What is a Contact Centre?

What is a Contact Centre?

While most people know what a call centre is, the term ‘contact centre’ – or ‘contact center’, to use the American spelling – still causes some confusion.

What is a contact centre, exactly, and how is it different from a call centre?

What does a contact centre do?

Nowadays, every company provides some form of customer contact - which is to say, a way for customers to reach a representative with queries, complaints, and other relevant issues. 

In the case of smaller companies, this can be one person or a small team. Larger businesses, meanwhile, require dozens - if not hundreds - of operatives to handle the high volume of incoming and outgoing calls and messages. 

This is where contact centres come in. A contact centre acts as a central hub for all forms of interaction between customers and the company, including customer service, technical support, and sales.

For example, if you have an issue with a product or service, you can call or message the company’s contact centre. The customer service or tech support divisions of the contact centre will then do their best to resolve the problem.

To give another example, whenever you receive a sales message from a company whose services you use, the sender of that message is a contact centre.

Incidentally, these examples show two different aspects of a contact centre: inbound and outbound, respectively. An inbound contact centre receives communication from customers and responds to queries, while an outbound contact centre reaches out to the customers.

Naturally, the majority of companies take advantage of both inbound and outbound communication at their contact centres. As is the case with call centres, most companies outsource contact centre services, with only the largest corporations investing in dedicated in-house centres.

Contact centre vs call centre

So far, it may seem like a contact centre does exactly what a call centre would. Indeed, ‘call centre’ and ‘contact centre’ are often used interchangeably. But although the services of these two entities certainly overlap, there are several marked differences:

1.       Communication channels

A call centre, as the name suggests, depends almost entirely on phone calls. Meanwhile, contact centres make use of a broad range of other communication channels and tools alongside calls – such as email or instant messaging.

2.       Artificial intelligence solutions

While call centres require the customer to make a phone call and wait to be connected to a representative to resolve their query, many contact centres offer a more efficient, AI-driven solution. Contact centre services often include chatbots, which enable the customer to resolve their query automatically without the need to involve a representative.

3.       Software

Contact centres are more likely than call centres to make use of advanced software solutions to improve customer experience, including AI and data systems. Call centre services are less commonly outfitted with such systems.

4.       Data gathering

Broadly speaking, contact centres have more sophisticated systems for gathering data regarding customer behaviour. Based on the analysis of this data, insights are generated on both individual customers and overall trends.

Now that we’ve determined the defining features of a contact centre, let’s look at them in a bit more detail.

Contact centre features

By definition, contact centres make use of multiple communication channels. In addition to calls, these can include email, text messages, website chat, and instant messaging on social media and other apps. The website chat is sometimes served by a chatbot – an artificial intelligence capable of resolving basic queries.

Contact centres which use all of these communication methods simultaneously are known as omni-channel – ‘omni’ meaning ‘all’. Meanwhile, multi-channel contact centres use several channels, but not necessarily all of them.

Finally, we’ve mentioned that contact centres use sophisticated software solutions. For the curious, the two most significant systems are:

1.       IVR – Interactive Voice Response

Used for incoming phone calls in inbound contact centres to gather the necessary data for rerouting the call to the appropriate representative. If you’ve ever phoned customer service to be greeted with a series of automatic messages asking for your details and the reason for your call – that was an IVR.

2.       CRM – Customer Relationship Management

CRM software focuses on improving customer experience and contact centre efficiency. It does this by providing representatives real-time insights into a customer’s account details and history of past interactions across all comms channels.

CRM is partly where a contact centre’s data gathering efforts can be put to good use. Data is also gathered and analysed to measure key factors such as customer satisfaction, degree of response to a particular sales campaign, or commonly raised issues with the product or service.

Summary

Hopefully, this post shed some light on what contact centres are, what they do, and how.

To condense our definition into a single sentence, we could say that a contact centre’s purpose is to facilitate two-way communication between the company and its customers, including gathering and analysing data from the interactions to improve the product and the customer experience.

To find out how Clarion People connects contact centres with top talent in the industry, visit our [Services] page.
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