Call Center or Contact Center? The Latter, Here’s Why

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Imagine you call a business’s customer service line with what seems like a simple request, but you get bounced around from agent to agent, each one making you explain your issue all over again.

Sound familiar? You’re not alone. This exact scenario highlights the growing divide between outdated call centers and modern contact centers that are able to provide smoother support services across multiple channels.

Most types of traditional call centers can only offer customer service via phone calls with agents who assist callers with their questions and concerns. Meanwhile, contact centers can provide that same phone support while also being able to interact with customers across a variety of digital channels. These include email, live online chats, SMS, self-service portals, chatbots, social media platforms, and more.

When it comes down to it, today’s customers expect to reach customer support whenever and however they want—whether that means shooting a DM over social media, texting a quick question via WhatsApp, or chatting with a live agent on the company’s homepage.

Ultimately, if you want to keep up with your customers’ changing needs and ensure they get proper support, you should look into upgrading from a call center to a contact center.

List of differences between a call center and a contact center from Nextiva.

Contact Centers Win the Call Center vs. Contact Center Fight

Calling businesses for customer service is still the tried and true method for reaching customer support, but it isn’t the only channel customers are using anymore. Modern customers expect omnichannel support, meaning they want to be able to reach out in whatever way is most convenient for them—via phone, email, live chat, social media, you name it.

Naturally, contact centers are specifically designed to provide that flexibility with support across channels. The key advantage here is that businesses with contact centers can resolve customer issues on whichever channel the customer decides to use. Plus, by giving customers more options to reach customer support, businesses can retain them over longer periods of time and ultimately generate more revenue as a result.

Additionally, customers can get frustrated when they try one way to resolve their issue and it doesn’t work, forcing them to call in to get help. However, contact centers prevent this by empowering agents to solve issues immediately, no matter the contact channel, allowing customers to resolve their support issues in as few touch points as possible—keeping them happier as a result.

Contact Centers Don’t Have to Cost More Than Call Centers

At first glance, contact centers may appear more expensive than pure phone support since they handle additional channels like email, chat, and social media. However, by leveraging outsourcing options, businesses can implement contact center capabilities without breaking the bank.

For starters, the cost of outsourced customer service—whether it’s handled through a call center or contact center—depends on several factors, including the number of dedicated or shared agents, the location of the call center, hourly rates, and more.

Of course, the best inbound call center services typically have dedicated agents who are fully trained according to a client’s unique business needs, but that level of focus and expertise comes at a premium cost. On the other hand, shared contact center agents have the skills to handle a variety of client issues across multiple accounts. Granted, the shared agent model may not be 100 percent tailored to your business, but this model cuts down on your customer support overhead.

Another factor that hugely impacts the price of customer support is the location of your contact center. For example, experienced agents in the United States or Canada often bring quality skills, but they also tend to cost more due to higher average costs of living. Meanwhile, hiring overseas from regions like the Philippines and India can dramatically lower your price points—just keep in mind that, depending on your business model, your customers may want access to support agents within their same local time zone.

Anyway, some other pricing determinants include expected call volumes, peak coverage hours, English fluency requirements, the types of channels for which support is needed, and service level agreements that guarantee performance metrics like maximum wait times. Thus, for a company to find a balance between its contact center budget and performance goals, it’s important to weigh all of these elements.

At the end of the day, the numbers may tell you that contact centers cost marginally more than call centers. However, the boost in customer experience can easily make the additional costs associated with a contact center worth it. After all, roughly 60% of US online consumers are willing to pay more for a good customer experience.

In other words, since contact centers are able to support customers across multiple channels, customers feel cared for whenever they reach out—which can lead to increased customer loyalty, and therefore more cash for your business.

Most Won’t Do This, But You Should When Choosing Your Contact Center

Go on a site visit.

That’s right—for a business to know if a contact center can truly serve its customers as envisioned, it needs to see the contact center’s operations firsthand.

To get started, you should schedule an in-person visit to observe the agents, the workplace culture, and how support calls are managed (and routed and completed). The experience you gain by doing this will make it so much easier to select the right contact center for your business.

To arrange a tour, simply ask about site visits when getting your quote. If the sales representative is unsure, request to speak to a manager to schedule a visit. Explain you are strongly considering hiring their services but want to visit the facility to ensure it aligns with your company’s approach.

When the day comes, arrive prepared with questions and take notes on what you like and dislike regarding customer interactions and management relations with staff. You may also consider bringing a colleague to gain a second perspective on whether this particular contact center is the right fit.

A few key areas you may want to evaluate include:

  • How the agents show care and concern when dealing with customer issues
  • If the workplace culture matches your values
  • How well agents are trained on the center’s systems and processes
  • The way management oversees operations and interacts with agents

Though most businesses will not take this extra step, touring a shortlisted contact center in person allows you to get a feel for its ability to deliver excellent omnichannel support for your company. This small upfront effort will give you confidence in a major outsourcing decision that can have a long-term impact on your company’s customer satisfaction and retention.

You can also think of it as an investment—because although getting a good contact center can cost more upfront, it can ultimately provide a much greater ROI in the long run.

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