The Difference Between an Answering Service vs. Call Center

Answering services and call centers are used to improve customer relations. So, what is the difference between answering service vs call center? Read on!

Regardless of the industry you serve, your business must remain focused on your clients and their needs in order to survive and thrive. However, with a limited staff already stretched thin, it can be difficult to find time to handle phone and web inquiries. 

Thus, many companies decide to utilize an answering service or a call center.

An answering service, such as an HVAC or plumbing answering service, performs specific, and frequently specialized, telephone answering and appointment booking services. So then, what is an inbound call center? A call center, or contact center, is more of a swiss army knife of operations that can handle more varied, but general, tasks.

So which is the right choice for your business? In this guide, we’ll explore the differences between an answering service vs call center and present criteria to help you determine which is the best approach for your company.

What Does an Answering Service Do?

What is an answering service and how do and how do they operate? An answering service is a company to which you can direct calls that would normally come to your place of business. The employees at the answering service can then respond to questions from customers or clients about your company. 

Typically, answering services are industry-specific, so that they can provide your customers with in-depth and in-the-know information about your business.

For example, let’s say you run a small medical practice with limited hours and you need a service to answer the phones when your office is closed from 5 p.m. to 6 a.m. An answering service or virtual receptionist service would be able to staff your phones around the clock. 

When patients call during closed hours to make an appointment or ask a question, the call is routed from your office to the answering service. When speaking to an answering service employee, the patient can book an appointment without having to wait until your office opens the next day. Due to the specialization of their knowledge base, answering services usually have fewer employees than a call center. 

Basic Responsibilities of an Answering Service

Each answering service company might perform different tasks depending on the level of assistance you require or their capabilities. Some common responsibilities an answering service can handle include: 

  • Answer inbound calls – Answering services can improve customer satisfaction because they increase your availability to your customers. Frequently, customers need answers during your off-hours. Outsourcing your calls allows customers to get help even when you aren’t open for business.
  • Schedule appointments – Because answering services specialize in a particular vertical or industry, they can record customer and patient information and use that to schedule appropriate appointments.
  • Provide information – The knowledge base required to work for an answering service for a specific industry ensures that the employees answering calls can provide accurate information to your customers or patients. 
  • Redirect urgent inquiries – Answering service employees may also need to make quick decisions or think critically to redirect urgent or emergency inquiries. The time sensitivity of these decisions will vary based on the industry. 

As you can see, an answering service can act as a remote arm of your business, giving your customers a helping hand when you’re unavailable with a client or out of the office. 

Benefits of Using an Answering Service

There are several benefits to hiring an answering service for your business. Some of these perks include:

  • Cost savings – Using an answering service can save your business money. Instead of hiring a full-time staff member to monitor calls and communications, you can hand it over to an answering service. Furthermore, answering services operate outside of your office space meaning you don’t need to pay for more square footage to house a larger staff.
  • Improved customer service – When your customers call, text, or reach out via chat, they want answers right away. While you may not be able to provide these instant responses, an answering service can. 
  • Better customer satisfaction – Improved customer service equals higher levels of customer satisfaction. This in turn keeps clients coming back to your business for their needs rather than seeking out a competitor.

When you need a knowledgeable resource to handle your customer inquiries and provide industry-specific information, an answering service can help.

What Does a Call Center Do?

A call center is a type of answering service that provides different levels of support. Instead of serving specific verticals, a call center acts as a generalist. 

The employees at a call center can provide basic information and often use a script to convey brand messaging to customers. Call center services are usually staffed with many employees and can handle a large volume of inquiries each day. 

One thing to note about today’s changing workplace is that the name call center is a little dated. Most call centers today do a lot more than phone calls. Instead, they handle incoming calls, texts, emails, and chat inquiries. 

Basic Responsibilities of a Call Center

Call center staff aren’t experts on your business or industry. Instead, they serve as a general knowledge base that helps your customers get quick answers to their questions. They can also help your company meet other needs, such as email responses or live chat communications. Some typical responsibilities of a call center include:

  • Answer basic inquiries – Call center employees can answer simple customer questions with a scripted answer. They aren’t likely to be able to give in-depth information because they aren’t trained in the intricacies of your company.
  • Generate sales leads – Some call centers are able to boost a business’s sales by making outbound sales inquiries. This helps generate customer interest in your business and provides your sales team with new leads.
  • Record customer calls – Many call centers offer the option of recording customer calls. This can be valuable for your business if you want to evaluate the quality of the call center’s work or see which questions your customers have that aren’t able to be answered by your call center.
  • Process orders – If you sell a product or service, a call center can help by taking payments or orders over the phone or the internet. 
  • Provide technical support – Some centers can be set up as a help desk to offer basic technical support for your business. If your customers often have simple support needs, a call center can replace a pricey full-time technical staff to provide assistance.

Even though they’re not experts in your industry and can’t answer complex questions, call centers do offer many useful services that can help to improve your business’ customer relations. 

Benefits of Using a Call Center

When you hire a call center to centralize your customer service functions, you give your employees more time to focus on their work. Other benefits of utilizing a call center include:

  • Savings for your business – Along with giving your staff more time to concentrate on their duties, a call center will save your company money. You won’t have to provide office space and equipment for the people who handle your customer inquiries. 
  • Better customer support – Customers love when they can get help with their needs right away. Similar to an answering service, a call center gives customers 24/7 access to your business so they don’t have to wait until you’re available. This increases customer satisfaction and ensures that you don’t miss important calls. 
  • Access to technology – Many call centers have excellent equipment geared specifically to responding to customers. Instead of having to invest more money in telecommunications materials, you can utilize the tools already in place at the call center.

Many of the benefits of an answering service and call center are similar. Both help improve customer service and satisfaction while freeing your employees to perform other duties. 

Does Your Business Need an Answering Service or a Call Center?

Now that you know how answering services and call centers differ, let’s run through some tips on how to determine which is the best choice for your company. 

Start by asking yourself these questions:

  • What channels do your customers want to communicate with you through?
  • How many calls or other contacts do you need a service to handle?
  • What information does your customer need to access through your communication service?
  • What level of expertise does your call answering team need?

Answering services are the best choice when:

  • You need someone with detailed industry knowledge to handle customer inquiries
  • Many of your customer calls or messages are time-sensitive
  • Your customers have individualized or nuanced concerns
  • You have a largely virtual office and need customer service help
  • You have a smaller company

In contrast, call centers are a better option when:

  • Your customers often have general questions to which the answers are easily scripted
  • You need helps answering and directing calls across many different departments
  • The inquiry volume your company receives, pertaining to customer service or product support, is too large for your team to handle

Both a call center and a live answering service have a lot to offer companies in need of customer service assistance. The best choice for your business depends on what you need from your customer communication team.

Better Customer Connections with Nexa

All businesses rely on clear, effective, and timely customer communication. When your team can’t meet the needs of your customers, an answering service or call center can fill in the gaps. 

Answering services are able to handle more specialized tasks, while call centers offer a range of options that larger companies can utilize to handle general duties.

Whichever solution is right for your business, we have you covered. Whether you are looking for answers to questions like “what is live chat support?” or “how can I streamline client communications for my business?”, our team of experts can help. Connect with Nexa today to discover how our team can help with your phone, text, chat, sales, and client intake tasks so that you can stay busy doing what you do best—running your business. 


  1. Business News Daily. How to Choose a Customer Service Call Center for Your Business.
  2. How Stuff Works. How Answering Services Work.
  3. InfoBloom. What is a Call Center?

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