The customer service industry, like most industries, has its share of jargon and acronyms—IVR, average handle time, ACD, abandon rates, and CTI, just to name a few. Even the name of the place that provides customer service—call center—is a bit insider-ish. These operations are often generically referred to as call centers because that's an established and very familiar term.
But some of these facilities are actually contact centers. Tell someone outside the industry that you work in a contact center and they might think you help people with their contact lenses (true story), but industry professionals should know exactly what you're talking about.
Call center or contact center?
The distinction between call center and contact center is an important one because the name signifies the way each one operates. A call center provides customer support and other services (like sales and debt collection) via phones. A call center might handle inbound calls, make outbound calls, or do both, but they have one defining characteristic—they only use phones.
In contrast, a contact center may offer phone support, but they also use other methods (also known as channels), such as email, chat, social media, text (SMS), and more. The specific mix of channels is defined by the business and should be based on customer demand.
Contact centers are designed to support customer interactions using more than just telephone calls, and that's reflected in their people, processes and systems. It's easy to know if you're in a contact center if you know what to look for.