Specialist contact centre vs transactional call centre: what’s the difference?
If you’re setting up or improving your customer support services, chances are you’re a little overwhelmed with options. Technological advances have been staggering in our sector in recent years.
At Connect Assist, we love the high-tech stuff, and are excited about the way omnichannel services can transform the customer experience. But we also know that for organisations with simpler, more transactional requirements, there’s no need to over-complicate matters – phone lines can do the job. (And they’re pretty high-tech these days, too.)
We’ve put together this guide to help you navigate your way through the world of outsourced contact and call centre services.
The importance of customer experience
When call centres first sprang up many decades ago, their aims were to make it easier for customers to get in touch, and drive efficiencies for companies. Key performance indicators were things like average call handling time.
But we’ve moved on since then – and now, the metrics that are prioritised tend to be those that measure the customer experience. These include first contact resolution, reducing the time a caller spends on hold (60% say that even one minute is too long!), and even net promoter scores.
Why? Because an excellent customer experience is becoming increasingly valuable to organisations. One study found that 89% of companies offering a “significantly above average” customer experience did better financially than their rivals. And 73% of people say it’s an important factor in their purchasing decisions.
That’s not to say that customer experience and organisational efficiency are mutually exclusive. In fact, it’s that winning combination that explains why omnichannel centres are fast replacing call centres.
Let’s take a look at the landscape in more detail.
Omnichannel vs phone calls only
These days, there’s a plethora of channels to choose from. And voice calls are falling out of favour, particularly among young people.
One study found that 27% of smartphone users hadn’t made a phone call in a week, and 5% never did. Making phone calls wasn’t even in the top 10 reasons why people used their devices (it came in at number 11, with texting in the top spot).
So if you want people to contact you in a way they feel comfortable with, you need to offer channels such as online, video calls, social media, messenger services and so on.
But just about everybody does have a phone of some description in the UK, whereas 1.5 million households had no internet access in 2021 – and 6.3% of adults had never used the internet (2020 figures). Those figures are higher among elderly people and poorer families, so bear that in mind when designing your service and developing your channel strategy.
However, as you’ll see, omnichannel centres offer a range of benefits that go beyond greater choice of channel.
Omnichannel centres don’t just provide a multitude of routes to an adviser: they allow customers to self-serve 24/7 on the company website, e.g. through knowledge bases and chatbots.
For busy people, the ability to carry out life admin outside normal office hours is a huge advantage. And, of course, it can represent a considerable saving to organisations.
But it’s absolutely crucial that customers also have the option to escalate their issue to a human adviser. There’s little more frustrating than getting stuck in a computer-says-no scenario. And there’s little more dispiriting than contacting a service in great emotional distress, only to be met with a chatbot.
If a multitude of channels sounds to you like a recipe for chaos, think again. They all feed into the same customer relationship management (CRM) system.
That means that when a customer contacts your advisers by webchat one day, then follows up with a phone call, it’s no bother. Your advisers will have the entire history of that customer’s interaction with your organisation at a glance.
So the days of increasingly irate callers explaining their issue over and over and over again should be a thing of the past. Good news for customers – and for the advisers on the frontline.
For more transactional scenarios, this is less important. But if you’re hoping to build and deepen a relationship with your clientele, it’s fast becoming a business essential: some 85% of customers expect consistent interactions across departments.
Many outsourced call centres are generalist in nature: they work on a blended or bureau model, with advisers working across several client accounts. It makes for an adaptable and efficient set-up.
But while advisers will be highly professional, they won’t have in-depth, specialist knowledge. So this type of service is best suited to routine and transactional calls.
Specialist or dedicated services, though, comprise well-trained teams working on one account. They can provide skilled support to customers, and carry out investigations on their behalf. What’s more, they may be able to do all this across several channels, jumping between phone, webchat, email and so on.
You can read more about the pros and cons of blended and dedicated helplines in our recent blog.
Proactive vs reactive
But there’s more to consider than just snazzy channels and CRM systems.
Call centres operate on a reactive basis, waiting for customers to contact them and explain the problem. That places the burden on customers – and if it’s a technical issue, they may not even be able to describe it accurately.
But what if you could predict the problem the customer is facing, and act proactively? In many sectors, that’s the future of customer service.
Omnichannel contact centres can collect a large amount of customer data. AI and automation make it possible to analyse customer online actions and behaviours, and use this to pre-empt and tailor responses.
As Judith Platz says in the Salesforce blog: “Smart businesses are using automation to transform customer service from a reactive task to a proactive force that will enhance the customer experience with a magical touch. Think of the difference between having to share an Amazon wish list with your significant other and receiving a perfect, unexpected gift.”
We could certainly think of a few significant others who could do with that talent at Christmas time!
Both call and contact centres can be cost-effective – but in different ways.
Call centres are simpler in technological terms, so generally cheaper to set up and run. Costs could mount, though, if you need to operate 24/7.
A modern contact centre is a bigger investment, but you’re likely to see some pretty impressive returns as customers self-serve, freeing up agent time. Plus, by offering an improved experience, you can build a lasting relationship with clients, which should pay dividends in the long run.
Specialist contact centres versus transactional call centres
So, there you have it! Essentially, contact centres do everything that call centres can do, and often do it better. But if your organisational needs are simple and transactional, and your main aim is to handle high volumes efficiently, then a call centre will fit the bill.
If you’re still not sure which is right for you, just give us a call. At Connect Assist, we provide specialist outsourced call and contact centre services on behalf of many non-profit clients, and we’d love to hear from you.