Making and receiving calls is an important part of every business, so important that sometimes you might have to outsource that service to professionals especially when you have to handle large volumes of incoming and outgoing calls. In this case, a call center or a telephone answering service like Answering365 – live virtual receptionists are the two possible options you can explore.
Most people use both terms interchangeably, probably because most call centers also offer telephone answering services as part of their services. But a closer look will reveal both minor and major differences between them. While both services involve a live person rather than an automated voicemail or machine answering the call, this is the only main similarity between them as they differ broadly in their purpose and operation.
A call center is essentially an office which has been set up to handle vast volumes of phone calls. Most of this time, this is focused more on taking orders and telemarketing purposes. A call center works to compile orders and gather information about customers which is then sent to a client in form of an information blast.
Depending on the client, a call center can also help customers with credit card transactions, registration for events, handle customer complaints and so on. Because of this they usually have to handle longer duration of phone calls and more customer volume.
Telephone Answering Service
A telephone answering service, on the other hand, is positioned to handle specific segments of the market and offer more, friendly, personalized and customer focused services on behalf of the client rather than focusing on gathering information as a call center does.
You can consider an answering service as a sort of “off-site receptionist” and is commonly referred to as virtual receptionists. Most of them still operate based on that format but in most cases, they also include other services into what they offer as well.
Major differences between Telephone answering services and call centers
Asides the obvious fact that an answering service offers more personalized services, here are some other major differences between the operations of a call center and telephone answering service.
- Primary responsibilities: except in cases where the services of a call center are not clearly defined because they offer additional services, what a call center does basically is to receive orders on behalf of a company and store on their database to be sent to them in bulk later on. They also make calls for campaigns and to collect information for the company. An answering service on the other hand simply takes messages and answer inquiries. In other cases, they transfer calls to appropriate sections of a company rather than answering the calls. While they may sometimes take messages and receive information as well, this info is sent almost immediately as against in bulk as the call center.
- Additional responsibilities: in most cases, an answering service also acts as a receptionist although off-site and perform simple clerical duties too. A call center does not offer this sort of services. Call centers carry out telemarketing services on behalf of a client and may sometimes also take complaints on behalf of a client but cannot add clerical duties like relaying or transferring a call to what they do.
- Scale of operation: an answering service is in most cases smaller than a call center in terms of scale. They generally have a low agent to caller ratio and since they have a limited number of clients and serve specific segments of the industry they don’t have to attend to too many people. This means you might end up speaking to the same person almost every time you call an answering service company.
A call center, on the other hand, is a large-scale company with a very large office and staffed with many agents and representatives handling the calls. Because of the scale of their services and the number of clients they serve it is less likely that you speak to the same person each time you call.
Click here for more about call centers and how they work
These are few of the differences between a call center and an answering services. To answer the inevitable question of which of the two is a better alternative to hire, the answer to that depends mainly on your needs. Because of the scale of operation of a call center, they most times serve big companies in selling or ordering products, receiving customer complaints on their behalf and so on. A major shortcoming of this, especially for small companies, is that call centers might not offer the sort of personalized services you might prefer for your company. To do that you might have to higher an answering service instead.
In essence, your choice is a function of your plans, goals, and target rather than about which of these two you want at the end of the day.