When asked to differentiate between a contact center and call center, you would find most of the people scratching their heads, struggling for the answer inside their minds. Although both of them use phone channels and both act as tools for customer service, they differ from each other in many ways.
The word call center is very well known and has been around for quite some time now. Although, contact centers are relatively new in the market, plus they do not suffer from a bad reputation as most call centers do. Although this reputation isn’t necessarily justified, and that is a discussion for another time. Let us stick to defining the two terms and explore them to better understand their potential benefits and shortcomings that can affect a business.
What is a Contact Center?
Generally, the two terms, call center, and contact center are used as swappable, yet they both have their own definitions that differ from each other on a large scale. Yes, there are similarities, but the main characteristic that makes the contact center stand out is the provision of additional services that include email, VoIP Telephone Services, text chat, direct website interface, and fax services. A contact center understands and accommodates the increasing necessity of providing omnichannel customer support. In the current days, customers expect their businesses they patron to be available on multiple channels. A multichannel approach is necessary for consistent and qualified services in the modern era of technology.
Companies make use of contact centers, utilizing them to handle not only customer service but other operations such as debt collection, telemarketing, and billing, etc.
Backed by operations research and mathematical models such as the queuing theory, contact centers are seen as a great medium to tackle a wide variety of optimization problems.
Following is a better, in-depth look at some of the key characteristics that define a contact center:
Contact center managers have access to regulate their team member’s priorities and access to optimize their efficiency in real-time. Shared objectives and contacts allow contact center agents to act as teams, even when they are manning individual workstations. It is worthy of mention that all of the individual workstations are have different channels for inbound and outbound calls etc. nevertheless, this calls for heightened security standards and secure data. In order to efficiently adapt to the unpredictable nature of call volumes and objectives, the structure of a contact center is always flexible so it can adapt to the need of the time.
Most of the time, contact centers operate while making use of customized scripts for every individual customer interaction. This allows the agents to access a framework for sales and support and provides confident solutions to complex circumstances. Scripts operate over the phone, but of course for channels covered by that particular contact center. Nevertheless, in times of desperation when the situation calls for improvisation, a good contact center agent is required to deviate from a particular script and handle the situation using his head.
Advanced Call Allocation
One of the most disguising features of a contact center is that it is outfitted with features, specifically designed to competently allocate calls to the agents. This is to keep both the volume of fielded calls and customer satisfaction high at the same time. Interactive voice response is one of the best examples of this feature. The Interactive Voice response boosts first call resolution by directing the call to the most competent agent available at the time. Your staff’s diverse skillset would be used to its full potential this way and would prove much more useful to you and your clients alike.
Contact centers can monitor their agent’s performance and customer satisfaction in real-time, over numerous channels. The analytics, however, are multi-faceted, complex and the volume of data can often be overwhelmingly enormous. All this makes it pretty difficult to draw a meaningful conclusion from the analytics and the data in front. However, Key Performance Indicators come in handy when choosing to focus on a certain aspect of data and making a data-driven decision for the contact center.
Now that we have had a look at the features of the contact center, let us bring some of the frequent criticisms about the contact center to light.
Common Contact Center Complaints and Criticisms
Long Waiting Ques
Most of the contact centers nowadays have automatic queueing systems, which can lead to really long, hectic hold times that really put the callers off.
Interdepartmental Communication Gap
Contact centers have a knack of providing multiple services over multiple channels, thus everyone takes different routes that all lead to the same destination. Nevertheless, an efficient omnichannel is no child’s game and it takes a lot of skill and patience to pull it off properly. This is the reason why many businesses suffer from grimy departments. The people in the live chat department are in no touch with the email agents, and this lack of communication ultimately frustrates the customer.
One of the most infamous complaints about both call centers and contact centers is the language barrier. Usually, call centers and contact centers are located overseas, far from the actual markets and customers from which they are outsourcing their businesses. This creates a language barrier between the customers and agents since adopting all the dialects and languages are pretty hard to grasp. Although, with the advent of virtual call centers, the scene has changed drastically. With this new technology, the businesses are now able to hire agents that can work remotely from their own location, anywhere on the face of the planet, and stay connected to the infrastructure. This way, it has become much easier for customers to find suitable interlocutors.
What is a Call Center?
As the name suggests, a “call center” operates over the phone, its major channel of communication. Call centers are made to deal with an enormous volume of calls simultaneously. Generally, call centers are used for services like technical sales and support and customer services. A call center can perform outbound calls, perform outbound calls but it can also act as a hybrid of the two. It is made flexible to ensure optimization of agent’s efficiency by blending their skills and roles. There are two main types of call centers:
1. On-Premise Call Center:
This type of call center is “old school brick and mortar one” and has a physical approach; it operates in an office and makes full use of all the software, hardware, equipment, and infrastructure, etc. A team is responsible for the induction, configuration, and maintenance of PBX or IP PBX.
2. Cloud-Based Call Center:
This type of call center is backed up by state-of-the-art software hosted in the cloud, which needs to be subscribed from a service provider. With a cloud-based (virtual) call center, all you need is a computer or a smartphone with an internet connection, and nothing more. These virtual call centers are more efficient since the upkeep is the sole responsibility of the call center service provider. Thus, the user can keep himself focused on keeping the business on a smooth run.
What does a call center do?
A call center can serve the following purposes:
You can use a call center to rally information on your leads or customers. This is done by calling and presenting short surveys to figure out and evaluate products and services most desired by your customers or prospects. Feedback can also be received in the same way which is great to determine the quality and reputation of current products and services in the market.
Having your team of agents call and follow up on purchases and transactions is a great way to engage in fraud evasion. This would instill an impression of responsibility from your side in the mind of your prospects and they would have a feeling of confidence and security while dealing with your business.
You can save your in-house employees some trouble with debt collection by having your call center team make debt collections calls. This would be a great way to be consistent on following-up with debts and other dues that need to be cleared from your client’s side.
This is arguably the most common use of a call center. But what makes telemarketing so effective while making use of a call center? This is because employing a call center is always more cost-effective than hiring an in-house team of salespeople.
Let us now compare contact centers with virtual call centers
Contact Centers vs Virtual Call Centers
In contrast to common opinion, call centers are not the manifestation of the rather depressing reputation that they have earned over the years. Currently, virtual call centers are the choice of many businesses over contact centers. The main reason behind this is specialization.
The fact still here remains untouchable that omnichannel service is now obligatory for any business. Nevertheless, you are not bound to outsourcing a contact center for all your support and sales needs; there are other options too. Subscribing services of multiple, dedicated service providers for each channel could act as a great substitute choice.
Call centers are capable of providing the same highly specialized aforementioned features including programmed call routing, IVR and DATA analytics. Nevertheless, it should be born in mind that they build on those features to bring the phone channel to its very best.
Keeping in mind the call center vs contact center scenario, let’s take a look at how a devoted call center specialist can diminish the contact center complaints that we discussed earlier.
A virtual call center gives you the liberty to hire people from literally anywhere on earth, and that too comes without the need to necessarily delocalizing your operation. This means your call center agents that you hire can be totally mobile and work remotely from their Realtime location. Using only a computer or smartphone with an internet connection to access the service, they can operate from wherever they want.
Plus, this would save the business a ton of money in terms of office space and other material resources. For this reason, many businesses have developed a partial inclination towards local but remote employees rather than the ones stationed afar. Subsequently, you can hire agents for your call center with a language skillset that serves a specific purpose or that is necessary to achieve a specified goal. This way your customers would always be greeted with a welcoming interlocuter and your team of agents will stay in close connection with each other even while operating from different or far off locations.
Lack of Communication
Speaking of lack of communication, many contact centers suffer from a problem where their employees are engaged towards a common goal, yet their interdepartmental communication is as good as dead. Customer service is divided into segments and the agents of different teams fail to follow the customer voyage throughout these segments. Choosing a virtual call center over a contact center cultivates cooperation.
It is necessary to understand here that your virtual call center software, while specialized for one individual function, is specifically devised to operate tandem in with many others. These services are concurrent; thus, they are able to handle other functions for the customer service strategy system. Backed by computer-telephone integration, integration of services to run a smooth operation has become as easy as ABC. Services like live chat, emails, CRM tools, feedback templates, and script builders are run, developed and maintained by specialists, benefiting your business with their years of expertise.
Furthermore, virtual call center software also promotes internal communication. All the important aspects of information such as contact lists, client history, performance data, etc. are shared across all platforms and is visible to all teams. This promotes an atmosphere of cohesiveness where all units combine and act on the same page to achieve the goal. Moreover, when common goals and key indicators are visible, your team is further federated and focused on a mutual objective. Teams can make full use of collaborative call center features to aid each other while making calls. This also gives managers the ability to overhear, jump in and advise or suggest their team without the other person online even realizing it. Customer service can improve drastically since involved managers can lend a hand to their teams and support any agent in need.
Long Waiting Queues
The phone channel has arguably a bad reputation for long waiting line queues. Thanks to call distribution technology, contact centers surpass outdated call centers in this field. Nevertheless, the virtual call center software providers struggle to improve the current model. Depending on a call center service provider will allow you to access features that are specifically fabricated to ensure that the phone channel is efficient as its competitive counterparts and also that the client favors the phone channel himself.
Click to call and automatic call-back features are good examples of such features. The first allows customers to request a contacting time of their own choice and the second one adds a button to your website allowing your customers to place a call with a single click, eliminating the dialing errors and paving a faster way of communication to your business.
The above examples show that for a business of certain proportions, with concerns revolving around their customers, choosing a call center over a contact center would act as a better and more personalized option.
The ultimate decision between a call center or a contact center relies on the dependency and requirements of a user, and totally depends on what suits him better.
Whether or not to provide an omnichannel service is not even a choice; a multi-channel approach is as necessary as it gets. However, you can decide how to carry out the operation. A contact center is great for centralized control over a strategy, however a call center when used side by side with equally specialized services for each channel, allows much more teamwork, flexibility and improved emphasis on the consumer.