Call centres vs contact centres: what’s the difference?

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Contact centres, call centres – the terms are often used interchangeably, but in fact, there are several key differences.  

Connect Assist supply outsourced call and contact centre services to numerous public and third sector clients. Leaha James provides a brief guide to this ever-changing industry.  

Channelling the difference 

Both contact and call centres are at the interface between an organisation and its customers, whether that’s through inbound or outbound contact, and whether it concerns marketing, sales, or customer service.  

The difference between the two is, in a nutshell, down to channels. 

Call centres originate from a time before the internet. Back then, phones were the quickest way for customers to contact organisations, or vice versa. 

But as the digital age has advanced, the humble phone call has faced stiff competition. First from email, then websites, and later SMS, social media, chat apps such as Messenger, and video chats. The list keeps growing.  

So today’s call centres are likely to be part of a much larger, omnichannel contact centre.  

And those “centres” might actually consist of advisors working from different locations, including at home,  which maintaining data security. 

Call centres today 

Nevertheless, according to research from the Call Centre Management Association (CCMA), phones remain the dominant channel across all age groups.  

Among those aged 55+, 79% had used phones for customer service in the past four months. For those aged 35-54, the figure was 68%, and for people aged 18-34, 64%. 

This makes sense when you consider energy providers, banks, and insurance companies. High volume and more transactional than the likes of helplines or infolines. 

Phones are seen as a good route to getting problems resolved fast. And while phones may have been around for almost 150 years, call centres have been given a makeover for the digital age. 

AI-powered features such as Interactive Voice Response (IVR) and Automated Call Distribution (ACD) prioritise calls and get them to the right advisor, cutting dreaded hold times.  

Call recording, tracking, monitoring and transferring are all commonplace. Authentication, or voice biometrics, and analytics are built in, too.   

And a good call centre platform integrates with other software, such as customer relationship management (CRM) systems and knowledge bases. So when an advisor makes or picks up a call, they’re armed with all the information they need to provide a great customer experience.  

Contact centres today 

So how about contact centres? They integrate a range of channels, so customers can choose the one(s) that work for them.  

One channel that’s rising fast is live web chat: CCMA figures show that 25% of the 55+ age group, 35% of 35-54 year-olds, and 38% of 18-34 year-olds had used it in the past four months.  

Younger people were also far more likely to have used channels such as social media, messaging apps, and chatbots.  

However, in a modern omnichannel contact centre, it doesn’t matter which communication method you choose. All channels are integrated, with customers able to switch seamlessly between them, and advisors able to track interactions throughout.  

So service users might browse a website, then request a call back from an advisor. Or contact your company by social media one day, then by WhatsApp the next. 

Advisors usually work across all channels, but specialise in one area or one account. 

Again, they’re aided by the latest tech, which incorporates routing and analytics tools, and integrates with other essential software packages.  

As we look to the contact centre of the future, it’s clear the omnichannel approach is here to stay. How is your organisation adapting to the changing preferences of your clients and the wider public? 

01 December, 2021