August 29, 2014 - Are we a call center or a contact center? This has been the topic of long and loud debate around our company. Which one are we?
Simple as the argument may seem, it’s actually something of a conundrum.
Definition of Contact Center: The term indicates a comprehensive range of services, according to the latest industry terminology: voice, email response, live chat and other internet-based interfaces to communicate with customers, prospective customers, loyalty club members and clients.
Contact Center employees can, according to one definition, handle all service types – both inbound customer service and order processing, along with outbound B2B lead generation and appointment setting.
A Contact Center can either be a department within a larger corporate organization that handles that company’s customer interaction, or it can be an independent business services provider that does business on an outsourced basis.
A Call Center, on the other hand, is considered by some to be an organization solely telephone-based and communicates by voice only. In addition, a Call Center’s employees can only, according to some, handle one service category, either inbound customer service or outbound lead generation, but not both. Like a Contact Center, a Call Center can either be an in-house or outsourced entity.
Here’s where the confusion starts: service providers tend to combine a mix of these attributes. For example, at OnBrand24 we provide all forms of telephone and online communications (voice, email, chat, text, etc.), we offer both inbound customer service, help desk and order processing, as well as outbound lead generation and appointment setting, and we do this as a business services outsourcer.
So this would support the case for calling ourselves a Contact Center - except that most of our employees are specialists who focus their energies and skills on either inbound or outbound. Only a very few of our staff perform both functions, mainly because we want our representatives to continually develop their inbound or outbound talents, and because inbound and outbound tend to be different personality types.
For myself, I’ve always felt there’s something elitist about “Contact Center,” that it’s primarily a vendor-driven term, invented by Contact Center marketers to create an artificial distinction from allegedly less feature-rich, less digital Call Centers. But is Call Center as offline and limited as some would say? The traditionalists among us, who like established ideas and language, argue there’s no need for a new term, that the somewhat clumsy sounding Contact Center is unnecessary because Call Center is evolving in its own right into a term indicating a comprehensive range of customer communications services.
More importantly, most people we meet – prospective clients, colleagues at trade shows and industry conferences, friends and neighbors (everyone, that is, except competing vendors) – tend to use Call Center as the most popular and widely accepted term to define the type of business service we provide. And as we all know, the term you use to define yourself on your web site has critically important SEO implications. Call yourself the wrong thing and lots of people won’t find you on Google.
So where does that leave us? I tend to like Call Center, but some of my managers lean toward Contact Center. We remain unresolved, a good case can be made for both terms, and the argument goes on.
We welcome you to join the debate.