Call centers vs. contact centers—which fits your business best?
It’s no secret that the hybrid workplace has forever changed the way we communicate, but many may not realize this shift’s impact on the customer journey.
Think about your last great customer service experience. Were you able to get answers to your questions promptly? Did you need to re-state your identifying information, or was the customer service representative able to identify you right away? Did you have the option to chat, text, or leave a call back number? Maybe your issue was resolved using an app or automated line. You may not even remember this experience since it happened effortlessly as one small part of your day.
Now, think about your last not-so-great customer service experience. Did you need to hunt down a 1-800 phone number? Did you wade through automated menus to connect with an agent? Did you have to give that agent all of your identifying information—only for the agent to ask you the very same questions and put you back on hold?
If this is even close to describing your last experience, odds are that you hung up the phone feeling frustrated and unsatisfied, like you had just wasted a significant portion of your day. You probably remember an experience like this very well, and it may have even changed your opinion of the company you contacted in the first place.
The way we communicate has changed, as have our expectations of customer service. Customers today expect a seamless contact experience wherever they are. Is your call center up for the challenge?
What is the difference between a call center and contact center?
While the way that your organization handles inquiries may vary depending on your line of business, there are a few distinct differences between call centers and contact centers that you may not be aware of.
Traditionally, call centers are customer support hubs made up of inbound and outbound customer service representatives with a specific set of skills to handle incoming inquiries about specific issues via phone calls. Call center agents will often have a specific PSTN or VoIP telephony login, be associated with a physical telephone line, and can control the flow of calls by logging in and out of that line.
Industries like banks, utility companies, credit card issuers, and non-profit organizations generally use call centers to handle inquiries because they can help handle high call volumes simultaneously.
Call centers also have the ability to put users on hold and answer their inquiries according to their position in a queue; however, as we all know, nobody likes to wait on hold for very long.
In fact, recent surveys have found that 65% of callers would wait on hold for a maximum of two minutes, and 13% felt that one minute of hold time was too long (Arise, 2019).
Dial ‘O’ for omnichannel
Like call centers, contact centers handle inbound and outbound customer interactions. The distinct difference between call centers and contact centers is that call centers use one channel of communication—voice—while omnichannel contact center technology enables businesses to route traffic through multiple channels and direct them to the appropriate contact center agents.
Omnichannel is a term describing all of the ways that a business can handle communication via phone calls, email, text, web call buttons, social media—even fax!
Remember how potential customers would only wait for one to two minutes on the phone? Contact center agents can use all of these channels and more to handle incoming inquiries, making wait times nearly non-existent.
Advantages of a contact center solution
In addition to handling customer interactions via multiple touchpoints, contact centers also serve as a central point from which all customer contacts are managed, allowing context-aware communication throughout each stage of the customer journey. This enables businesses to fast-track customer interactions by verifying their identifying information immediately.
For example, rather than giving a call center agent your name, address, telephone and account number each time you call—and then repeating it again if you’re transferred to another agent, contact center agents will know you, and possibly your issue, simply by associating you with historical data.
In addition, omnichannel cloud contact center solutions can bring the innovation, flexibility, scalability and agility of the cloud to your contact center without sacrificing security, enabling rapid time to market and time to new revenue while minimizing upfront capital investment with features like:
- Connecting with customers wherever they are via text, chat, email or voice
- Screen recording, voice analytics, and workforce management
- Outbound calling and texting capabilities
- AI-integrated tools like chatbots to free up live agents for more complex inquires
The bottom line
Understanding your customers’ needs and expectations is paramount to a good service experience. While traditional call centers may serve your business demands today, will they meet your customers’ needs tomorrow?
A contact center solution with omnichannel capabilities across all touchpoints can not only provide an optimal customer experience but can also improve operational efficiencies across your organization by giving your teams access to the right customer data at the right time—all in one place.