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

The terms “answering service” and “call center” are often used interchangeably, but there are some key differences to know—especially if you’re a business owner. While both provide similar services, they differ greatly in scale, pricing, and—as you’ll soon see—quality of service. These two even differ in where they’re usually located; answering services, for example, are often based in the US, while call centers are typically based internationally. Many businesses may be searching for “an answering service near me,” unaware there are answering services based in the same country as them that will provide service no matter where their business is located!

There are other important factors to consider as well. For example, although answering services and call centers both regularly handle incoming calls, their objectives and strategies are quite different. Answering services offer more comprehensive call-handling solutions, frequently catering to several clients with various needs, whereas call centers typically concentrate on delivering high-quantity and low-quality customer support, upselling, or general technical assistance. Additionally, answering services are typically more streamlined and customized than call centers, which frequently employ larger staff and use antiquated technology.

Answering services offer more comprehensive call-handling solutions, frequently catering to several clients with various needs, whereas call centers typically concentrate on delivering high-quantity and low-quality customer support, upselling, or general technical assistance.

That’s why we at Answering Service Care wrote this article: to help business owners find the best communication solution for their needs. Below, we’ve laid out some important distinctions between a call center and answering service. We’ll explain what each of them is and lay out the basics of how both operate. You’ll also find some valuable benefits of answering services and details on why a company like Answering Service Care may be the best option for your business.

Call Center Services vs. Answering Services: What’s the Difference?

Since call centers typically employ larger teams working from outside the United States, customer care may lack the personal touch and become more generic—based on a copy-and-paste script and lack of personalization. Answering services, on the other hand, tend to be run by smaller, regional teams, which allows for a more individualized approach to each caller. Ultimately, the main differences between these two types of services can be categorized in the following traits:

  • Location
  • Staff size
  • Typical clients
  • Operations
  • Quality of service

The different things to consider between an answering service and call center are: location, staff size, typical clients, operations, and quality of service.

Let’s look at both call centers and answering services individually.

What Is a Call Center?

A call center is a large-scale, bare-bones communication center that typically uses low-wage labor.

  • Location | Often internationally-based and/or staffed with workers from various countries
  • Staff Size | Uses a headcount that’s typically in the thousands or larger
  • Typical Clients | Large name-brand corporations, such as Macy’s, Apple, or Zara
  • Operations | Usually organized within the client’s systems, so agents have to relearn different software rather than being skilled in one internal system. 
  • Pricing | Typically bills in large monthly sums (~$10K)
  • Quality of Service | Cheaper and lower quality; meant to “cast a wider net” for high call volume

In short, call centers are what most people think of when they dread contacting customer service. Unfortunately, customers who call a call center typically end up frustrated and dissatisfied because of the unfriendly and unpersonalized service they receive. On top of that, employee burnout is a common problem in call centers due to the long hours and high expectations placed on workers to reach quotas, both of which negatively impact customer service. While these services do function as intended, they are designed to cover a large need for a massive organization. Different types of calls in a call center should always be customized to the business they’re representing—but it’s just not possible with such large operations. This means call centers are not ideal for specialty industries, high-touch customer service, or helping answer complex customer questions. 

What Is an Answering Service?

An answering service is a company that provides specialized communications for small-to-midsize businesses (SMBs).

  • Location | Can be based internationally, but the best are usually located in the United States
  • Staff Size | Often less than 500 agents. One of Answering Service Care’s special touches is that we  segmented agents into various groups by their industry of focus
  • Typical Clients | SMBs such as law firms, healthcare, home services, and real estate companies
  • Operations | Use their own system rather than their clients’ system, allowing agents to truly specialize in the tool they need to do their job. Here at Answering Service Care, we offer our own mobile app for clients to see messages as well as 5000+ integrations to external systems such as Clio, Salesforce, Hubspot, Calendly, etc so agents and customers can work in their own systems and still receive the correct information.
  • Pricing | Bills on a by-the-minute basis or similar models that fit better with SMBs.
  • Quality of Service | Higher quality, premium service designed to foster customer relationships

For companies that are either smaller or more focused on specific customer needs, an answering service is far better suited than a call center. Answering services generally have more services they provide, as well as agents that specialize in specific industries, to better field customer calls. Answering Service Care, for example, has agents on staff who specialize in fields such as law, medicine, and more.

The Key Differentiator: Customer Service

When deciding between a call center and answering service, the primary factor to consider is this:

How important is customer service to your brand? 

For many organizations, strong customer connections are vital to success. Take healthcare, for example: the office telephone is an important source of communication between the medical office and their patients—sometimes the only source of communication, if that patient is remotely monitored. In this case, it’s crucial to have staff that are not only kind, but able to answer patients’ questions. Quality customer service is something that call services simply cannot provide at the scale they operate in—and it’s precisely why answering services provide that level of service.

Answering services have a good reputation for customer service because they put a high value on providing each caller with an individualized and thoughtful experience. When it comes to answering services, the smaller, more specialized teams—compared to call centers—are better able to cater to the unique requirements of each client, resulting in happier customers and a more enjoyable experience.

Answering services are better able to cater to the unique requirements of each client, resulting in happier customers and a more enjoyable experience.

Is “customer service” considered in a call center? While the answer is technically “yes,” we at Answering Service Care would argue that many SMBs don’t just need “customer service,” they need “great customer service!” This is why our staff are specialized in various industries, with a wealth of communication experience. We have the knowledge and tools needed to help our clients build quality customer relationships.

What Are 5 Advantages of an Answering Service?

There are several ways in which adding an answering service to your business’s operations can improve efficiency and customer relationships. One of the main benefits of using an answering service is having more time for essential company activities thanks to outsourcing customer service calls responsibilities. But it’s also important to consider the advantages of a better brand image, lack of in-house turnover, minimal costs, and overall efficiency of the business. If you’re a small-to-midsize business, here are five reasons why you need an answering service company like Answering Service Care. It…

  1. Offloads customer service, so you can focus on running your business.
  2. Brings in well-trained communicators that reinforce a positive brand image.
  3. Eliminates the issue of high turnover for in-house reception roles, creating consistency.
  4. Adds more expansive call fielding, including 24/7 call coverage options.
  5. Improves operational efficiency, decreases staff burnout, and increases overall productivity.

Those are just some of the benefits an answering service can provide your business. When you work with Answering Service Care, your business will operate smoother, your staff will be less overwhelmed, and you’ll have far better customer service.

What Is Customer Service? Find Out With Answering Service Care

Quality customer service requires quality staff and attention—two things we provide at Answering Service Care. If you’re a smaller business working in a specialty industry such as law, healthcare, real estate or home services, we’re equipped to provide your customers with the stellar service they deserve, at a price you can afford. Get started today for just $25/month, if you are not completely satisfied we’ll give you a full refund!  We’ll show you how much better business could be with a premium answering service on your side.

Want to improve your customer service and grow your business?

Let's Talk
using ivr while on a laptop