What Are The Differences?

Answering Service vs. Call Center: What The Difference?

Answering service vs. call center. With vast differences, having a partner in customer service requires knowing which type of call center is right for you.

You walk into a massive building and you see row upon row of cubicles, each with a phone ringing off the hook. In the cubicles you see people talking a mile a minute, some alternating between several calls at once, others tapping away on a keyboard while they talk.

You might think, “I must be in a call center.” Well, you might only be half right.

Here’s the thing: while they look similar and may even serve some similar functions, answering services and call centers are actually pretty different.

So how exactly do we differentiate between the two? Let’s talk about the answering service vs. call center and learn more.

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Answering Service vs. Call Center: What Are They?

Call Center ReceptionistIn either case, it’s like having your own receptionist, only the agent is off-site. You might be thinking that you don’t even know what an answering service or a call center is in the first place.

Businesses sometimes have secretaries or receptionists that handle all of the business’ incoming and outgoing phone calls. However, sometimes a business receives such a large volume of phone calls that they can’t keep up with everyone’s information.

In other instances, an organization might not have one person or team dedicated to phone calls, so they end up building a massive voicemail backlog. When this happens, it almost feels like there’s no point in calling because your call might not be answered, leading to lost business and dissatisfied customers.

That’s where answering services and call centers come in!

An organization can hire an answering service or call center to handle all of the business’ phone calls, alleviating some of this burden and allowing the business’ employees to focus on their work.

Depending on the organization and their necessities, though, the type of service needed is different. Let’s look into some of the differences in an answering service vs. call center.

Call Routing

Call RoutingThe most significant difference in the answering service vs. call center discussion is the way in which typical calls are handled.

An answering service is set up to route calls outward to the correct locations. For instance, an answering service for a medical business will typically not answer medical questions themselves; instead, they will refer the caller out to the correct medical professional so their question can be answered.

On the other hand, call service employees are a sort of all-around customer service representative. They are capable of answering questions over the phone, as well as sending text and email confirmations, looking up information, taking orders, and generally handling customer requests themselves.

As such, a call center will typically only refer customers outward if they absolutely cannot answer the question or if the customer is asking for a service they cannot provide.

Call Duration

Call DurationBecause of these differences, the duration of the call will differ between an answering service vs. call center.

A typical call center phone call will last anywhere from 4-5 minutes, sometimes even as long as 15 depending on the type of call. This is because they are providing and taking in more information as opposed to handing the customer off to the correct employee/team.

The call duration also differs in a call center because call center employees usually follow a kind of script. For example, an IT call center will follow a list of troubleshooting questions based on the concern the customer has – if a customer calls in because their computer is making a funny noise, the employee will look up the issue and ask a series of predetermined questions until a solution is found.

On the other hand, an answering service serves only to direct customers to the right place. Because of this, their calls are typically very short – the only transaction occurring is the recording of the customer’s information, at which point they are referred out.

Information Gathering

Gathering InformationBoth services will typically gather information on the actual customer, like their name, number, email address, and any other pertinent identifying information based on the situation.

For an answering service, this is mostly where the information gathering stops because they are referring the customer to a new person. All they need is to be able to identify the customer to that new professional.

A call center will typically gather a much larger amount of data on the customer because they are attempting to fix the issue over the phone right here and now. This means a call center might gather such information as:

  • Diagnostic information
  • List of symptoms
  • Any relevant customer questions
  • Desired products to order

Because call centers perform a more detailed and in-depth service, they naturally need to get more information from the caller.

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So Which is Better?

Ultimately, there’s not a good answer to that question because neither is technically “better.”

While it might seem like call centers provide a “better” service on first glance, the difference between an answering service vs. call center isn’t a matter of quality but of purpose.

Call centers are most useful for businesses that need to provide services to their callers (as opposed to referring them out). For a lot of companies, this means handling things like magazine subscriptions, troubleshooting IT issues, or other day-to-day issues like directions and questions.

That’s because these issues don’t have a person to refer out to – they’re simply general services related to the business.

Answering services, then, make sense for businesses that need to get customers to the right person – we see these used typically in medical scenarios where customers need to be referred to specialists, large organizations where messages need to be taken and relayed, or emergency scenarios.

Now What?

Now that you know the answer to the answering service vs. call center debate, you’re basically an expert. Nice!

Maybe you’re thinking you need an answering service or call center for your business. No problem – let us help! We offer a comprehensive comparison service for answering services and call centers that will help you make the most educated choice possible.

It’s easy to get a free quote today and start upgrading your business’ call reliability.

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