A contact centre is a department or outsourcing provider that handles inbound/outbound customer interactions, including support, service and sales.
When someone uses the term “contact centre”, they’re often picturing a bustling room filled with agents and ringing telephones. But while contact centres likewise handle inbound and outbound calls, they take things much further than the archetypal call centres people tend to compare them to.
The truth is that “contact centre” and “call centre” are not synonymous. Yes, they are both primary contact points between businesses and their customers, but their major distinctions lie in the overall experience they provide and the channels they incorporate.
Contact centres are also responsible for addressing inbound and outbound calls, but they expand to include all other communications as well. Contact centres take an omnichannel approach, incorporating not only voice communication, but also live web chats, text messaging, messenger apps, email, video chat and social media, and are even involved in managing virtual agents and chatbots.
But perhaps the biggest difference is the focus on the customer experience; contact centres rely on advanced software solutions to offer a degree of customer personalisation that simply is not possible with traditional call centres. Simply put, omnichannel contact centres help transform the customer experience, allowing customers to move freely between channels and agents without any interruption of service.
Contact centres are a natural evolution from call centres, taking an omnichannel approach and applying it to these essential interactions.
The transition from call centres to contact centres was one born out of necessity. As businesses began to make the switch to digital communication at the close of the last century, customers were left with a lot of questions and concerns. Naturally, their preferred course of action to find answers was to rely on a familiar technology: the telephone.
But as more and more customers began reaching out to businesses, it became apparent that traditional call centres simply did not have the bandwidth to handle the flood of new contacts. At the same time, increased competition meant that businesses were in need of key differentiators, particularly where customer convenience was concerned. In response to these demands, organisations began to create and post email addresses and forms on websites that customers could use to reach out, but soon found that the influx of emails was nearly as difficult to manage as the calls.
In an attempt to deflect some of these interactions and to provide a more prompt service for customers, businesses started creating knowledge bases and FAQ pages. This evolved into more in-depth self-service options and customer online portals. Chat products were added, offering real agent interactions without tying up agents’ time. Eventually, social media became an option for customers who wished for a more direct, and more public forum for addressing concerns and interacting with their chosen brands. Now, modern messaging apps with rich functionality for convenient, meaningful one-to-one conversations are surging in popularity.
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