If you’ve ever interacted with a company’s customer service channels, chances are you’ve been in touch with either a call centre or contact centre. But what’s the difference between the two? And if you’re looking to improve your customer service capabilities, which one makes more sense for a business in New Zealand in 2023?

First, let’s define what a call centre is and what a contact centre is.

What Is a Call Centre?

A call centre is a customer service department that primarily uses telephone calls to handle customer enquiries, complaints, and other interactions. Call centres are typically staffed by customer service representatives, also known as call centre agents, who are trained to handle a wide range of customer interactions over the phone.

Call centres were once the primary method of providing customer service. However, with the rise of digital channels and the growing popularity of self-service options, call centres have become less common in recent years. Despite this, many businesses still rely on call centres to provide personalised, one-on-one support to their customers.

What Is a Contact Centre?

A contact centre is a customer service department that uses a variety of communication channels, such as telephone calls, email, chat, and social media, to handle customer interactions. This allows a contact centre to utilise the benefits of a Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) approach.

Unlike call centres, which are focused primarily on phone calls, contact centres are designed to be multi-channel and to provide customer service through whatever channel is most convenient for the customer.

In many cases, contact centres will still include a call centre as one of the channels they use to interact with customers. However, adding other channels, such as email, chat, and social media, allows contact centres to provide more comprehensive and convenient customer service.

What Are the Differences Between Call Centres and Contact Centres?

There are several critical differences between call centres and contact centres that decision-makers should be aware of when choosing which option is best for their business. These differences include the data they collect, the channels they use, the skills required of their agents, their use of customer self-service technologies, and their technologies.

1. Data

Another key difference between call centres and contact centres is the data they collect. Because contact centres use multiple channels to interact with customers, they can collect more data about customer preferences, behaviour, and needs. This data can be used to improve customer profiling and provide more personalised customer support.

In contrast, call centres typically collect less data because they rely solely on phone calls for customer interactions. While call centres can still use speech analysis software to gain insights into customer behaviour and preferences, the data collected is generally less comprehensive than what is available to contact centres.

2. Channels

One of the most significant differences between call centres and contact centres is the channels they use to interact with customers. As mentioned earlier, call centres are focused primarily on telephone calls, while contact centres use a variety of channels, including phone calls, email, chat, and social media.

The choice of the channel can have a significant impact on the customer experience (CX) . For example, phone calls with live agents can provide a personalised and human touch often lacking in other channels. On the other hand, digital channels like email and chat can be more convenient for customers and allow faster, more efficient interactions.

3. Agent Skills

Another important consideration when choosing between a call centre and a contact centre for your business is the skills required of the agents who will be working in the department.
Call centre agents are typically trained to handle a wide range of customer interactions over the phone.

This requires excellent communication skills and the ability to think on their feet and handle difficult or irate customers. Because call centres often handle more complex or sensitive customer interactions, call centre agents may also need additional training in areas like technical support or complaint resolution.

Contact centre agents, on the other hand, need to be skilled in a broader range of communication channels. In addition to phone calls, they may need to be able to handle email, chat, and social media interactions with customers. This requires a different set of skills, such as writing clearly and concisely and managing multiple customer interactions simultaneously.

4. Customer Self-Service

Another important difference between call centres and contact centres is their use of customer self-service technologies. Many call centres use interactive voice response (IVR) systems to provide customers with self-service options. IVR systems can handle routine tasks like routing calls to the appropriate agent and giving information on frequently asked questions.

On the other hand, contact centres often use more advanced self-service technologies, such as chatbots and virtual assistants, to provide customers with faster and more convenient service. These technologies can handle routine tasks and enquiries, freeing up human agents to focus on more complex or high-value interactions. This can help contact centres improve their efficiency and scalability while providing a better customer experience.

5. Technology

Finally, the technologies used in call centres and contact centres can also differ. Call centres typically use phone systems and speech analysis software to handle customer interactions and to gain insights into customer behaviour and preferences. Contact centres, on the other hand, may use a wider range of technologies, including chatbot and virtual assistant platforms and customer relationship management (CRM) systems that integrate with multiple communication channels.

Choosing the Right Option for Your Business

When choosing between a call centre and a contact centre for your business, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. The right option will depend on your business needs, your customer base, and your overall customer service strategy.

If your business primarily serves customers over the phone, and if you value the personalised, human touch that only live agents can provide, a call centre may be the right choice for you. On the other hand, if you want to provide more convenient and comprehensive customer service through multiple channels, a contact centre may be the better option.

In general, contact centres offer several key advantages over call centres, including the ability to handle a wider range of communication channels, the ability to collect and leverage more customer data, and the ability to use more advanced technologies to improve the customer experience. These factors make contact centres more future-proof and better equipped to handle the changing needs of customers and businesses.

By choosing a contact centre, your business can provide better customer service, optimise your operations, and better leverage customer data to drive business results. This can help you improve customer satisfaction, loyalty, and retention, as well as increase sales and revenue.

Of course, every business is different, and the right choice between a call centre and a contact centre will depend on your specific needs and goals. If you’d like to find out more about how to choose the approach that best aligns with your customer service strategy, please contact us, we’d be glad to help. By doing so, you can ensure that your customer service department is equipped to provide the best possible experience for your customers, which can lead to happier customers, and more revenue.