An answering service is a dedicated team that handles incoming calls for businesses, often providing customer support and taking messages. A call center is a larger operation focused on managing a high volume of incoming and outgoing calls for various purposes, including customer service and sales.

The key differences between these two services are their scale and function. Answering services typically handle calls that require immediate and personalized responses, whereas call centers manage a larger volume of calls, often following scripts for a wide range of issues?.

How an Answering Service Works

Before an answering service becomes the frontline of your customer interactions, there’s groundwork to be done.

Once you bring an answering service on board, agents should begin a rigorous training program, learning the ins and outs of your business’s customer service policies and the types of calls they will handle. The more prepared they are, the better they can serve your customers and act as an extension of your business, making informed decisions and providing tailored support when needed most.

An answering service steps in when the pressure’s on, like when a heater goes out on a chilly night in an apartment building or a water pipe bursts in a home. Callers get a real person on the line, ready to deal with these urgent issues on the spot.

This service is about quick action. When callers hit a snag that can’t wait, they get immediate help—not a recorded voice.

The agents operating these services need to be sharp and fully in sync with the business, ready to dive into the problem and help sort it out. They likely won’t have a script for every possible scenario, but they should be experts in the emergencies they do handle.

When it comes to serious or time-sensitive problems, an answering service should be knowledgeable, resourceful, and ready to offer solutions quickly.

How a Call Center Works

When you dial into a call center, you’re tapping into a vast network of customer service professionals.

When it comes to customer communications, you can’t get a more versatile solution than a call center. They handle a wide array of customer interactions, including order placements, customer service, and support queries. Call centers function as a primary channel for customers to voice their requests or complaints, offering a less urgent but more diverse array of assistance than answering services.

Representatives at call centers are trained to follow scripts, but they can adapt to manage all sorts of customer requests successfully. They also ensure that every detail of customer interactions is meticulously documented and stored in the company’s Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems.

This is essential for maintaining a comprehensive record of customer engagements, personalizing future interactions, and providing a seamless customer service experience across different touchpoints within the company.

How to Choose Between an Answering Service and a Call Center

Choosing the right type of customer communication service really comes down to what your business does and how quickly you need to pick up the phone.

Got an emergency line or need to answer calls even when the office is closed? An answering service is your go-to because it ensures those super-important calls never slip through the cracks.

On the flip side, if your business fields a steady stream of calls about all sorts of things, a call center is your solution. From detailed product inquiries to booking appointments, or even sorting out a “Why isn’t this working?” gripe, a call center has the versatility to address your customer’s diverse needs with ease.

For most businesses, a call center will suffice. But if you’re on the fence because your business has potential use cases for both, there’s no rule that says you can only choose one.

It’s actually pretty common for businesses to use both an answering service and a call center. For instance, a property management company might lean on a call center to handle routine tenant questions and maintenance requests when the office is buzzing, but after hours, an answering service is there to catch any urgent tenant concerns that can’t wait until morning.

For those running a service-based business, like electricians or locksmiths, a call center is perfect for scheduling jobs during the day, while an answering service is on standby for those unexpected late-night emergencies.

Here are more examples of how each service benefits specific types of businesses:

Answering Service

  • Towing companies for roadside assistance calls
  • Utility providers for reporting outages and service interruptions
  • Medical professionals with on-call requirements like doctors or veterinarians

Call Center

  • Ecommerce retailers for order processing and customer questions
  • IT firms and tech companies for technical support and product assistance
  • Travel agencies for booking and itinerary changes

Combination of Both

  • Health clinics that use call centers for appointments and answering services for after-hours patient care
  • Home service businesses, such as HVAC or pest control, that require call centers for scheduling and answering services for emergency calls
  • Real estate agencies that use call centers for client inquiries and answering services for urgent property matters outside of business hours