Contact Center vs. Call Center: How Do They Compare?

Wondering about the difference between a contact center vs call center? Read on to learn about the differences and advantages of each.

When you’ve reached out to a business’s customer service line, did you connect to a call center or a contact center? Would you be able to tell without asking? 

There are a few key differences in the contact center vs call center conversation. While call center best practices include using only field phone-based conversations, contact centers use other useful methods like video chat and American Sign Language. Contact centers still take phone calls, live chats, and emails, but they offer slightly broader customer communication services than their call center counterparts. 

These two different communication resources also use different Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to measure their success. In this article, we’ll explore the differences between call center services and contact centers and talk about how their specific KPIs shape their business models.

Call Centers

The main difference between call center and contact center is that call centers exclusively handle incoming and outgoing communications via phone. Though it is important to remember that an outbound call center and inbound call center process can vary. A sales call center, for instance, fields and makes calls related to business sales efforts. 

Virtual receptionists couldn’t exist without inbound call center services. Call centers only handle phone communications, meaning that they can accept more calls per day, streamline call center training, and operate in the niche of phone-based customer service. 

Average Hold Time

Since call centers provide services via phone, their hold times can be shorter than with contact centers, and agents are trained specifically for phone interactions. But, Average Hold Time is still an important metric for call centers, since long hold times can impact customer satisfaction.

Average Hold Time should stay as low as possible, but a dramatic increase in hold times could indicate:

  • A staffing problem
  • Reduced training standards
  • Slower-than-average computer operation, indicating a possible need for replacement

Call center management pays close attention to this KPI for the reasons above and to ensure optimal customer service.

First Response Time (FRT)

While Average Hold Time accounts for every hold session throughout a phone call, First Response Time is the amount of time it took a customer to reach an agent after their initial connection to the call center. 

Ideally, First Response Time is as low as possible. Like Average Hold Time, a high FRT could indicate a staffing problem or a high customer call volume due to a product defect.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

Average Speed of Answer

Average Speed of Answer slightly differs from First Response Time, despite sounding like a very similar metric. While FRT indicates how long a customer waited to be greeted by an agent, the Average Speed of Answer measures how long it took an agent to find the answer to a customer query or customer issue. Call center agents seek answers to client questions in a variety of places:

  • The Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)
  • The centralized knowledge base
  • The client inquiry bank
  • Other call center agents
  • Management

The resources agents use generally determine their Average Speed of Answers and, like the Average Handle Time KPI, call center management seeks a consistent metric over a low one. 

Contact Centers

Contact centers provide multiple digital channels of communication in addition to voice calls, which can include:

  • Video chat
  • American Sign Language translation vis video chat
  • Fax
  • Email
  • Live chat
  • Social media
  • SMS texting

While call centers primarily accept and make phone-related transmissions, contact centers provide wider offerings. Since contact centers offer more services than call centers, their key performance indicators (KPIs) are slightly broader than those used to gauge the success of a call center. 

Next, we’ll explore average contact center service KPIs.

Average Abandonment Rate

The Average Abandonment Rate measures how long customers wait on the phone, via chat, text, or email before hanging up. Abandonment statistics are only taken when a caller abandons the call, meaning that they hung up or left the chat before they ever spoke to contact center agents.

Average Abandonment Rate generally indicates how long customers will remain patient before giving up on waiting. This customer data helps contact centers make staffing choices to accommodate customers’ need for shorter wait times. 

Transfer Rate

The Transfer Rate determines how many times one call, live chat, or email is transferred to another contact center agent. 

While contact centers want to try to keep their Transfer Rate low, sometimes customers simply demand to speak to a manager. In general, a lower Transfer Rate indicates that the contact center service has plenty of people who are qualified to help customers without transferring them. 

Average Handle Time (AHT)

The Average Handle Time (AHT) is the total time a contact center agent spends corresponding with a customer—as soon as an agent answers a phone call, begins a text or live chat exchange, or answers a video call, the Handle Time begins. Handle Time ends when the agent hangs up, and hold times are included in the calculation. 

While efficiency is key in most KPI metrics, a low AHT doesn’t necessarily indicate a successful customer call. Instead of pursuing low AHTs, contact centers generally strive for consistent AHTs.    

Nexa: Call Center Solutions for Every Industry

Now that you know the difference between call center and service desk, the next step is choosing the option that will streamline your customer service operations. And if your business is ready to grow, you need a call center that can meet all of your communication needs. At Nexa, we have the tools you need to grow your business in the digita age. 

In addition to 24/7/365 call answering services and virtual receptionist services, we also offer omnichannel customer support via SMS text, live chat, and email. Whether you’re looking for improved lead vetting, outbound call center services, or more client customer service access, our digital tools and friendly, helpful agents are ready to serve you and your clients. 


  1. IT Modernization Centers of Excellence. Fifteen Plays of Our Contact Center Approach. 
  2. Emory University. Call Center Management. 

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