Customers now expect to have 24-hour access to your business, and some issues can only be addressed by live agents. 

Answering services or call center services provided by a third-party company are often the best option. Both offer cost savings and improved customer service, but only if you know their key differences and use each one appropriately.

Here is a detailed comparison of answering services vs call center services.

Definition and purpose of phone answering services

A telephone answering service typically has a relatively small number of customer service representatives answering a fairly low volume of inbound calls. Operators will often handle up to three calls at a time, each lasting only a minute or two. 

A small business may use a live answering service for the following purposes:

  • Providing basic information;
  • Call routing;
  • Taking messages;
  • Answering calls outside of business hours.

Types of answering services

You can use telephone answering services in a variety of ways. They can act as virtual receptionists for transferring calls, making appointments, and answering simple questions about a company, its products, or services. This makes them an excellent solution for law firms, real estate companies, and more.

An answering service is also perfect for any company that prefers a real human being answering their phone outside normal business hours. Medical professionals use a live answering service to take messages from patients 24 hours a day, while repair services may use them as a dispatcher for service calls.

Benefits of answering services

One of the biggest benefits of using a phone answering service is reducing your company’s expenses. An answering service saves you the salary of at least one full-time employee and the cost of extra square footage in your office.

An answering service may also significantly improve your company’s customer service experience. Offering live customer service reps to speak to can greatly increase customer satisfaction. That often leads to improved customer retention, boosting your bottom line.

Definition and purpose of call center services

Both answering services and call centers usually take customer calls for many different clients. They will also handle outbound calls as well as incoming calls. 

They are, however, very different types of business process outsourcing (BPO). The biggest differences between answering services and call center services are costs, call durations, and how they process calls.

Call center services usually have many operators handling a very high call volume. A typical contact center agent will take only individual calls, each lasting 5 to 10 minutes. That is because the calls are usually more complex and require agents to follow scripts based on a caller’s responses.

Types of call center services

You can outsource a wide range of services to call centers. However, many call centers operate in specific niches, so you should make sure to find one that best suits your particular needs. 

Here are a few ways a typical call center service could be useful for your company:

  • Order processing;
  • Lead generation;
  • Customer service;
  • Basic tech support calls. etc.

Benefits of call center services

There are two main ways that your company can benefit from using call centers. Together, they will keep your customers happy while saving you money.

In-depth support

Call center agents can provide in-depth service to your customers with the following:

  • 1-to-1 interaction on individual calls;
  • Longer call duration of 5 to 10 minutes;
  • Access to account information;
  • Scripts to guide their responses, etc.

Cost savings

It’s almost always more cost-effective to use call centers to handle high call volume, both inbound and outbound. Best of all, you can use them for more than one service. For instance, relatively large businesses and ecommerce retailers can use a call center for lead generation, order processing, and customer support.

Differences in pricing models

Answering services usually handle a relatively low call volume. So they bill clients by the minute, the number of calls they get, or some other method that generally suits small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs).

Call centers, on the other hand, typically operate for medium-sized and large companies for fixed monthly sums

Choosing the right service for your business

Answering services and call centers are both cost-saving alternatives to hiring full-time employees and office buildings. The right service for you depends on what type of business you have.

Telephone answering service

Answering services can level the playing field between large and small businesses. Even a company with just one employee can create an impressive presence with a professional website and an answering service to represent its office. 

An answering service is best in the following cases:

  • You only need a receptionist or dispatcher during or outside business hours;
  • You have a limited budget;
  • You expect a relatively low volume of calls.

Call centers

Call centers tend to have higher monthly costs. Yet, they are still usually the most cost-effective solution for handling high-volume and complex calls

You may want to use call centers to:

  • Generate revenue with lead generation or order processing;
  • Replace entire departments, such as customer service or tech support;
  • Handle multiple calls simultaneously and answer questions professionally in emergency call situations.

Integrating answering or call center services into your workflow

Today, answering services and call centers both offer integration with a wide variety of programs you probably already use. For instance, an answering service may be able to enter appointments into your Google Calendar.

Call centers can also use more complex Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software such as Salesforce. One of the criteria you might use when choosing a service is whether you are already familiar with the programs they integrate with.

Measuring the success of answering or call center services

You can use many different metrics to measure the success of the service you use. 

The most important for both types of services are probably:

  • Wait time;
  • Call duration;
  • Customer satisfaction.

Several other metrics are most commonly used by call centers rather than answering services, such as:

  • First call resolution – the percentage of calls that don’t require transfers or escalation;
  • Work time – time agents spend completing call-related work during or after calls;
  • Abandoned or blocked calls – when callers hang up before the agent answers or when the call volume is too high.

Whether you have an in-house receptionist, work with independent professionals, or rely on established call center service providers, tracking those metrics will be crucial for your business. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Which service should ecommerce retailers use for taking orders?

Call centers handle complex order-taking more efficiently.

Which service is better for small businesses?

Answering services are usually most cost-effective for small businesses with limited budgets.

Which service is best for lead generation?

Certain call centers specialize in this type of telemarketing.