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Contact centers vs. call centers

Contact centers and call centers both operate and promote customer communications. Although their names are similar, call centers and contact centers have fundamental differences that are important to understand as you decide which model will best serve your business and its customers.


Call centers & contact centers

Call centers

A call center is a department where agents handle inbound or outbound customer interactions. Inbound call agents answer incoming calls, typically about product troubleshooting, account information, scheduling, and tech support. Outbound call agents call out to potential customers for telemarketing, fundraising, or surveys. 

Call Centers are typically what customers envision when they think of contacting a business by phone. Customers also often associate call centers with long hold times and unhelpful agents. While call centers were once the hallmark of customer service for all companies, the negative associations and technological advances have driven the customer service industry away from call centers. 

Contact centers

Contact Centers could be considered a new iteration of call centers; instead of only handling calls, contact center agents handle calls as well as a wide variety of customer communications, like texts, emails, chatbots, and social media. Contact centers allow customers to reach your business in a variety of convenient ways.

Where call centers could only collect phone data, contact centers allow your business to collect significantly more marketing data from your customers.

What are the differences?


While call centers and contact centers have the same purpose, the way that they accomplish that purpose is different. Call centers funnel all customer interactions into one channel of communication - phone calls. On the other hand, contact centers manage all aspects of customer contact. This means more than just managing more communication channels - managing customer interactions also includes considering cohesive branding and omnichannel strategy to refine, track, and adjust all aspects of customer communication.


Call centers can only gather so much data from phone communication. Contact centers allow businesses to collect significantly more data and customer insights because of the variety of channels from which they pull information.

There is also a difference in which success metrics are relevant for each model. Managers should carefully consider what data they’re gathering and what measurement metrics are appropriate for their business.

Customer self-service

Another difference between these models is their capacity to facilitate customer self-service. A contact center has the capability for customers to help themselves, because of the variety of communication methods and the expanded channels. A call center, however, is limited because their only offering is available over the phone.


The daily operations of call centers and contact centers vary. While both agents require the same basic skills like communication, customer service, and patience, contact center agents need to have a few more important skills to handle the different types of communication. They need to be familiar with a variety of technologies and platforms, be able to switch between them, and multitask to address customer needs quickly and efficiently.

A call center requires phones and call management systems, while a contact center requires email, text, chat, and call management systems; these systems gather and centralize the data being gathered from a variety of channels. 

The bottom line

While there are marked differences between contact centers and call centers, they share a common goal that is crucial for any business: to help customers and bolster business. Whether managing many channels or just one, Hiya Connect can help your business manage customer interactions by increasing your analytic capabilities, helping customers recognize your call and increase answer rates with branded call, and securing your communication channels to prevent spoofing or inaccurate spam labels. 

Whether a contact center or a call center is the right choice for your business, read our Branded Caller ID Buyer’s Guide for more information on how you can meaningfully manage your customer interactions.

Author Hiya Team