The call answering professionals: Over 23 years of virtual receptionist experience

Delivering Effective
Customer Service Online


Call centre or call answering service?

Call centre, answering service, tomayto, tomahto, it’s all the same thing isn’t it? It turns out it’s not. Which means if you’re looking for help answering your incoming calls, it’s good to know how to tell them apart. We can help you with that.

While they may sound similar, there are some key differences including the services offered, the type of business and the size of businesses they work for.

The dictionary defines the two as:

Call centre (noun): a large office in which a company’s employees provide information to its customers, or sell or advertise its goods or services, by phone

Answering service (noun): a company that receives and answers phone calls for its customers

While these are sound definitions, there are some more subtle differences, which could well influence what you go for.  

What is a call centre?

A call centre is typically a central, off-site office that handles phone calls for a business. Once vast warehouse-type spaces filled with desks and hundreds of people, following the covid-19 pandemic, these are becoming more spread out with call handlers often working from home.

There are different types of call centre: 

Inbound call centres – these respond to incoming calls from existing and prospective customers.

Outbound call centres – these phone people and businesses, often unsolicited and often for sales, telemarketing, fundraising and market research purposes.

In house call centres – working directly for the business itself, for instance huge corporations often have their own dedicated call centres, these handle a combination of incoming customer service calls and outgoing marketing and sales calls.

Outsourced call centres – these usually work for multiple businesses and tend to be used to field large numbers of customer service calls, as well as for making outbound cold calls and facilitating large-scale marketing efforts.

Call centres are typically geared towards large-scale operations and so can come with equally large-scale price tags.

What is a call answering service? 

Call answering services answer the phone for other businesses and tend to be smaller businesses themselves. They often work for fewer businesses, enabling them to offer a more personalised and bespoke solution. Being smaller, they’re often lower in price too.

With people communicating in ever greater number of ways, a good call answering service will be able to support businesses with a number of services such as:

Call handling – making and answering calls, under the banner of your company, as if they were your receptionist, secretary, sales, marketing or customer support department of your company.

Web chat answering – responding to customers in the way they prefer.

Reminder emails – nudges to help keep you and your business on track and up to speed.

Diary management – never miss an appointment or meeting again, without the cost of a dedicated secretary.

Order management – an extension of your sales and customer care team, that includes processing orders, answering queries and taking payment.

Is a call answering service or a call centre right for you?

If you’re spending more time on the phone than you’d like, or if you’re not always able to answer calls because you’re too busy, then a call answering solution could be just what you need. 

Which one you choose, call centre or call answering service, very much depends on your business needs, volume of calls, brand style and budget.

More To Explore

How to maintain business continuity

It’s a good idea to put some time aside to make sure that your business’s contingency planning is second to none. The following steps will not just prepare you for the unknown, they can also help to improve efficiency and cut overheads at the same time.

Outstanding customer service every time

The quality of your customer service – and your ability to make your clients happy – can make or break your business, along with your bottom line. Here are five easy ways for you to delight your customers, simply by tweaking your current approach to customer service.

Should I outsource my customer service?

There are a number of steps you can take to choose a call-answering partner for your business. This will help you to find a reliable call handler or virtual receptionist who can offer you a high standard of service.