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What Is the Difference Between a Call Center and Answering Service?

Answering services may take messages, redirect inquiries, and handle overflow calls.
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  • Written By: K. Testa
  • Edited By: Michelle Arevalo
  • Last Modified Date: 18 November 2014
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In many cases, there are few differences between a call center and answering service. Many companies are both call center and answering service providers. In general, each of them claims to provide enhanced customer service by greeting callers with a live response, rather than just a voicemail service. Businesses choose between the two types of services for various reasons. A small enterprise, for example, might not need the numerous offerings of a large call center, and it might opt for a small business answering service instead.

For the most part, a call center and answering service are able to provide first-level support to customers. Call center services are often available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This is generally true of most answering services as well. Messages are typically delivered according to the preferences of the client. Some options include emailing, faxing, paging, or a sending them to a traditional voice mailbox for retrieval. Both these types of phone services are usually available to handle calls almost any time, including holidays.

Typically, both a call center and answering service provide their clients with local phone numbers, toll-free numbers, and fax capabilities. Answering services, however, may be limited to certain functions. These can include taking messages, redirecting inquiries, and handling overflow calls. In certain cases, and usually for an additional setup fee, they can also help dispatch emergency workers.

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When considering a call center and answering service as options, a deciding factor is usually the level of customer service that can be provided. Business owners and managers may prefer a call center if they want the capability to monitor live calls or to record calls for later evaluation. A common difference between a call center and answering service is that many call center employees are specially trained to handle the inquiries of a specific company or industry.

Another difference between a call center and answering service is that call centers frequently engage in order processing. They can sell products and services by phone or on the Internet, and they can usually be set up to process credit card payments. A call center can also act as a help desk or an extension of it, to assist others. An example of an additional function of a call center is that its employees can often help register customers for events.

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