28. December 2021 Blog

What is a contact center and why do you need one?

If you were to ask anyone what a call center is, most of us would have some idea. We have all had our experiences with either calling a support line or answering a call from a salesperson.

However, if you asked the people about the potential differences between a call center and a contact center, they may struggle to answer.

Both have similar goals and work in almost the same ways, but they have a wide variety of differences too. Today, we'll talk about what they do and don't have in common.

What is a contact center?

Even though the phone might seem like the best way to contact someone, not everyone enjoys making or receiving calls.

Furthermore, some social groups despise this method of communication. Around 75% of Millennials and Gen Z cite time-consuming aspects of calls as the reason why they avoid phoning people in general.

Fortunately, contact centers partially reduce this problem by providing communication methods that suit all personalities and customer types.

Compared to traditional call centers that you are probably familiar with already, a contact center can handle many more communication channels including phone, chat, email, social media, and text messages.

As a result, customers can communicate with a business through the channel they prefer. If they don't want to talk on the phone, they can send a message through social media or use a live chat widget on the company's website. Take your pick.

Key features of a contact center

Access to a variety of communication options may sound appealing to potential clients, but it is not always the case with agents. They may feel overwhelmed having to manage multiple independent support channels. 

Contact centers are designed to address this potential problem. 

In the first instance, contact centers were created as a central hub for all support channels. By having this option, agents can access detailed customer information whenever it is required. 

Furthermore, if a customer switches channels midway through contact, agents can follow up quickly.

What are some other contact center features that may grab the attention of customer service professionals?

  • Task automation: using these solutions, agents can automate, delegate, or label tasks. This aids in making customer service more efficient throughout the whole organization.
  • Communication flow: with built-in features, agents can freely communicate, pass on important messages in a safe manner, and quickly access information from specific departments.
  • Self-service options: IVR, scripts, and knowledge bases can help contact centers excel for both agents and customers.
  • Integrations: both internal and external to arm contact centers with real-time analytics, lead generation, and marketing automation.

The features of contact center tools do not end here. With so many options available on the market, selecting one that meets all your needs requires time, research, and taking numerous factors into consideration. This is where our comparison of 8 of the best contact center tools may come in handy. 

What is a call center?

A little bit of coverage never hurts. 

A call center can be either a department within a company or sometimes a separate location that is dedicated to sales or customer support.

In an inbound call center, agents take customer service calls or sales requests over the phone from both potential and current clients. 

Example: a telecom company might have a call center from where agents handle billing, orders, or technical issues.

In an outbound call center, the situation is the opposite. Agents work on the basis of reaching out to clients, so they are the ones to call prospects regarding sales or customer service matters.

Example: the same telecom company might call its current clients to offer them a hard-to-resist upgrade for half the cost of their existing plan.

One call center can provide both inbound and outbound services.

Types of call centers: On-premises vs cloud-based 

Differentiation of the various types of call centers goes beyond just inbound and outbound.

Until recently, everything that agents needed for their work was located right inside their offices - from the infrastructure required for calling to customer databases.

The amount of money necessary for setting up such an on-premises call center is quite high, but one of the advantages is that all information is stored securely. Access is restricted to authorized employees, so no one can hack the software or eavesdrop on calls, for example.

However, the entire phone infrastructure is not the only expensive element. The costs of maintaining, upgrading, and sometimes replacing components of an on-premises system could take a noticeable toll on your budget. There’s more to it than just buying a new device and replacing the old one, as compatibility is a key consideration.

Although, there is now another option that is starting to push traditional on-premises systems out of business. Cloud-based call centers with VoIP mean that businesses no longer need to rely on landline infrastructure to make calls. Instead, everything that is required by the platform is hosted on an accessible online server.

Two things are needed to access this kind of service: a device with an internet connection and a VoIP subscription. Companies no longer have to build an entire network of office-wide landlines, maintain or replace them regularly, nor even own or rent physical office space.

When using cloud call center solutions, agents can be located anywhere and still make or answer calls exactly as they would from the office. 

As the icing on the cake, VoIP can help businesses cut their phone bills by 40% or even 90% if they regularly make overseas calls.

In addition to being more convenient, it's also more affordable, flexible, and agent-friendly. Especially since the pandemic, cloud-based call center solutions have been supporting millions of professionals Worldwide and are only expected to continue doing so.

What can a call center do? 

In short: letting agents handle all types of client issues and assist clients with getting in touch with a brand regarding specific issues.

Here are three factors that determine the capabilities of a call center:

  • How big is the department? A small one, despite its best efforts, may not be as powerful as a large call center.
  • To what degree is it automated? If more processes are automated within a call center, it can run more efficiently.
  • What’s the experience among the team? Agents with years of experience and expertise can handle complex problems faster and more effectively. Plus even help onboarding new team members.

Each and every call center could benefit from the following features:

  • Automatic Call Distributor (ACD) - a system that automatically receives incoming calls and routes them to agents based on their availability and skills. In addition to helping inbound teams sort large volumes of calls, ACD can ensure all customers are assigned to the right agents as quickly as possible, improving customer satisfaction.  
  • Interactive Voice Response (IVR) - by following a series of prompts, an IVR menu guides customers to the appropriate customer service department or agent. Furthermore, with IVR's self-service feature, people can find pre-recorded answers to simple questions and solve problems themselves.
  • Call Recording - all of your agents' calls are automatically recorded without the need for any extra equipment. You can also listen to all stored recordings in the platform at any time, for example, to learn how an agent handled a difficult client. 
  • Call Analytics - if you want to improve agents' performance or boost customer retention, real-time analytics will be invaluable. Whether it's for overall team performance metrics or specific agent metrics, you can set your analytics dashboard to show you exactly the data you want.

Besides that, modern cloud-based call center solutions offer an array of other internal tools, integrations, and more. It’s therefore important to do your research properly before choosing one. Check out our buyer’s guide for call center software to make an informed decision.

Call center vs contact center: which to choose?

We have already established that call center solutions handle both inbound and outbound calls, striving to provide outstanding customer service to everyone contacting them via phone solely.

Contact centers work on a variety of channels beyond the phone. Agents are regularly handling not only calls but also emails, live chats, and social media.

What's the best option for your company? Using our magnifying glass, we examined a few factors to determine some possible use cases.

#1 Language barriers

Some people still get stressed speaking on the phone even if you talk in your native language with another native speaker.

Imagine, then, how difficult it may be for a person who barely speaks the language to call a customer service department of a company located in another country. A company that only speaks one, different language.

Chances are that person will drop the idea of calling at all. Vice Versa, outbound call center agents themselves may not be too willing to contact their clients either.

Because contact centers provide more options in terms of communication channels, everyone can pick the method that suits them best. That means having time for translating messages and avoiding stressful encounters. 

#2 Wait times

Configuration and automation are key here. 

You may think you have the best customer service team in the world. However, you could be even more effective if you introduced some ways to reduce client wait times.

Contact center tools provide various automation features and channels but wait times may still be quite long if there aren’t enough agents to manage all communication. In this case, consider reducing the number of channels you run to shorten the response time of each or hire more staff.

Implementing a call center may therefore be a better first step if you are just getting started. Then, if your call center gets too small or you find that your customer service needs to be more complex, you might decide to switch to a contact center solution.

#3 Lack of communication

Even the most well-configured contact center or call center might fail if communication skills are lacking or if agents are not dedicated enough.

In this case, implementing a call center would again be a less risky initial step, as it involves just one single channel of communication. As soon as you master dealing with unhappy customers this way, you might consider expanding your customer support with a comprehensive contact center tool.

#4 Your clients’ preferences

There is one more factor you should consider before choosing a contact center or call center solution: your clients. You should look at your customers' behavior and pick the solution that would be best for them.

If your customers mostly contact you via the phone while other channels are rarely used, choosing a powerful and remote-access-friendly call center platform should be enough to ensure your agents are productive and your customer service is spotless.

In contrast, if your customers want to reach out via several channels and your agents have a hard time managing all of them, implementing an omnichannel contact center could help make your support a breeze.

Conclusion

Call centers and contact centers both have the same objectives: they make it as easy and fast as possible for your customers to get the help they need. 

When choosing which one to implement in your business, it is therefore important to put yourself in your customers' shoes.

If your customers rarely send you messages but your phone rings nonstop, you might benefit most by opting for a call center. However, if you want to give your customers ways to quickly contact you via the method they find most convenient, then a contact center could be right for your business.
 

Regardless of your choice, you'll need a robust and intuitive platform to help your sales or support agents perform to the best of their abilities. CloudTalk is here to help with that. You might just rediscover the joy of customer service thanks to the right features, internal tools, and integrations all provided within our platform. Are you in?