Answering Services or Call Center Services? Neither. Here’s Why.


When it comes to managing inbound calls, businesses often debate between answering services and call center services.

On the one hand, you can route calls via an impersonal call center maze, and on the other, you can rely on recorded messages that you’ll have to get back to later.

Both have their pros and cons, but there’s also another option that gives your customers a personal touch while also helping you handle the call volume your business brings in—aka contact centers.

In fact, most businesses are better off partnering with a contact center rather than an answering service or trying to run an in-house call center operation.

Plus, by taking some actionable advice on how to identify your specific inbound call management needs, you can find the best contact center solution for you and your company.

Answering Services vs. Call Center Services: How They Differ

When calls start flooding in, keeping your business afloat can feel like a losing battle.

Answering services and call centers each offer inbound call solutions—but both leave business owners somewhere in the middle of the ocean. Do you grab an answering life vest and let calls overflow into voicemail? Or do you rely on a call center that keeps your customers waiting in endless queues?

An answering service is a third-party service that answers calls and takes messages on a company’s behalf. There are automated answering services that rely on pre-recorded greetings and voicemail boxes, and there are live answering services staffed by human operators. Some live answering services can also field and route incoming calls for businesses to streamline the customer support process.

One huge benefit of answering services is that they work well for businesses at all stages of growth. For instance, some of the best automated answering services for small businesses offer affordable ways for early-stage companies to build out their customer support department without massively overinvesting in a dedicated call center.

Regardless of the type of service you’re using, answering services ensure that support is available and no customer calls are missed, even when employees aren’t on the clock.

A few other benefits of answering services include:

  • Reducing missed sales opportunities
  • Improving customer satisfaction through quick response times
  • Allowing staff to focus on core tasks rather than answering phones

Meanwhile, a call center service offers customer support through phone communications. Call centers are equipped to handle high call volumes and other business functions, like scheduling appointments, processing orders, and providing technical support. Keep in mind that there are inbound call centers that receive calls from customers requesting support and outbound call centers that initiate calls for purposes like sales, surveys, or collections.

Both of these types of call centers can essentially take over all or part of a business’s customer service operation. Rather than just answering calls and taking messages, call centers can resolve issues, provide service quotes, enter orders, and troubleshoot customer problems.

A few key benefits of call center services include:

  • Increased sales conversion rates
  • Shorter resolution times
  • Improved cross-selling and upselling opportunities
  • Greater ability to support customers anytime, day or night
  • Better management of call volume spikes

Ultimately, the key focus of the best call center services is to support customers in all the ways they need—be it through inbound support calls or outbound touchpoints for retention and relationship-building.

Of course, answering services and call centers can both handle inbound calls for businesses, but there are significant contrasts between the two. The main differences are as follows:

  • Personalized Service vs. Volume Handling: Answering services allow for a more personalized, white-glove service that is focused on individual calls. Meanwhile, call centers that use automated systems and queues tend to prioritize handling high call volumes at a rapid pace.
  • Message Taking vs. Issue Resolution: Answering services tend to specialize in politely greeting callers, gathering key details, and recording messages for a later callback date. Meanwhile, call centers aim to resolve issues in real time with immediate troubleshooting.

To determine the best call coverage option for your business, you’ll have to consider a number of key factors:

  • The number of calls you anticipate coming in daily
  • Your overall business size
  • The types of support you need to provide
  • Your quality standards for customer experience
  • The budget you have to work with

When it comes down to it, answering services are like receptionists that greet callers and jot down messages for you, while the best inbound call center services can provide full-service support across various channels.

Before picking a call management partner, you should clearly lay out your business needs and pain points. Some questions to think about include the following:

  • Are your customers complaining about long hold times?
  • Is your call volume unpredictable?
  • Is your staff constantly playing catch-up?

Identifying your unique problem areas will help you determine which solution works best. However, contact centers are usually the best option for businesses that are serious about delivering quality customer support.

Contact Centers Give You the Best of Both Worlds

Screenshot of Nextiva call center platform.

Forget answering services and call centers—the real medal winner for managing your inbound calls is the contact center.

A contact center is a centralized department that provides customer support across various channels, including phone, email, text, chatbots, live chat, and social media. This omnichannel service offers support to your customers in all the ways they prefer to engage.

With contact centers, you get the white-glove customer experience of a call center with the quick response times of an answering service. Plus, contact centers are equipped to handle high inbound call volumes as well as outbound campaigns. On top of call coverage, contact centers also have integrated channels like live chat, SMS, and messaging apps so customers have flexible options to resolve their issues in real time.

When your business upgrades to a contact center, you gain the ability to make more appropriate staffing choices, allowing you to handle more spikes in inbound calls. Meanwhile, your customers will also enjoy individualized attention from agents who are well-prepared to address their needs.

In the end, a contact center gives you the best of both worlds so your business doesn’t have to sacrifice the human touch for better scalability.

The First (Most Important) Step to Take to Find the Right Contact Center

Before partnering with a contact center, you must determine which customer support channels you want to outsource. Make a list of all the ways customers currently reach out to your company and order them by volume—and place the most utilized channel at the top. You should also specify which channels you struggle to keep up with managing internally.

For example, if your business receives the majority of customer contact through phone calls and social media messages, you’ll want to make sure your contact center partner can handle those communication types very well. Alternatively, if email backlogs cause frustration, you’ll want a partner with a great email management plan.

In many cases, customizing an omnichannel solution around your business’s specific pain points is much more budget-friendly than paying for unnecessary channels. It also ensures the most pressing customer support needs are taken care of efficiently.

Once you’ve identified the right support channels for your business and found a contact center to partner with, you’ll be able to rest easy knowing that you’re providing top-tier support for your customers.

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