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What are the differences between a contact centre and call centre?

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The terms “contact centre” and “call centre” are often used interchangeably. While they both refer to software or teams that handle large volumes of phone calls or other communications, they’re actually considerably different.

In fact, that’s pretty much where the similarities end.

Simply put, call centres handle, as the name suggests, phone calls, whereas contact centres offer multiple communication channels.

Read on to find out more about the differences, and learn how technology from Dialpad can help you build a contact centre for the future.

What is a contact centre?

A contact centre is a team or software that manages a company’s customer communications. (Sometimes, it helps manage employee communications too, but for the most part, people are referring to customer communications when they talk about contact centres.)

As well as outbound and inbound calls, it also covers interactions via a range of other channels including chat, email, instant and SMS messaging, social media—and maybe even fax and snail mail.

Customers, as you might imagine, expect to communicate with your business on their preferred channel. They also expect swift responses and personalised interactions, which sounds intimidating, but luckily there are tools designed specifically to help contact centres do all this.

👉 Dialpad tip:

Even if a call centre provides additional methods of contact beyond phone calls, they’re likely to be siloed in individual channels—whereas a contact centre is generally set up for seamless communication across and between channels. One difference to keep in mind!

Types of contact centres you may have heard of

Typically, you’ll hear about a few types of categories of contact centres. They’re not all mutually exclusive—these are more descriptors that tell you a little more about how a contact centre operates than anything.

(For example, you could have a contact centre that handles inbound, that’s also omnichannel, and is a remote contact centre.)


Inbound contact centres do exactly what you’d expect—they respond to incoming customer inquiries. Agents are responsible for inbound traffic on all channels, and ultimately for providing a welcoming customer experience.

Typically, they’ll handle calls and messages from existing customers about things like technical support, pricing disputes, or making payments. They may also hear from prospects who are responding to a marketing drive or a special offer.

Inbound contact centres tend to use certain contact centre software features more heavily (so that they don’t get swamped by a high volume of calls). These include automations and features like automatic call distribution (ACD), which routes calls to agents based on skills or capacity, and interactive voice response (IVR), which allows callers to direct themselves to the right people.

For example, in Dialpad, an admin or contact centre manager can customise call routing in literally a few clicks if they want certain agents to have priority when receiving calls—and they can also easily set up backup routing options:

Screenshot of Dialpad's call routing options


Outbound contact centres deal with—you guessed it—outbound calls or messages. Agents may get in touch with current or prospective customers, to upsell or cross-sell them, ask for feedback, and other proactive activities.

Outbound interactions are often used for lead generation and telemarketing, but agents may also get in touch for appointment bookings, surveys, and proactive customer service. Because some customers find phone calls intrusive, agents might also use asynchronous channels like email or texting instead (depending on the type of relationship you have with your clients or customers).

Outbound call centres also use certain software and tools to maximise their efficiency and productivity. These include power diallers (which allow reps to make calls in rapid succession), click-to-dial (interactions are launched with just one click), and voicemail drops (which helps reps save a ton of time when they have to leave voicemail messages). In Dialpad, you can just click a button while you're in a call to "drop" a voicemail message:

Dialpad's voicemail drop feature, which lets sales reps drop in a pre-recorded message when they hit prospects' voicemails.


Not the same as omnichannel!

Multichannel contact centres do provide customers with multiple channels of communication, which is a great start. But what differentiates multichannel from omnichannel is that in multichannel contact centres, each interaction exists only within its own channel, and there’s no crossover with other channels.

So, if a query begins as an email and gets escalated into a phone convo, the details from the email will be stored in one system, and the recorded phone call in another. That makes it tricky for agents to keep across everything that was said.

Regardless, a basic phone system likely isn’t going to cut it, whether you run a call centre or contact centre. (Not all of them come with simple functionality like queuing and transfers. So make sure to double check what a platform can and can’t do before taking out your credit card.)

That’s where an omnichannel solution comes in...


Omnichannel contact centres also use multiple channels, but here, these channels are brought together for a seamless customer and agent experience.

That means customer information and interaction history are accessible from all channels, rather than being siloed in the platform or channel where they originated. That means agents and managers can always view everything they need to provide personalised support at scale.

For example, Dialpad Ai Contact Centre integrates with popular CRMs and tools like Salesforce for an omnichannel experience—not only can a sales rep take phone calls through Dialpad inside their Salesforce dashboard, their activity also gets automatically logged in Salesforce once a call has ended, for example:

Dialpad's Salesforce integration automatically populating a call's details.

(Beyond CRM integrations, Dialpad also integrates with Intercom, Zendesk, and more to give contact centre teams omnichannel functionality. Not only that, its open API lets you build custom integrations with niche tools too.)


On-premises contact centre software is—you guessed it—installed and hosted on physical servers within a company’s headquarters or offices, so all the required infrastructure (and your agents) have to be located on those premises.

This means you need enough space and capacity to house and maintain the servers, which can be tricky for smaller businesses. And because you’d own and manage your own hardware and software, you’d also need extra staffing and IT investment.

The advantage is that you retain overall control—but at a price. An alternative that’s becoming very popular is...

Virtual / remote

If you don’t have the space, staff, or budget for an on-premises contact centre, you could set up a virtual contact centre. This means your agents can work remotely—all they need is an Internet connection and a cloud-based contact centre software (that their company would provide).

Virtual contact centre technology can save businesses a ton of money, since cloud contact centre solutions don’t require physical space on-premises, hardware, or maintenance costs. They’re also highly scalable, with the ability to add or remove agents easily.

For example, in Dialpad, a contact centre supervisor can add new hires and manage their phone numbers—all in seconds, in their online account:

Adding and managing phone numbers from Dialpad's online dashboard.

Implementation is simple and fast. If you choose the right provider, you can be up and running in minutes. (And it also offers more flexibility and is a better experience for agents, which helps reduce employee turnover.)

Some key differences between "contact centres" and "call centres"

Let’s take a closer look at some of the areas where contact centres and call centres diverge.

Customer interaction channels

As we’ve covered already, call centres usually handle just phone calls (with some exceptions), but contact centres interact with customers using a range of channels. Yes, some customers still like to communicate by phone, but many others appreciate the convenience of using social media or messaging apps like WhatsApp (or just plain old texting).

The other benefit is that if you’re available on multiple channels—and more importantly, staffed well on those channels—you can decrease the chance of your customers experiencing long wait times. This makes for happy customers and happy agents.

Amount of customer data

One natural result of having conversations on more channels is that this generates more information that’ll help you understand (and optimise) your customer journey better. Call centre software only gathers data on phone calls, but a contact centre team will collate and analyse data and metrics from multiple customer engagement sources.

For example, say you want to provide a better customer experience by giving your contact centre agents better training on how to answer tricky questions about common issues. How are you currently getting this data? Some teams will listen to call recordings one by one and manually take notes.

What if you didn’t have to do that? Dialpad’s artificial intelligence technology can not only transcribe customer calls in real time, it can also track how often certain keywords and phrases come up on calls. For example, if you wanted to learn more about why customers are requesting refunds, you can set up a “Custom Moment” to track how often “refund,” “refunds,” or “money back” comes up in customer conversations:

Creating a Custom Moment in Dialpad, which tracks how often certain keywords are coming up on calls.

You can easily access this data in your dashboard—and dig into the transcripts or recordings of these calls to understand the context behind these refund requests:

Dialpad's built-in contact centre analytics dashboard

Agent skills and training

Depending on how you hire and train contact centre agents, you may have a few team members who focus only on certain channels like email or phone calls—or you may have a versatile team (which would require more training) that can rotate between different channels depending on how the forecasts or schedules work.

Contact centre teams typically need to be proficient in using and flipping between channels, and to have an understanding of those different types of technology.

Side note: If you want to improve agent performance, having data that’s easily accessible is crucial. In Dialpad, we use heat maps that show call volume patterns and our average speed to answer to gauge performance:

Dialpad's built-in heat map analytics feature showing average speed to answer.

I mentioned Custom Moments above, but Dialpad Ai can also pop up helpful Real-time Assist (RTA) cards to help agents answer challenging questions on live calls. You can customise each RTA card with tailored notes for specific topics and set them to trigger when a certain keyword is spoken:

Dialpad's real time assist card feature popping up helpful notes for an agent or rep when a tricky question comes up on a call.

Customer experience

A great customer experience is the overriding aim of both contact centre and call centre agents. The advantage of a contact centre, though, is that customers have more communication choices, and digital channels make it easier for agents to provide fast and accurate responses (which is usually a plus for customer satisfaction).

Self-service opportunities

The self-service route is sometimes seen as passing the buck, but that’s not the case. Options like chatbots, educational webinars on how to get the most out of your product, and online troubleshooting guides give customers other alternatives to waiting on hold.

It makes them feel they are doing something toward solving the issue rather than waiting for a response, and it’s rewarding if they can fix the issue themselves.

Self-service tools like IVRs and help centre databases are also beneficial for your agents, as they can reduce call volume. The more your customers can find out basic answers themselves, the more time it gives agents to focus on more critical issues.

Contact centres: The present and future of customer support

Today, contact centres are overtaking call centres—there are so many alternative channels that consumers can use now, and even though this often means more complicated workflows for contact centre teams, it’s not going away anytime soon.

And beyond serving your customers, you also have to take the agent experience into account. Burnout is real, and having to take care of other communication channels in addition to phone calls doesn’t make it any easier.

For contact centre teams that need not only a telephony solution but also instant and SMS messaging, live chat support, and more, Dialpad Contact Centre is a great tool to check out. It has a fully integrated UCaaS platform that includes conferencing and video meetings as well, which means contact centre teams can communicate with not only customers, but also each other—from anywhere.

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