Many people, especially in the corporate environment, use the terms “call center” and “contact center” interchangeably. Most of the time this is okay, and no one will object. After all, both are centralized places that serve as communication centers, but from a strict definition, they differ in terms of the variety of communications handled. A call center is a centralize place were calls are received (an inbound call center) or calls are placed (an outbound call center; learn the difference between inbound and outbound call centers.) The emphasis of activity in the call center is on telephone communications, also known as telephony. With this delineation, phone calls are theoretically the only communication that happens in a call center. A contact center is a centralize place were contact takes place through various forms of communication. Contact centers can react to incoming communication (inbound contact center) or be proactive (outbound contact center). These contacts include phone calls, as well as other forms of communication. Here are some of the main forms of communication that can take place in a contact center: Phone Calls: The majority of communications in most contact centers is still telephone calls. Even so some centers specialize in other forms of contact, such as text messaging, to the near exclusion of other forms of communication. Text Chat: With the growing proliferation of smartphones and the continuing shift of consumers who embrace texting as their communication vehicle of choice, their obvious expectation is that they want to communicate with businesses and organizations via text. A side benefit for both parties is that text messages often receive a faster response then email and priority attention over phone calls, which are often screened or dismissed. Text chat (text messaging) is the fastest contact center growth area. Email: Not to be forgotten is email. All contact centers should be able to process email messages. Though email is not new or exciting, it is a communication mainstay that far exceeds all other forms of communication in terms of volume and ubiquity. Voice over IP: VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol, to be specific) is technically a subset of phone calls, yet with the proper interface in the contact center, VoIP calls completely bypass the telephone network. This speeds the connection time, improves voice quality, and saves in transmission costs. Users can make and receive VoIP calls anywhere they have internet access, which is far more available than the telephone network. All contact centers should be equipped to receive VoIP calls directly from the internet and not force those calls to use the telephone network for the last leg of their journey to reach the contact center. Social Media: The last major form of communication that contact centers can handle is social media. Contact centers can monitor the company’s social media platforms to respond to messages, handle customer service issues, monitor trends, and even initiate communication. While call centers and contact centers are quite similar in concept, from a strict understanding they differ in the communication types offered. The main point of this post is that if you have a corporate call center that handles only telephone calls, you should expand your vision to embrace all forms of public-facing communication. Janet Livingston is the president of Call Center Sales Pro, a premier consultancy for corporate call centers, whose team possesses decades of relevant business and call center experience. Contact Janet at email@example.com or 800-901-7706.Peter Lyle DeHaan is a freelance writer from Southwest Michigan.