Contact Center vs. Call Center: What's the Difference?

For companies looking to ramp up their customer service capabilities, deploying a call center (or its modern cousin, the contact center) creates a new kind of frontline. Customers can reach knowledgeable agents who are equipped with information and ready with answers. But while the terms are often used interchangeably, there are major differences between contact center vs. call center technology and the resulting customer experience.

Illustration of an agent surrounded by customers and different communication channels, including  phones, video, email, and social.

What's the difference between contact center and call center platforms? What are the benefits of each, and which makes the most sense for different businesses?

What Is a Contact Center?

A cloud contact center enables customers to interact with businesses on their preferred channels. Contact center agents can field inquiries via voice calls, chat, text messaging, or social media and provide consistently high-quality service at every touchpoint for a seamless customer experience.

Modern cloud contact centers provide businesses with advanced features enhanced with artificial intelligence (AI) that allow them to continually enhance customer service capabilities. Workforce optimization simplifies agent scheduling and quality management, maximizing the contact center's workflow. Skills-based routing ensures customers reach the representatives most qualified to handle their issues. Detailed performance analytics highlight not only areas for improvement but opportunities to increase sales and roll out better products and services. Meanwhile, AI-based chatbots and voice assistants can offload inquiries during high-volume times and enable self-service options.

Cloud contact centers can be integrated with a wide variety of business applications, from customer relationship management (CRM) to marketing software to billing solutions.

What Is a Call Center?

A call center is exactly what it sounds like: an operation that takes or makes voice calls. In a traditional call center, agents would sit in cubicles with landline phones and computers to look up information from various siloed databases. Modern organizations often use call center platforms — communications solutions designed for departments where agents spend most of their time on the phone. This includes customer service representatives who answer incoming calls from customers with tech support issues, billing questions, or other service requests. Call centers can also handle outbound sales and calls for surveys, marketing offers, and fundraising.

Until recently, these interactions have primarily taken place on the phone, prioritizing quick resolution and agent efficiency. Call center solutions often provide standard features, including call routing and queuing, real-time agent performance monitoring, call recording, and the opportunity for supervisory intervention on calls. Cloud-based call centers can also integrate with a company's CRM system, boosting productivity by ensuring agents have fast access to relevant customer information.

Pros and Cons of a Contact Center vs. Call Center

The main difference between contact center and call center technology is the number of channels. A call center is just one communication channel. A contact center unifies all the channels a business uses to interact with customers.

Businesses most often choose a call center when their customer service setup simply requires voice calling. They don't yet have a need for handling interactions through chat or social media, so all their agents focus exclusively on one channel. This approach can be simpler because they don't need to train agents on how to effectively use other communication channels or create new best practices and metrics.

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However, modern consumers increasingly expect an omnichannel customer experience. Most people want the ability to use their preferred channels or whichever channel is most convenient at that moment. Regardless of how they reach out, they expect consistent, seamless interactions with agents who know who they are and why they're calling (or typing). Cloud contact centers enable this omnichannel experience by not only unifying channels but also the data streams from all those channels and from the CRM. This gives agents a complete picture of each customer, their history with the company, and their ongoing customer journey.

Delivering the flexible communications options and seamless experiences that customers want gets businesses what they want: a healthier bottom line.

Which Is the Right Choice for Your Business?

Compared with contact centers, call centers offer fewer advanced features and more limited analytics. If your business is just starting out and not yet looking to build a full omnichannel customer service organization anytime soon, the call center might be the right choice. For businesses looking to increase revenue and differentiate themselves from the competition through peerless service for their customers, a contact center probably makes more sense.

When faced with choosing either a contact center or a call center, it's important to consider reliability, scalability, and cost. Regardless of company size or industry, excellent and dependable support is essential.

Reliability

For customer service operations, downtime is not an option, and businesses can't afford to take their communications offline every time they need to change configurations or update software. Thus, a cloud-based call center or contact center is a valuable investment. When choosing a solution, it's important to find one that offers consistently high uptime and an ironclad service level agreement that guarantees excellent voice service.

Scalability

Cloud-based offerings are also more scalable, allowing room for seamless growth, support for multiple locations, and even customization when needed. Cloud call centers might be scalable, but they still offer only one channel. With cloud contact centers, companies have a future-ready omnichannel infrastructure in place that can handle their emerging needs as they develop. Even if the business only needs voice calling today, it's prepared to launch chat and social later on.

Cost

Cost is always a concern, but both cloud-based call and contact centers provide attractive economic benefits. Rather than requiring considerable hardware, software, and upfront capital expenditures, cloud-based solutions are plug-and-play and pay-as-you-go, so businesses can gradually expand their operations and capabilities in a cost-efficient manner.

Today, customers expect businesses to deliver a high-quality customer experience, and businesses are responding accordingly by making strategic investments to fulfill these expectations. When the time comes to select a call or contact center to enable robust customer service, businesses have powerful options available to meet their needs today, tomorrow, and beyond.

Contact Vonage Business to learn more about how cloud-based communications can improve your customer experience and your bottom line.

Vonage Staff

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