Article | 8 min read

What is a contact center? Definition, types, and use cases

Establish a flexible, dynamic contact center to drive customer loyalty and improve agent efficiency.

By Cristina Maza, Contributing Writer

Last updated February 13, 2024

Contact center definition

A contact center is a department that manages customer interactions across multiple channels, such as social media, email, voice, and online chats. The term may also refer to the software that the team uses to handle those interactions. Contact center software can save and consolidate contextual information from conversations with customers, enabling companies to deliver personalized, omnichannel experiences.

Today’s consumers communicate through various avenues—from messaging services to apps to email. So, if you only offer one or two customer support channels, you’ll miss critical opportunities to connect with your audience.

The solution: Establish a modern, dynamic contact center that lets you connect with customers through their preferred communication channels and provides the tools that help your agents perform to their full potential.

More in this guide:

Contact center vs. call center

Call centers and contact centers can have overlapping responsibilities, but there are distinct differences between the two.

Call center software only handles calls, routing them to different departments, often with the help of a business Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). However, a contact center offers customers multiple support channels, including phone, email, chat, messaging apps, social media, and self-service options.

Thanks to these expanded communication options, a contact center can better serve your customers, helping you deliver enhanced customer experiences.

Contact Country
Communication channels Multichannel or omnichannel capabilities Voice
Self-service options
  • IVR
  • Chatbots
  • FAQ pages
  • IVR
  • Call reporting
  • Queues
  • Monitoring
  • Omnichannel routing
  • 360-degree view of the customer
  • Call reporting
  • Queues
  • Monitoring

5 benefits of a contact center

With a contact center, support agents can connect with customers over several channels. This flexibility isn’t just convenient for customers—it also means there are more opportunities to learn about your audience and practice customer care. Here are five key benefits your business can experience from using a contact center.

Five icons represent the primary benefits of contact centers, including delivering omnichannel support, improving customer satisfaction, promoting collaboration, increasing sales opportunities, and gaining customer insights.

1. Deliver omnichannel support

Agents can provide better support when they have a complete picture of the customer and the issue. Omnichannel contact centers consolidate customer information gathered via chatbots, forms, and representatives into one place.

Say a customer reaches out for help and engages with a chatbot. After answering a series of automated questions, the customer’s support ticket gets escalated to a live agent. By this time, the customer has little to no patience and does not want to repeat themselves to a rep. Luckily, with an omnichannel support system, the agent already has the customer’s information and the context of their issue, helping to streamline the rest of the interaction.

2. Improve customer satisfaction

Contact centers can improve customer satisfaction because customers can choose the form of communication that best serves their issues. For example, when a customer needs immediate help with a high-stakes issue, they may prefer to speak with an agent on the phone. Meanwhile, a customer with a low-stakes query might reach out via email or chat.

Contact centers also help agents streamline customer interactions and build on past communications based on previously collected information. This allows for more personalized experiences and ultimately results in stronger consumer relationships and greater customer satisfaction.

3. Promote collaboration

By consolidating customer interactions and inquiries in one centralized hub, contact center teams have access to a unified and organized system for addressing customer issues. This centralization facilitates team communication, enabling agents to collaborate effectively and share insights, solutions, and best practices.

Issue resolution is more efficient because agents can draw from a collective knowledge base, making it easier to provide consistent and accurate responses. This collaborative environment enhances team cohesion and ensures quality service, benefiting customers and the organization.

4. Increase sales opportunities

In contrast with call centers, contact centers include both online channels and the phone. Multichannel communication enables more revenue-boosting opportunities than only using phones. Agents can upsell and cross-sell products or services, such as sending links to products that solve a customer’s problem or sharing information about a package upgrade.

5. Gain customer insights

Contact centers enable agents to connect with customers at several touchpoints, gaining insights into consumer needs, preferences, and buying behaviors in the process.

Analytics software can track and measure key customer experience metrics across channels. You can use this data to research trending phrases and words in customer conversations, which can help you catch issues before they snowball. For example, a bank’s contact center might notice customers complaining about a “credit card scam” in live chat and email, prompting the bank to take quick action to resolve the matter.

Additionally, cross-channel analytics software can help you interpret data from all channels, get a 360-degree customer view, and determine which communication channels your audience likes the most. You can use this information to segment your buyers and tailor your customer support accordingly.

Create an omnichannel contact center

Omnichannel communication makes it easier for your agents to do their jobs and provides a better customer experience. Learn how to integrate omnichannel support into your contact center to improve your operations.

6 types of contact centers

Learn about the different types of contact centers to determine the right fit for your company and customers.

A list includes the six types of contact centers: inbound, outbound, omnichannel, multichannel, cloud, and on-premise.


Inbound contact centers handle incoming calls or messages from customers and are similar to inbound call center software. Agents may provide product and tech support, process payments, and answer questions. Customers generally reach out to inquire about:

  • Products
  • Promotions
  • Locations
  • Business hours

Businesses that rely on appointments and reservations—like clinics, salons, restaurants, and tourism agencies—can use inbound contact centers for booking requests. Companies with software products use contact centers to answer technical questions over different channels, like sending a video tutorial to a customer who doesn’t know how to use a specific feature.


Similar to outbound call centers, agents at outbound contact centers usually reach out to prospective customers to pitch products and services. Reps may also be responsible for marketing, appointment setting, lead generation, fundraising, payment collections, and more.

Outbound contact center agents often use power dialers to automatically call numbers on a list. When a customer answers, the software connects them to an available agent. For smaller companies, these agents are effectively salespeople, but for larger businesses, they might assist an internal sales team with miscellaneous tasks, such as cold calling and appointment scheduling.

Agents at outbound contact centers typically contact customers and prospects regarding:

  • Outstanding debts
  • Telemarketing
  • Fundraising
  • Research
  • Sales
  • Promotions
  • Surveys
  • Updates


Omnichannel contact centers connect with clientele through phone calls and digital channels, such as:

  • Social media messaging
  • App or website live chats
  • Email
  • SMS and mobile apps

An omnichannel solution is unique because conversations are completely fluid across channels, allowing agents to connect with customers using their preferred communication method at any given time.

Whenever or however a customer makes contact, the interaction is recorded for future use. This customer context—conversation history, account type, order history, and contact information—is invaluable and helps agents provide better support as the conversation moves from channel to channel.


Multichannel contact centers allow customers and agents to connect via the same channels as omnichannel services, but with limitations. While conversations can occur on different channels, multichannel solutions can silo data. This means interactions can’t jump from one channel to another without information getting lost.


Cloud-based contact centers streamline inbound and outbound communications by routing them through internet servers. Agents can interact with customers from any location that has an internet connection.

Cloud solutions are popular because they:

  • Have fewer upfront costs.
  • Are easy to deploy.
  • Are customizable and scalable.
  • Record all interactions.
  • Offer call quality monitoring.
  • Empower agents with data.
  • Create a better customer experience.


The on-premise contact center model uses hardware to host a contact center at a specific location. On-premise contact centers are a more traditional solution, but they’re becoming outdated because they have expensive infrastructure. They also require companies to hire an IT team to maintain the servers and troubleshoot issues, making them less flexible and more costly.

But there are still some benefits. For example, businesses:

  • Only need to purchase the required equipment
  • Don’t need to make monthly payments
  • Have more control over software and hardware
  • Can store important data at a facility

Key contact center services and features

It’s important to customize your contact center to fit your customers’ needs while also adhering to budget and resource constraints. The key features of contact centers vary depending on the software but can include:

  • Interactive voice response (IVR) systems: IVR is a phone tree system that answers incoming calls and routes the customer to their chosen department or the best-suited agent.
  • Automatic call distribution (ACD) and routing: ACD systems route inbound calls to available agents to reduce wait times.
  • Call recording: Customer calls are recorded for quality control measures and used for agent training.
  • Call monitoring: Managers can track activity from a real-time dashboard and listen to ongoing calls.
  • Real-time reporting: Teams can access reports with up-to-date information to proactively adjust to customer needs and resolve service issues.
  • Integrations: Contact centers can connect to third-party tools so teams can work efficiently and access all company resources.

3 considerations before you build a customer contact center

Determine which channels you’ll use in your contact center by evaluating your resources and customer base. Look to these primary considerations to guide your selection process.

Which channels do your customers prefer?

Talk to your agents or leverage customer data to determine the most popular support channels. You can also look at current customer experience (CX) trends to gauge your target customers’ preferred channels.

For example, if you primarily target Millennials and Gen Zers, focusing on messaging and social media channels might make sense. But if your target customers are Baby Boomers, you may want to stick with traditional channels like phone and email.

Which software does it need to integrate with?

Integrations enable connectivity between your various systems, like customer relationship management (CRM) software, data analytics programs, and communication tools. These integrations streamline operations, enhance data accuracy, and provide a 360-degree view of customer interactions, allowing for more personalized and efficient service delivery.

The right software integrations can empower your company to adapt and scale its contact center operations, integrate customer data, and access real-time insights, which are essential for staying competitive. Prioritize support and customization integrations when choosing your contact center provider.

What are your staffing resources?

If you’re a large company, you may be able to offer an array of channels and hire numerous support agents to handle them. But if you’re a startup building a team of contact center agents for the first time, you might want to start with only the essential services.

Luckily, contact center as a service (CCaaS) support solutions often offer trials, so you can test things out and decide what tools are necessary for your business.

As part of your selection process, make sure you have a general idea of how many agents you’ll need to staff your new contact center, as well as the software’s potential to scale with a growing team. This contact center staffing calculator can help you estimate as you weigh your options.

4 tips for managing a contact center

With so many open lines of communication, contact centers typically require a proactive management style and a different approach than call center management. Here are some ways you can efficiently manage your contact center to keep things running smoothly.

A list details tips for effectively managing a contact center, including by establishing the team’s structure, hiring qualified agents, measuring agent performance, and prioritizing workflow improvements.

Establish a contact center team structure

It’s a good idea to define the team structure and roles of your contact center early on. This means determining the titles and duties of everyone from executives to customer service agents. Common contact center roles include:

  • Director: A senior position that oversees operations and reports directly to the CEO.
  • Managers: Upper management positions that assist with decision-making, assess customer service metrics, and provide team leader development.
  • Team leaders: Middle management positions that handle administrative duties, oversee scheduling, and track agent performance.
  • Agents: Individuals who directly support customers through digital channels and phone calls.

Hire qualified agents

One of the best things you can do to boost contact center productivity is to hire qualified agents with the necessary skills to carry out tasks without excessive training. If you prioritize hiring candidates with inherent potential, you can train a versatile team, offering the flexibility to reassign personnel while reducing the risk of contact center fatigue.

Measure agent performance

Collect data, set customer service goals, and provide ongoing training and feedback to help agents improve. Periodically review team performance to ensure your processes have the desired effect, and make adjustments when necessary. Research customer service tips and best practices to stay current on industry trends and provide the best support. Taking the time to do this can result in improved customer satisfaction and a better employee experience.

Prioritize workflow improvements

By establishing dedicated contact center processes for managing customer interactions, you can create a consistent and high-quality customer experience. Define clear workflows and utilize analytics to make data-driven decisions to enhance efficiency, customer satisfaction, and overall business performance.

You can further enhance your team’s efficiency with automations, like IVR and chatbots, that handle routine customer inquiries and route them to the right resources or agents.

The future of contact center technology

The world is moving toward a digital-first approach, but many companies are slow to adopt the technology that makes this possible. According to the Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report 2023, only 31 percent of agents can effectively see and use customer data to improve experiences.

Integrating contact center software with your other systems can lead to better internal and external communication, helping you meet customer expectations and stay competitive. Invest in omnichannel customer service and industry-leading CX software to streamline and coordinate client data and provide better customer service.

Create an omnichannel contact center

Omnichannel communication makes it easier for your agents to do their jobs and provides a better customer experience. Learn how to integrate omnichannel support into your contact center to improve your operations.

Create an omnichannel contact center

Omnichannel communication makes it easier for your agents to do their jobs and provides a better customer experience. Learn how to integrate omnichannel support into your contact center to improve your operations.

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