Difference Between Call Center and Contact Center and Why It Matters


April 12, 2021

Written by

Stephanie Walker


When you hear the terms “call center” and “contact center”, do you always assume that both are pertaining to one and the same thing? At first glance, the two function as a communication channel for businesses and are relatively seen as providing similar benefits. Unfortunately, it is that kind of assumption that causes most companies to have lapses and blind spots in their customer support efforts.

To say that the only difference between a contact center and a call center lies in how each is called, is a backwards way of thinking.

Expanding your knowledge on what is call center and contact center, along with the distinctions between each will prove beneficial for creating a more solid connection with your customers.

What is Call Center

A call center is a company’s base of operations for receiving and handling various customer concerns through call. It uses phone systems for both landline and mobile phones, and it is also managed and operated by the call center agent. A call center can either be focused on handling inbound or outbound calls, or both.

Inbound call centers are far more common and widespread because they are designed to respond to queries and concerns from customers. When people dial a company’s hotline for customer assistance, they are establishing a connection with the business in question through inbound support. Among the typical problems that end-users raise to inbound call agents include account and payment verification, refunds, and return requests. In other instances, people also contact call center agents to stop their subscriptions or report whether they notice any unauthorized use of their credit card or bank account.

Meanwhile, an outbound call center is more focused on pitching sales and reaching out to leads. Think of it as a traditional way of acquiring new customers who will try your services or purchase your products. It is also instrumental for businesses that want to convince existing customers to upgrade their subscriptions, try new promotions, or make a purchase during limited sales.

Albeit being among the oldest methods of B2C interaction, several customers still turn to call centers to air out any issues they encounter while using the company’s products. It pioneered how businesses conduct their services and reach out to their target customers.

What is Contact Center

At its core, a contact center is also built to establish communication between a company and their customers or potential leads. The main detail that distinguishes it from a call center is its dependence on automation and use of multiple contact points (omnichannel communication) to establish interaction. These contact points include voice, email, and live chat or instant messaging.

By enabling multiple channels for people to reach a brand and vice-versa, it highlights convenience and reduces the typical communication barriers that limits the coverage of a call center.

At the same time, it addresses the reality that not all customers these days have access to a landline, nor are they all comfortable talking to an agent through a phone call. Recently, contact centers significantly increased in demand and became more relevant following months of required home quarantine in 2020. People needed a way to acquire the services and products they need without the need to leave their homes, hence, they resorted to using email and live chat as an alternative way to gain access to their wants and needs.

6 Key Differences between Call and Contact Center

Now that the individual roles of a call center and contact center have been defined, it’s time to shift the focus towards identifying their differences. There are 6 key distinctions that separate a call center vs contact center, and these are:

1. Time

When it comes to contact center vs call center, time is a great indicator of how the two are not entirely the same. If you want to deliver real-time assistance to your customers, your best choice should be a multichannel contact center. Relying on calls alone may compromise handling time for all concerns. It will also limit the number of customers that you can entertain for every working day. 

Say you are selling women’s shoes, and a potential customer browses your catalog on your website. You want them to make a purchase through your website to ensure a seamless customer experience. To do that, you need to ensure that they can reach out to your representatives in a hassle-free manner, something that the inclusion of a live chat widget on your website can make possible.

2. Clarity

It is imperative to deliver clear and concise guidance to your customers, particularly when the aim is to enhance B2C relations. Messages getting lost in translation are typical in non-voice contact channels, since support agents cannot convey tone through text alone.

Issues that entail detailed explanations do not fit well with a live chat conversation. And while email provides more space for a response that exceeds 150 characters, it is highly unlikely that all customers have the patience or the luxury of time to read through an entire paragraph just to find the answer to their question.

It is for this matter that call centers are more advantageous than their non-voice counterparts. With a call center agent addressing end-user dilemmas, they can clarify misunderstandings and explain specific aspects of your products or services in no time.

3. Accessibility

Contact center vs call center can also be compared based on how accessible each of these two channels are to your target customers. The former uses more than one method of communication, meaning that it caters to a broader range of customer demands.

A website chat widget can help you answer frequently raised queries about your products. Chat agents can instantly update customers for queries involving available stocks, sizes, or colours. Email is ideal for offering promotions, or discussing sensitive customer information. Thanks to the power of the internet, more people can easily contact most businesses these days at their most convenient time using a channel that they feel most comfortable using.

Call or voice support may not exceed in real-time or instant assistance, but it is known to cater to a bigger and more diverse group of concerns. It allows customers to voice out their concerns in a  more concise manner. Not everyone feels at ease writing down their questions. Most customers prefer speaking because it is faster compared to composing an entire paragraph to detail their issue.

4. Familiarity

Since call centers were established before contact centers, call centers are far more popular. Call centers paved the way for several business process outsourcing (BPO) companies to flourish. These days, call center agents represent the business they are working for, and thus carry the reputation and credibility of a brand to some extent.

Yes, in seeking the answer for questions like, contact center vs call center what's the difference, the choices offered by contact centers initially exceeds the latter. However, it is not universally suitable for all types of customers. There is a higher possibility that more people will choose calls as their main way of contacting a business. If you survey shoppers at random and ask them about which information they seek if they want to speak to a company’s representative, they would typically answer with the business’ telephone or mobile number. 

Companies whose user base are mainly senior citizens may not find using emails and live messaging a convenient way of expressing or sending their queries.

5. Customer Engagement

Another key indicator of the difference between call center and contact center is the rate of engagement that they can generate from end-users. Contact centers are more appealing to a younger generation of customers, since they are the ones who frequently use instant messaging and emails to keep in touch. They are also more well-versed with using the internet, mobile apps, and devices such as computers, laptops, and smartphones.

However, that doesn’t mean that calls are ineffective in keeping customers interested and attentive throughout the entire conversation. Call centers require consistent talking for both the customer and call center agent to meet halfway and gain an understanding of what the other is trying to convey. Except for the occasionally long call queues, conversations done through voice support are continuous and enable a smooth flow and exchange of information. In other words, it is just as efficient in retaining customer interest from the moment they initiate contact with the support representative until such time that their problems are resolved.

The key to ensuring end-users stay engaged using email and live chat is to provide instant or real-time replies as much as possible. 

6. Practicality

Startups are often vexed by the question of whether a call or contact center will be more cost-effective for their operations. Contact centers are practical if a business uses the internet more often to sell products or keep in touch with customers. Typically, these are new brands that do not yet have a physical store or are located in an area that is a bit farther from the central business district. It also works for shops that target international clients, since chat and email can both be operated 24/7 and remotely.

Call support can also be operated remotely, provided that the virtual staff are given access and proper training to maneuver the system used by the company to answer or initiate phone calls. This is a typical scenario in BPO companies. Several international corporations outsource their helplines to accommodate more customers worldwide. Phone calls are also more suitable for B2B engagements because business owners prefer to connect with their partners using the simplest and universal communication channel.


The choice of whether to use a call center or contact center for your business is up to you. Each has their own set of pros and cons, but the key is to determine which of these advantages and risks are more manageable and appropriate for the nature of your business. 

You can also use both, especially if your goal is to reach more customers in a shorter amount of time. New Media Services is an outsourcing company specializing in providing tailor-made solutions for various business demands, including call center support services. They have well-trained in-house agents, support multilingual communication channels and flexible options that allow their clients to maximize their options and acquire just the right kind of assistance to aid in their operations.


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