Call center vs contact center: what are the main differences?

People mostly use two terms – call center and contact center – as synonyms, meaning that there is no difference between them. Nonetheless, this point of view is wrong, and it means we have to define the difference between a call center and a contact center.

First of all, let’s describe why defining the right meaning of call center and contact center definitions and the differences between them is very important – at least because you have to know what you are looking for. Buying a call center does not mean that you will get the capabilities of a contact center and vice versa. Also, the pricing for call center software is different than for contact center and this article has its purpose to help you understand what you really need for your business. 

Finally, many developers and experts use these two terms interchangeably – and this is the main issue. You can read an article about “call center solution”, but it describes the features of contact center software and vice versa. 

So, to avoid confusion in the future, learn all about the difference between contact center vs call center here. 

What is a call center? 

The call center is a separate department in the organization or even an independent organization that provides customer service via phone calls. Thus, the call center is generally the department that services phone calls, both inbound and outbound. This means you can’t reach out to a call center via any other way besides calling it – this is how it gained its name, by the way. 

Call centers exist for many decades because even old telephony capabilities allowed people to be transferred to a specific service department. Old call centers were working simply: you called a phone number and you were routed to a free agent. If the agent wasn’t free, you had to call again later. Modern call centers have much more flexibility, but their nature is the same. 

Also, there are a few different types of call centers – the main ones are inbound, outbound, blended and outsourced call centers. 

Inbound call centers are servicing inbound calls only, which means they only receive calls from customers, provide needed services, and never reach out to clients on their own.

Outbound call centers don’t provide customer service in most cases, they do telemarketing by calling prospective customers and offering them products and services. Such call centers are often called sales call centers, even though they can also provide feedback collection or lead generation campaigns.

Blended call centers are like “2 in 1” call centers because they can both service inbound calls and perform outbound calls simultaneously. Such call centers are the most advanced call centers.

Outsourced call centers are separate and independent call centers that can be rented by companies to work as their own call centers. This means that you as a business owner just pay money for call center services, and an outsourced call center that is run by a separate company services your calls and provides other services you need. Outsourced call centers are often located in third-party jurisdictions due to high US salary rates. 

What is a contact center?

A contact center is a separate organization or unit of your company that processes customer requests and complaints through different communication channels. This means that contact centers process not only phone calls, but emails, social media messages, video calls, web chats, and so on. 

Contact centers, as well as call centers, can be outsourced, blended, inbound, or outbound. The only difference is that when we say “inbound contact center” we mean that it doesn’t only receive and handle calls, but also other communication channels where customers reach out to you in purpose to get service. In the same way, it works with outbound contact centers, but they also mostly perform outbound calls as cold calls are the most effective way of lead generation and cold sales compared to other communication channels. 

Contact centers service all existing communication channels that can be integrated with the system, which means it is the most complete tool for managing customer communications and customer service. Obviously, contact center software is more expensive than call center solutions, at least because it offers more capabilities and features. 

What is the difference between contact center vs call center?

First of all, as we have already mentioned, call center and contact center differ by the main criteria – the number of communication channels available to use. 

The call center is a single-channel department, it services phone calls only. Moreover, call centers also don’t have some advanced routing features which contact centers offer, due to the absence of multichannel communication technology. 

Contact centers are multichannel communication platforms, which means they have many communication channels available to use, including social media, web chats, emails, chatbots, knowledge management systems, messenger apps, FAQs, and so on. Thus, contact center software is a kind of complete environment where you can manage all communications with the clients – no matter where they come from, live chat or email. Also, contact center software has features that can’t be offered by a call center – for instance, omnichannel routing. Contact center software also offers much more powerful self-service capabilities than call center software does. 

Main features of call center software

Call routing – call center software can route calls to agents based on pre-set criteria, such as agent availability, agent status, agent idle time, agent position in a row of agents, skills of agents, language, and so on. 

Call logging – the system gathers all statistical information about the call and provides it to a call center manager as a real-time dashboard for further analysis. 

Call holding – the system allows agents to put calls on hold if needed, for example, to find data regarding the request.

Call transferring – the system provides an option to transfer customer calls to other agents in case of need, for instance, if the agent can’t process the request due to lack of knowledge or the customer has chosen the wrong department to call. 

Workforce management – you can manage agent scheduling in the system, check agent statuses, and measure agent performance using the all-in-one interface. 

Outbound calling – the system can automatically dial phone numbers from the contact list to enhance the productivity of outbound calling campaigns, providing the average calling speed up to three times faster than if you do it manually. The system offers different dialing algorithms for cold calls, warm calls, and existing customers, so you can choose the algorithm based on your current needs. 

Flexible redialing rules – during outbound calling campaigns, you can set up redialing rules, which means each unsuccessful call will be recalled later in accordance with these rules. This allows you to automate the process of reaching out to leads totally and allocate agents’ time for more important tasks. 

Call monitoring and recording – you can listen to live calls to monitor agents’ performance and involve in the conversation if needed or give a piece of advice to agent to help deal with the situation. Also, all calls are automatically recorded and you can listen to them later in training or for quality assurance purposes. 

Contact center software features

Contact center software bears all the features of call center software, but adds some additional features to provide absolutely another quality of customer service and customer experience. 

Multichannel communication – contact center software provides multiple communication channels, including social media, web chats, chatbots, messengers, emails, phone calls, video conferencing, and so on. All these contact channels are managed from a single interface and can be managed without switching between different apps.

Omnichannel routing – this feature is available in contact center software only, which means you can’t get it in call center software. Thus, this feature allows clients to switch between contact channels during the interaction without failing the progress of the conversation. 

Self-service options – besides IVR (Interactive Voice Response), call center software doesn’t offer any self-service options – while contact center software offers chatbot integrations, FAQs, external knowledge bases, customer communities, and many more. 

Multichannel reporting – you receive detailed reports regarding the performance of every contact channel you use, which means you can manage the stats of each contact channel separately. 


As you can see, call center and contact center are two absolutely different concepts and using these two terms interchangeably is a big mistake, even though many people keep doing that. The call center is a customer service department that services phone calls only, including incoming and outgoing calls. 

Call centers, as well as contact centers, can be inbound, outbound, blended and outsourced. 

The contact center is a multichannel communication platform that integrates numerous communication channels, both voice and text. These channels can also be switched between during conversations, which makes customer interactions more comfortable and satisfying. Contact centers also offer more self-service options than call centers.

Now let’s move on to the most important part of this article – the choice between contact center vs call center. If you are looking for a reliable and scalable communication center for your business that will meet your needs and help your business grow, you have to look for contact center software. Why? First of all, contact center software can provide better quality customer service and build better customer relationships as it offers easy communication through customer-preferred channels. Phone calls are no more the most important communication channel, so relying on them only can be a bad decision for your company, at least because there is no way to scale a call center solution to a contact center solution. Studies state that a variety of contact channels boosts customer satisfaction and this will positively influence your conversion rates and customer retention, so choose wisely.