Identifying the differences between a call center and a contact center is the first step in choosing which one is right for your brand and your customers. Many times these terms are still used interchangeably, but that can result in a critical business mistake. In order to discuss what makes them different we first have to define what they are.
A call center uses just one service channel to communicate with the customer, the phone. These can be inbound, outbound, and/or blended calls. Typically call centers are found in an office setting with multiple agents. Their telecommunications structure is designed for a high volume of calls generally focused on sales and customer service. Call centers are known to cut costs by reducing the amount of agents on hand and requiring agents to handle more calls than ever.
In addition to inbound and outbound calls, a contact center will utilize a diverse network of communication channels to better serve customers. By providing cloud services and Voice over Internet Protocol, VoIP, the customer gets to choose what method of communication they prefer from phone calls, texting, email, online chat, and more. While each channel is unique, all systems are integrated giving customers a seamless experience when they switch channels. Contact centers are not limited to physical offices as virtual contact centers are becoming more and more desirable.
Now that you have these descriptions in mind we can focus on what makes them different. Here is everything you need to know about call centers vs. contact centers.
The differences between a call center and a contact center begin well before a customer has communicated with a live agent. Self-Service channels provide the customer with the ability to find the answers they need without interacting with a live agent. Most call centers and contact centers utilize an Interactive Voice Response system, IVR, to handle incoming calls. Customers are directed to use voice prompts or keypad entries, while IVR tries to resolve their questions or connect them with the right agent.
Call centers rely on this system to keep customers from connecting with an agent. In doing so they may be able to cut costs, but it lowers the level of customer service. Contact centers utilize an intuitive IVR in addition to other self-service channels to facilitate the connection between customer and agent. Customers can use online chats, keyword-driven SMS text messaging, and more to resolve their needs. These self-service methods still reduce costs, but maintain a high level of customer satisfaction.
Proactive vs. Reactive Customer Service
Reactive customer service is waiting for a customer to call. Many times navigating through an overly extensive IVR system or waiting on hold can escalate a customer issue or lose a potential sale. Proactive customer service is utilizing the data and trends you have to reach out to customers before they call in to resolve issues and convert sales.
Proactive customer service has been difficult for call centers to achieve as their sole method to communicate with customers is over the phone. Outbound calls are often unanswered and voice messages ignored. Contact center solutions are designed for the proactive customer service experience. It gives them the choice to decide how they want to stay in contact and you the ability to send out a well-timed email or text message to drive customer loyalty.
Self-Reliant Customer Service Agents
The goal is to always have engaging representatives connecting with your customers and promoting your brand. It can be hard to foster self-reliance and enthusiasm in an agent who is not given the tools they need to succeed. By empowering customer service agents you are providing your customers with a more enjoyable and productive experience.
Call center agents are often subjected to frustrated customers or repetitive interactions. Customers just don’t have the self-service channels they need. These calls can make it challenging to motivate your representatives. Contact center representatives have an advantage. Their customers have access to several self-service channels that can easily provide the right answers, eliminating the majority of repetitive questions. When a communication does come in, it is much more dynamic and gives your representatives the chance to wow your customer with vibrant scripting.
Choosing One or the Other
Making the choice for your business comes down to how you want to communicate with your customer base. Do you want to limit the interaction or do you want to enhance it? Consider the communication preferences of your customers when you decided between a call center or contact center.
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