When it comes to the call center vs. contact center debate, is there really a debate at all? After all, both terms refer to the place where customers and a business intersect for support. But while the terms are used interchangeably by laypeople, it's critical that customer experience (CX) professionals understand the difference between call center vs. contact center CX models if they want to achieve their overall customer support goals.
What is the difference between a call center and contact center?
A call center is singularly focused on handling inbound, outbound, or a combination of phone calls with customers. This can range from providing technical support or managing account information to processing orders or prospecting for sales.
While a contact center can also handle phone calls, it has a larger mandate to act as the hub for all customer communication. That focus on holistic "contact" enables an omnichannel approach to communication that allows customers and your business to connect not only by phone but by text message, live chat, social media, email and self-service interfaces such as chatbots.
The business value of call centers vs. contact centers
While a call center is effective for handling calls, the phone is just one way your customers choose to communicate.
Think about it: In your own personal relationships, how many times a day do you use the phone? You likely use a variety of different channels to connect with friends, family and colleagues. In just the span of a couple of minutes, you could use Facebook Messenger to chat with mom, text messaging to ping dad, Twitter to joke around with your best friend and email to share a memo with your boss. While you might sometimes use the phone to connect with all these people, it likely isn't your only form of communication.
It's no different when it comes to your customers interacting with your company. Your customers may find it more convenient to send you an email, start a chat or even reach out over social media when they need help.
With a contact center, you can power an omnichannel CX communication strategy that allows customers to communicate using their preferred channel. Rather than have each communication method siloed off from the others, by bringing it all under one function your company can speak to the customer with one voice. This is particularly important for customers who may start an interaction on one channel, such as sending a direct message to your support team through social media, and then move to another channel like email or phone.
By enabling an omnichannel CX communication strategy through the use of a contact center instead of a call center, you can also alleviate the common frustrations that customers can have when trying to get help, such as long wait times to speak to a representative. Customers who prefer to use text-based channels can do other things while they get support or respond when it's convenient for them. By providing text-based channels for support, you also get the added benefit of reducing your call volume; this can help relieve pressure on your phone agents, so they can spend more time solving the difficult, high-value issues that require a person-to-person interaction.