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Article : Call Center vs. Contact Center: What’s the Difference?

#contactcenterworld, @brightpatternus

Author: Shelby Faris, Marketing manager, Bright Pattern

People tend to use the terms "call center" and "contact center" interchangeably, which causes confusion in our modern world of customer communications and—understandably—adds complexity to the call center vs. contact center debate. There is a difference though. To help explain it, we will do a deep dive into the types customer interactions that can be facilitated by call centers and contact centers.

Call Center vs. Contact Center: What Is a Contact Center?

A contact center offering multiple channels for communication can provide companies with many advantages, including empowered call center agents, decreased average handle time (AHT), fewer agents needed and reduction in labor expenses, and increased call center customer satisfaction ratings (CSAT).

Contact centers allow companies to provide multichannel and omnichannel communications to customers. Omnichannel support gives customers the opportunity to contact their favorite brands over their preferred channel. With the emergence of video, in-app, and social media, people are conducting conversations with friends and family over more channels and have come to expect seamless communication between channels.

For example, while at work you may prefer to text a friend about meeting up later for dinner, during lunch when you are more available to talk and want to speed up the conversation, you call her to confirm plans, and then after work on your way to the restaurant you might send a Snapchat or Facebook Messenger video message to let her know you are on the way. Because people have this seamless omnichannel communication style in their personal lives, they are beginning to demand it of companies as well.

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Call Center vs. Contact Center: What Is a Call Center?

What is the major difference between a call center and contact center?

When considering the call center vs. contact center, the primary difference is that a traditional call center focuses only on inbound and outbound voice calls over the phone, whereas a contact center has the ability to interact with customers over a variety of channels, including traditional channels like inbound and outbound voice, email, and chat, as well as innovative and emerging channels like SMS/text, video, bots, in-app, and social messengers.

Let’s take a more in-depth look at some of the key features of a call center.

Inbound Voice

Although contact centers with multichannel or omnichannel communications are more common than call centers with inbound and outbound voice only, inbound voice calls are still a primary channel that customers use to contact companies. For inbound voice call management, it is important to have features like call transcription, dropped call conversation continuity, virtual queue with callback options, and pre-recorded message playback.

Virtual Queue with callback is a great feature to improve customer satisfaction and decrease AHT. It gives customers calling your call center the option to leave a callback number so they can hang up the phone and get a callback from a customer service rep when they are next in queue. Customers will never have to wait on hold again! You will also experience fewer dropped calls out of waiting time frustrations.


Routing is an important feature in a call center that allows traditional calls to be automatically distributed among your call center representatives. There are many different routing options that can make call center operations more efficient.

Skills-based routing is a common function that allows call center management to set up distribution rules that get incoming calls to the most appropriate call center agent. For example, if you are operating a multilingual call center, you can set up skills-based routing for call center agents and the languages they can speak. Spanish-speaking customers will automatically be routed to Spanish-speaking customer service representatives. You can also set up skills-based routing for different types of questions (i.e., calling about a bill versus calling to set up an account).

Call centers can also set up priority routing options for certain call center customer segments. If you have preferred customers that need to be routed to more experienced call center customer service representatives with shorter wait times, all of this can be set up with automated routing.

With some call center routing technology, you can also set up personal routing. When a customer is calling in for a second time, the system will recognize the customer contact information from your case management system or customer relationship management (CRM) software, and route them to the same agent they were talking to previously if the call center agent is currently available.

Outbound Voice

If you are operating a blended voice call center, not only are you taking inbound calls, but agents are conducting outbound calls as well. Outbound calls are primarily for sales purposes but also can be used for customer support, such as with the virtual queue callback option mentioned previously. Call center technology for outbound voice has different dialing modes available, including predictive, preview, progressive, automatic (IVR), and manual dialing.

The different dialing modes offer different features that can make outbound dialing campaigns more efficient. For example, with progressive and predictive dialing modes, the system automatically dials numbers for your prospect list, monitors progress, and only connects call center agents when a human picks up the phone. This can save call centers a lot of time compared to manually dialing telephone numbers.


Interactive Voice Response, commonly known as IVR, is a self-service channel that customers can use when calling into a call center. The IVR asks the caller questions or offers menu options in order to get information for either routing the call to the correct customer service agent or team, or completely handle routine customer inquiries. For example, if you call into your bank, the IVR might start by asking identification questions like your account number or social security number. It then might ask your reason for calling in. If you are calling in for a routine reason, such as for checking your account balance, the IVR should be able to handle the customer issue completely. If the interaction is more difficult or if the customer would prefer to talk to a call center agent, the IVR will route them accordingly.

A conversational IVR can be implemented into a call center using artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, Natural Language Understanding (NLU), Natural Language Processing (NLP), and speech-to-text technologies. When interacting with a conversational IVR, instead of saying or typing in a number in response to the IVR menu options, customers can talk as they normally would, in turn improving customer experiences.


Call Center vs. Contact Center: What Is a Contact Center?

Because modern contact centers have additional channels, there are more features within omnichannel technology. Let’s take a more in-depth look at some of the key features of a call center.

Omnichannel ACD and Routing

When you are operating a contact center with multiple channels, you need to have an omnichannel Automatic Call Distributor (ACD) where phone calls and other channel interactions are routed to the correct team or agent. Some contact centers have different teams working on different channels, so proper routing and prioritization becomes very important.

An omnichannel ACD built on Bright Pattern’s omnichannel capacity model, for example, helps companies to prioritize based on channel type and also allows agents to handle interactions over more than one channel at a time. For example, rules can be set so that an agent can handle up to four chat interactions, two email interactions, and one voice interaction at a time before reaching full capacity. This benefits contact centers because agents are not limited to a specific channel, which can create dead time in between interactions. It also increases agent engagement, as agents are not confined to a single channel.

Email Handling

Email is often the second channel a company adds to its channel mix. It is important to make sure when adding in new channels that they work seamlessly with your existing voice channel. Email handling contact center software features include push and pull distribution modes, service level management, keyword and sentiment routing, automatic case creation and tracking, follow-up queue, and a built-in knowledge base.

Web Chat

Web chat is another common channel that companies like to add when creating a multichannel or omnichannel contact center. With more customers accessing self-service sites via the computer or mobile phone before reaching out to companies, web chat offers a convenient way to escalate from self-service to talking with a call center agent without changing devices. Most industries, including retail, financial, and travel, understand the importance of offering live web chat on their website. Web chat contact center features include point-and-click widget configuration, proactive chat, response timer, web notifications, co-browsing, voice and video escalation, bots, and AI.

Point-and-click chat widget configuration allows companies to easily set up the chat widget on their website. A widget should match website branding, so it is important to have a customizable web chat tool with different color and text options.

Like email, web chat also should have a knowledge base for the agents to access with suggested responses. Web chat eliminates customer waiting time, as chat is thought to be a more immediate path to conversation.

Social Messaging Apps

Companies are beginning to focus more on mobile apps, social listening, and social messengers for communicating with their customers. Although social channels have been traditionally handled by the marketing department, more companies are creating teams of social media agents to handle customer interactions that come in through social networks. Social networks include but are not limited to Facebook, Viber, LINE, and Telegram. Social messenger contact center software features include location sharing, accurate identification, media and file sharing, point-and-click channel enablement, bots, and AI.


SMS, also known as text messaging, is part of your customers’ everyday communication. Texting can be a convenient way to interact with your customer when sending out reminders or sending additional information to a customer after a phone conversation. Businesses will typically use SMS with appointment setting. For example, you may receive a text message the day before a dentist appointment. You may even have the option to text back to confirm or reschedule.

AI and Bots

AI and bots can be used across all channels in your contact center. Contact Center AI can help automate interactions and assist agents in their customer replies. Companies are starting to automate web chat and social messengers by using bots. Similar to an IVR, a bot will ask a series of questions while trying to solve the customer inquiry. If the inquiry is too difficult for the bot, the interaction can be escalated to a live agent.


What Is an Omnichannel Contact Center?

I have talked about both multichannel contact centers and omnichannel contact centers. Both offer companies a variety of channels of communication, but multichannel has certain limitations. Multichannel contact centers often have the channels you need but they are siloed. This means agents have multiple desktops for each channel. This often forces contact centers to silo their agents by channels as well. Omnichannel contact center technology is necessary if you want to provide your customers with seamless channel switching.

For example, in a siloed multichannel contact center, a customer cannot move from web chat to a voice call and remain with the same call center agent. They will have to repeat all of their customer information over again to a new agent. With an omnichannel platform, the customer will be able to escalate the chat to a call effortlessly and remain with the same agent. All context will also be carried over and visible to the agent. So no matter how many channels a customer uses, the agent will have a complete view of prior interactions, showing the entire customer journey.

How Does an Omnichannel Contact Center Work?

The correct contact center solution is needed in order for a contact center to work properly. The correct omnichannel platform is needed for seamless channel switching. An omnichannel ACD is also necessary to route all channels and allow call center agents to work over multiple channels simultaneously.

Comparing Contact Center vs. Call Center

Call centers lack the channels of today’s consumers. Although voice is still the primary channel within contact centers, other channels are becoming more prevalent. When thinking about whether you need a call center or contact center, you need to understand which channels your customers prefer to communicate on. It is also important to think about channels that are important today and will persist in the future.

When looking at customer care technology, it is important to take into consideration the channels you currently need and what will be necessary later on. Don’t make the mistake of partnering with a call center software vendor that offers voice only when you know you will need email in the next few years. If you take this approach, you will end up purchasing multiple products, which will lead to silos and require agents to hop between multiple desktops. Also, take into consideration whether you need a multichannel contact center or omnichannel contact center. You may also want to consider the benefits of cloud solutions vs. on-premises solutions. Cloud-based contact centers can allow for lower capital expenditure and more innovative technology.

#contactcenterworld, @brightpatternus

About Bright Pattern Inc:
Company LogoBright Pattern is an effective cloud contact center software which helps businesses to simplify multichannel service. Bright Pattern’s solution features enterprise-grade architecture that offers non-disruptive maintenance with on the fly upgrades and scales from 5 to 10,000 concurrent agents with a measured 99.99% uptime. Bright Pattern’s out-of-the-box CRM integrations increase agent productivity with integrated UI, click to call, screen pop, and activity history, automatically saved with the ticket. Bright Pattern’s solution has usability that is second to none with a new intuitive desktop for managing omnichannel experiences, a unified interface to set-up and modify workflows, and a monitoring, reporting, and quality management for and across all channels.
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Today's Tip of the Day - Take Cell Numbers

Read today's tip or listen to it on podcast.

Published: Monday, June 3, 2019

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2021 Buyers Guide Consultancies

3D Vision Consulting

. Contact Center setup, management and transformation across all key components including Vision & Strategy, People, Technology, Quality, Processes, Communication and Facilities.
• Customer Experience strategy, design and implementation across multiple delivery channels.
• Design and implementation of full-cycle Ticket/Complaint Management Process/System.
• Develop Customer Satisfaction, Staff Satisfaction and Staff Motivation strategy and programs.
• Develop end-to-end Business Processes, efficient SOPs and well-structured SLAs.
• Build modern customer communication channels including Live Chat, AI Chat Bots, WhatsApp and Social Media Integration.
• Design Sales/Telesales structure, p...
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CC-CMM Certification Institute

CC-CMM Certification


Service Journey Thinking
Service Journey Thinking is a comprehensive approach for improving the experience customers have along the service journey. It considers the service journey not only from the customer’s perspective, but it also examines the components that support the experience, including people, technology, processes and policies. By applying Service Journey Thinking, COPC Inc. helps brands promote greater efficiency, improved performance and reduced cost within their operations. For customers, this means reduced effort, improved satisfaction and enhanced loyalty.


Genesys PureConnect
Call Centers, Contact Centers and Cloud Solutions Consultancies

Customer Support Asia

Customer Support Asia assures the success of service offshoring initiatives in the Philippines. Our consultancy serves both:
- clients that have service partners in the Philippines, and need to implement a major service initiative (performance/CX improvement, service change, site expansion, etc); and
- clients that desire to outsource services to the Philippines for the first time, and need expert help to qualify an an "ideal fit" partner, and manage an end-to-end service transition

We support both contact center services and "back office" BPO projects, limiting our practice to sites in the Philippines

CX Central

Contact Centre Specialist Consulting
CX Consult provides specialist contact centre consulting with decades of experience across Australia and Asia/Pacific lead by industry expert Justin Tippett. Services include health checks, optimisation, outsourcing (local and offshore), technology upgrades, strategy and more.

Whether you have a 5 seat contact centre or a large multi-site operation we'll provide you with expert advice to ensure you can achieve your business objectives.

ERIC YOUNG ASSOCIATES (Tele-Centre Assist Inc.)

Contact Center Consulting & Profit Improvement (Lean Six Sigma), Inside Sales, Efficiencies, Call Center Audit, Technology & vendor selection, Telephony, Recruiting, Training, Performance Management, Customer Journey Mapping, Software (CRM) Implementations

Lieber & Associates

Contact Center Consulting
Lieber & Associates assists organizations with contact center issues.This includes management, processes, training, and technology. The firm's assessments evaluate and make recommendations for 15 call center areas ranging from call seasonalities to staffing to better use of the telephone systems. Contact center technology services range from new technology selection and implementation to problem-solving and optimization to technical trouble-shooting. Senior consultants have more than 20 years of experience each and are leaders in their discipline. Clients span most business sectors.

Mpathy Plus

Mpathy Plus transform service, improve performance and provide operational support. We work in all areas of customer service and contact centres from initial strategy, feasibility studies, business cases, project management through to operational reviews, resource planning etc. We are independent and have vast experience of implementing, managing and changing contact centres and the customer experience.

Outsourcing Solutions Europe

Outsourcing Solutions Europe is an advisory firm that helps companies to find the right contact center/BPO partner to serve European customers

PCA Advisors Ltd

Contact Center Sales - growth and marketing strategies
I work with contact centers to position their companies to take advantage of opportunities that exist for them. We also work with their existing sales team to improve their communication and hunting skills. 'Growth' is our greatest ability.

Pelorus Associates

Marketing Communications
Pelorus Associates is a market research and marketing communications company that assists developers of contact center solutions by providing in-depth market research and by authoring white papers, e-books, and blog posts.


We can help You boost Your business results by:

- Building or developing high performing multi-channel customer care operations

- Improving metrics like Customer Satisfaction, Net Promoter Score (NPS), Customer Effort Score (CES), First Contact Resolution (FCR), Customer Retention rate, Inbound conversions

- Developing Your teams' skills to excel front and back-office operations and Customer relations

- Preparing and executing efficient Voice of the Customer and Customer Advocacy approach

- We will help You manage challenges and risks when changes affect people, operations and technology.


PT VADS Indonesia provides consultancies with trainers, modules, a development programs for individuals and/or teams. Types of consultancies provided by PT VADS: Knowledge Process, Transformation Consultancy, Customer Services, Contact Center, Leadership, Interpersonal Development, Motivation, Training for Trainers and Digital Marketing.

SCC Services Group

Contact Center Operations Performance Management
In today’s competitive business environment, contact center and marketing professionals are constantly challenged to manage a growing business, achieve superior performance levels and at times are asked to support services and products that are becoming more complex.

Faced with this reality, the consulting disciplines that SCC Services Group focuses on are operations management and service delivery excellence in the customer service, contact center and brand marketing arenas.

Our consulting practice puts emphasis on:

- Contact Center Operational Assessments
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- Organizational Structure
- Brand Marketing
- Strategic Planning
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The Taylor Reach Group

Established in 2003, The Taylor Reach Group is an award winning, call, contact centre and customer experience consulting and advisory firm. The company is based in Toronto and has offices in New York, Atlanta, Washington, Ottawa, London, Bangalore, Hong Kong and Beijing. We are vendor agnostic and do not partner with technology or outsource agencies. The only one who pays us are our clients. Each of our consultants possess a minimum of 20 years of ‘hands-on’ call/contact center operational management experience. We do not sell the pyramid, the seasoned experts you deal with through the sales process are the same people who will complete your project.
Taylor Reach has worked with contact cen...
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Triad Services

Services Triad is a consulting firm with experience in the field of customer relations. He will celebrate his 25th professional anniversary in 2021. His facilitation skills and creativity allow him to work on many transformations related to the operational management challenges of customer contact centers.
With the support of his consulting team, he collaborates to many projects in Canada and abroad for public and private sector organizations. More than 275 consulting assignments and 150 benchmarking studies are part of his curriculum.

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