Call Center vs Answering Service: Which Is Best for Your Business?

Call Center vs Answering Service: Which Is Best for Your Business?

A study by Google shows that 59% of customers prefer to contact businesses via voice call to get a quick answer or to accomplish a goal.

Even with advanced digital online communication channels like social media, chatbots, and live chat, many customers would prefer to make a traditional call to reach a business.

Calling reassures the customer with a real human conversation. It provides immediate feedback, which is useful while seeking guidance. A verbal discussion also generates detailed information that may not be available on other sources. This means that businesses have to effectively handle numerous calls every day to keep up the communication demands from their customers.

The current telephony infrastructure is well advanced to handle massive voice call traffic seamlessly. Technologies in voice communication like VoIP and integrated communication channels have conveniently solved the hardware problem.

The only remaining problem is how the business handles its side of the call.   


How Businesses Handle Voice Calls


Most small businesses and startups largely rely on two main services to manage voice calls: call centers and answering service. The two terms are often used interchangeably, but it is wrong to assume that they are the same thing.

Let’s take a closer look at call center vs answering service and work out which is better for your business.


Call Centers


A call center is a centralized department set up to manage a large volume of inbound and outbound calls to existing and potential customers. Physically, it is a large office with lots of phones and computers. A business can build its own call center or outsource the service.

Unless the call center is very small, equipping and staffing a large scale call center is a considerable investment. For this reason, a majority of businesses opt to outsource call services.   

Usually, a call center's job is to collect client information and carry out telemarketing on behalf of the business.

Depending on the business, the call center may be responsible for client outreach, answering transaction and general inquiries and redirecting calls to the relevant departments. They may also collect market research information by conducting subtle interviews.

Every time you make a call and speak to an agent or a telemarketer calls you, chances are they are sitting in a call center. Employees are trained to handle queries for specific companies. They usually stick to a pre-defined script during the conversation.   


Answering Services


An answering service only handles incoming calls. This service is designed to be like a virtual receptionist. In fact, they are sometimes called virtual receptionists. Answering services only work with a particular market segment and handles short duration calls with precise inquiries.

Answering services do not collect client or marketing information. They take messages, transfer calls, redirect inquiries, and resolve small requests. They can also be used to dispatch personnel for emergency response.

Like call centers, answering services can be outsourced. But since answering services don’t deal with large volumes of lengthy calls like call centers do, they need fewer resources and staff. So, answering services don’t cost as much as call centers.

Unlike call centers, you can have the option of automatic call answering. Instead of connecting to a real human, an automated answering service presents the caller with a voice-prompted menu. The caller then selects from the options using key or voice inputs.

Automatic answering services are convenient and cost saving. However, studies have shown that many callers get frustrated and often end the call prematurely.


Choosing Between a Call Center and Answering Service


The two services may have a few similarities. But to a business, the difference lies within their purposes in achieving communication and other business goals.

Call centers are more versatile than answering services. Agents can make telemarking calls and play a role in a business’s marketing efforts. They are trained to be more business oriented. In fact, many online companies enlist the services of call centers to boost their influence in the market.

Nowadays, many call centers are advancing to contact centers.  They do this by increasing their functions to handle all types of business communications. Most handle emails, live chats, and even social media streams.

On the other hand, answering services have little room to expand. The most they can do is redirect, hold calls, and handle small queries.

Due to the sheer number of calls handled by call centers, it is difficult to personalize every client’s experience. With answering services, however, it is easy to manage every caller personally. Usually, with answering services, the client's requests are met quickly and with satisfactory results.


Which is Better?


The short answer is: it depends. Some business models are suited to call centers and others to answering services.

If your business receives a bulk of calls every day, an answering service may not be enough. Answering services are best suited to businesses with low volumes of discrete calls. These are normally small service-based businesses.

An additional benefit of call centers is that they can be tailored to assist in marketing. They can grow clientele and push products effectively through targeted marketing.  

For large firms handling a large number of diverse inquiries, a call center is preferable. Business like insurance firms, fulfillment centers, and travel services need call centers.

However, many organizations fuse both services into one call service. They have an automated answering service that links to a call center. The answering service handles incoming calls and directs some of them to the call center.

Having both services working hand in hand reduces overload on the call center. This also increases the functionality of the answering service.




Call centers and answering services are both excellent solutions to businesses voice call needs. When deliberating on call center vs answering service, you need to consider the above distinctions. Understanding their differences should help you decide on the best service for your business.

Select a call center if your business needs a chained dialog with customers and has to make numerous outgoing calls. Go for an answering service if you only need to handle a few requests without missing any calls.

The important thing is to ensure that with either of the services, callers are spoken to politely and respectfully. 

Alexis Davis is a senior staff writer at She covers different topics, including business, health, and technology.