Blog Home

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


The Team at CallMiner

May 27, 2020

call and contact icons
call and contact icons

Call centers and contact centers operate within the same general field of customer support and outreach. However, the two are not exactly the same.

Call centers came first, focusing employees on handling large streams of customer calls at once. More modern contact centers effectively do the same while incorporating a few key differences to better harness emerging options in communication and analytics.

Understanding the deeper differences between these two similar, but different, types of organizations can help decision-makers in choosing the best options for their own businesses. Below, we’ll look at the most salient differentiators between call centers and contact centers to better highlight their strengths and weaknesses. Read on to learn more.

Call Centers Focus on Phones

The primary communication focus is the most obvious difference between call centers and contact centers. Call centers stick to telephone-based communication, while contact centers branch out into other mediums where applicable. Although contact centers tend to lead the pack with powerful software integrations and assistive technology, call centers have not been left behind. Most call centers incorporate sophisticated Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems alongside standard phones, and monitor and analyze a slew of metrics to progressively improve service quality.

Where call centers specifically handle communication over the phone, a contact center may manage as many as five customer communication channels or more, including text, email, live chat, and forums.

Although traditional call centers take a decidedly simplified approach to customer interaction, the demand for phone interaction remains high among all demographics when it comes to effectively solving product and service-related problems. Smartphone dominance is a likely contributor to this phenomenon, with click-to-call capabilities encouraging customers to simply place calls out of convenience.

Contact Centers Incorporate Advanced Analytics

By aggregating data from the various channels that a customer has used to contact the company, contact centers can create more detailed customer profiles. These enhanced customer profiles open the door to a wide variety of improvements in predictive support which often help to better the customer experience (CX).

Solutions such as CallMiner’s interaction analytics software evaluate interactions across every customer communications channel, resulting in comprehensive analytics that paint a complete picture of your company’s customer interactions. Presented in an easy to analyze format (such as text and data visualizations), this comprehensive customer interaction data supports performance scoring, sentiment analysis, and measurement of key performance indicators across all customer communications channels.

For additional information on improving the customer experience through analytics, download our white paper, Reduce Churn and Increase Customer Satisfaction with Speech Analytics.

Contact Centers Leverage Self-Service

The prevalence of internet access around the world has made it possible for customers to quickly sleuth out answers to their own problems before turning to live calls with customer service agents for help.

Self-service is one area in which contact centers shine due to their multi-channel approach. However, once customers reach the point where they consider a call to be necessary, their issues often prove to be more complex, requiring additional expertise on the part of customer service agents to solve.

To handle increasingly complex questions from callers, many contact centers turn to assisted service techniques. These blend the efficiency and deep knowledge of broad databases parsed by AI with the communicative competence of human agents to deliver a better overall experience to callers. In some cases, this means directing customers to self-service options first and escalating issues that cannot be solved without special assistance to human agents.

Utilizing advanced speech analytics – driven by AI and machine learning – organizations can relatively quickly identify a host of simple, repetitive tasks that are being asked of their agents (e.g. resetting a password, getting their account number, changing their profile information, etc.) that can be automated. By eliminating these types of tasks from agents’ workload, it elevates the complexity of the work they perform, the amount of training and expertise they require, and their importance within the organization.

Call Centers Scale with Agents

To accommodate swells in incoming calls, call centers need to turn to recruitment and hiring. Staffing an appropriate number of agents to keep on call as needed can prove to be a complex task in practice, as needs change throughout the year.

Contact centers may choose to scale through dynamic staffing, but there are additional options open to them, as well.

By further fleshing out additional channels and making these available more often to customers, contact centers can potentially accommodate more customers at once without drastically boosting staff numbers.

Call Centers Are Traditional

Although contact centers offer multichannel support and a variety of advanced predictive capabilities to businesses with varied needs, the traditional, phone-intensive approach of standard call centers can prove advantageous in boosting the customer experience.

Well-trained call center agents can provide a personalized, human touch to communication over the phone that other mediums might not register as readily.

Choosing to use a call center approach instead of a contact center strategy or vice versa can be tricky without first assessing your company’s needs in detail. A contact center in healthcare will be different from a contact center in retail. Establish critical priorities in performance, profitability, and customer experience before taking the plunge for the best possible results.


What factors drive your company’s decision in choosing a call center vs. a contact center?

Contact Center Operations Executive Intelligence EMEA North America APAC BPO