary ways:

  • Management: Call volumes can be supervised to improve customer service and optimize outbound campaigns.
  • Analytics: Data can reveal communication breakdowns and help you understand why people call and whether they are getting what they need. Tracking and analytics can also help you motivate contact center agents, reward top performers and offer guidance to those who are falling behind.

Traditionally, companies implemented on-premises hardware and software to manage conversations. But these days, companies are increasingly turning to cloud-based software because it provides much more scale, flexibility and mobility. Key cloud technologies:

  • VoIP (voice over internet protocol): VoIP tools convert sounds into digital data distributed over the internet. VoIP can be implemented on-premises, in the cloud or in a hybrid setup using both.
  • UCaaS (unified communications as a service): UCaaS uses VoIP to combine voice, text and video in a centralized, cloud-based platform.
  • CCaaS (contact center as a service gives): CCaaS gives companies an online platform for managing their call and contact center operations in the cloud.

Find out more in CCaaS vs UCaaS: What's the difference?

It’s all about connecting with customers

There’s no single best answer in the call center-vs.-contact center conversation. If you can do all your communications via voice, then a call center is likely the best choice.

Of course, a contact center will give your business more agility when markets evolve and customers develop new habits.

Whatever you decide, GoTo has a contact center solution that fits your business.

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