Technologies & Innovation

Difference Between an Answering Services vs Call Center Services
Alex Fridman
5 minutes

Answering and Call Center Services Explained


Most people have contacted a customer support center at least once. To please customers, ensure their retention and satisfaction, and convince potential clients to choose the services of a particular company rather than competitors, every business has two main support center tools: answering services vs call center services. They have a similar structure but operate differently and have distinct goals. These advanced tools can reduce wait times, provide intelligent routing, and improve the customer experience. To understand the operating principle of each tool, it is vital to study in more detail all their advantages and disadvantages, the differences between them, and the areas in which each is used. So, first of all, it is crucial to understand how answering services work.


What Is a Call Center?


A call center is a business department often housed in a separate office and intended to manage a high volume of incoming and outgoing phone calls. In general, call centers are importaint for handling client interactions, boosting sales, raising client satisfaction levels, and assisting with corporate operations in various sectors. Typically, call center operators answer inbound calls from clients who need assistance, guidance, or support. These calls could be about general queries, orders, reservations, complaints, or other issues. In addition, some call centers manage outbound calls, including follow-up calls, sales calls, lead creation, telemarketing, surveys, and appointment reminders. Call centers are available for customer service, technical assistance, sales, healthcare, and other services.


What Is an Answering Service?


An answering machine is text or calls sent automatically. How does an answering service work? With its help, you can automate the company’s communication with customers. With a voice answering machine, customers can navigate to suggested sections using touch-tone or typed dialing and receive an automated answering to their questions in the form of pre-recorded voice messages. The main task of the answering machine is to help clients solve simple issues independently, without the participation of operators or other customer service specialists. Automated answering letters are sent to contacts in a certain sequence with a given frequency, starting from the day the contact subscribes to the company.


Differences Between Answering Services vs Call Center Services


While both answering services and call center services include communication management for businesses, there are key differences between them. Here are some points that distinguish them from each other.


Topics addressed

Answering services may specialize in providing professional receptionist services to industries such as medical practices, law firms, or service-based businesses.

Call center services can specialize in areas such as customer service outsourcing, help desk, IT support, sales, or telemarketing, covering a wider range of industries.



Call center services typically have limited automation as they rely on live administrators or agents to answer calls and process requests. While some basic automation may be used to route calls or voicemail, the primary interaction often occurs with a human operator.

Answering services often use more advanced automation technologies to handle higher volumes of calls and tasks. Automated systems, such as interactive voice response, allow callers to interact with pre-recorded prompts and complete tasks without agent intervention. These systems help reduce the burden on live agents by automating routine tasks and empowering callers to solve simple problems themselves.


Hold time

Answering services typically strive to minimize wait times as much as possible to ensure callers are served quickly and efficiently. Since answering machines often handle basic inquiries or message-taking tasks, callers may have a minimal wait time before they reach an operator.

Waiting times for call center services may vary depending on factors such as call volume, agent availability, and complexity of requests. Callers may experience longer hold times during peak periods or when agents deal with complex issues that require additional time to resolve.



Answering services usually offer basic call handling features, such as answering calls and messages and forwarding calls, so they have a lower and more affordable cost. Moreover, they often charge per minute or call, depending on the volume and duration of calls handled.

Call center services provide a wider range of services than answering services, so they may cost more. They often offer tiered pricing models based on factors such as call volume, complexity of services required, etc.



Answering services specialize in answering incoming calls on behalf of businesses. They greet callers, take messages, and provide basic information. Some answering services offer appointment scheduling services for businesses.

Call center services process incoming customer inquiries, provide assistance, and resolve problems. They offer technical support to clients who have problems with products or services. Moreover, they handle order processing tasks, such as placing orders, processing payments, and tracking orders.


Call duration

Answering services typically handle calls of shorter duration because they primarily focus on basic call-processing tasks such as answering calls and receiving messages.

The length of calls in call centers can vary depending on the calls’ nature and the services provided. Incoming customer service calls may take longer, especially for complex issues that require detailed resolution.



Answering services often use standardized scripts to ensure consistency and professionalism in handling calls. Scripts may include greetings, call handling procedures, instructions for receiving messages, and general answers to frequently asked questions.

Call center services often use custom scripts tailored to the specific customer’s needs and the nature of the calls being processed. Scenarios can be developed based on industry, product, customer service, brand, and call handling policy.


Data collection

Data collection in answering machines usually involves collecting important information about the caller, such as name, contact number, message details, and any other relevant data required by the customer.

Data collection in call center services is more comprehensive and involves collecting detailed information related to customer queries, concerns, preferences, and feedback.



How to Choose Between These Two Options




Different factors affect the choice between an answering service and a call center service, such as your business needs, communication requirements, budget, and the desired level of service. With a step-by-step guide below, it will be easier for you to choose what exactly your company requires.


Business Needs and Goals

Assess the volumes and types of incoming calls your company receives, as well as the specific communication challenges the business faces. You should use answering services if you primarily need basic call processing, receiving messages, and scheduling meetings. And call center services are for you if you need more comprehensive services, such as customer support, sales, and technical assistance.


Call Volume and Complexity

Analyze the volume and complexity of calls your company receives daily. A call center service may be more suitable if you face a high volume of calls or deal with complex queries that require specialized assistance. Answering services are reasonable for businesses with fewer calls and simpler requests.



The next step is to consider your budget constraints. Understand the pricing models for both types of services. Answering services often charge per minute or per call, while call center services may have a more complex pricing structure based on call volume, service level agreements, additional features, etc. Compare the financial implications of each option based on your intended use.


Hours of Operation

When choosing between answering service and call center services, opening hours play a critical role in ensuring smooth communication with your customers. If your company serves customers in multiple time zones, consider how operating hours affect availability and customer satisfaction. Most likely, the answering service will be more profitable to meet customers' needs in different regions. Analyze historical call data to identify peak hours and customer contact patterns. In this case, you can use call center services when most of your calls occur.


Growth Plans

Consider your growth plans to ensure the solution you choose can scale with your business. Assess factors such as projected increases in call volumes, entry into new markets, introduction of new products or services, and changes in customer demographics.


Customization and Flexibility

Customization and flexibility are vital factors to consider. Determine whether you can customize scripts to meet your call-handling needs, modify scripts dynamically based on caller interactions, and adapt scripts as your business evolves.


Reporting and Analytics

You should determine the required types of reports and analytics to monitor call performance, track key metrics, and assess the effectiveness of your call-handling solution. Take into account call volume, call duration, first-call resolution rates, customer satisfaction scores, and sales conversion rates. 


Emergency Procedures

It's crucial to consider emergency procedures to ensure your business can effectively handle urgent situations. Determine the types of emergencies or critical incidents your business may encounter, such as natural disasters, service outages, medical emergencies, security breaches, or other unforeseen events. Evaluate the potential impact of these scenarios on your operations and customer service.



Determine your security requirements based on the type of information handled during calls, such as customer data, financial transactions, or proprietary business information. Consider compliance obligations, industry standards, and customer expectations regarding data security and privacy.


What Businesses Are Good for Answering Services vs Call Center Services


Choosing between answering services and call center services often depends on the specific needs and nature of your business. So, in which cases these two options will be suitable?



First of all, how do answering services work? If you understand how call forwarding works and how a virtual receptionist works, you can see whether an answering machine is suitable for your business. Answering services are more suitable for small and medium-sized companies with limited resources or staff. Owners of such firms can take advantage of answering services, allowing them to handle incoming calls, receive messages, and make appointments using a virtual receptionist. Professionals such as doctors, lawyers, consultants, and real estate agents often use answering machines to manage client inquiries, book appointments, and ensure prompt delivery of urgent messages. Businesses in the service industries, such as home services (plumbing, heating, ventilation, electricity), healthcare (clinics, medical practices), legal services, and consulting firms, can use answering machines to maintain professional communications with clients and customers. Self-employed people and freelancers who work independently can rely on answering machines to handle incoming calls, verify requests, and arrange meetings, allowing them to focus on their core business.

Call Center


E-commerce and retail businesses often use call center services to provide customer support, process orders, handle returns and exchanges, and assist with product inquiries, especially during peak seasons or promotional events. Companies offering tech support, IT services, software development, and hardware troubleshooting may utilize services of call center operators in the office to provide assistance, address issues, and resolve customer inquiries remotely. Financial institutions, including banks, credit unions, insurance companies, and investment firms, often use call center services to provide account support, process transactions, handle inquiries, and offer financial advice to customers.

Common Things 


While answering services vs call center services serve different purposes and cater to varying needs, there are some commonalities between the two in terms of their functions and features. Here are some of them:


  • Inbound Call Handling. Both services imply handling inbound calls on behalf of businesses, including answering calls, greeting callers, providing information, taking messages, and transferring calls to the appropriate departments or individuals.


  • Message Taking. The services often take messages from callers when the intended recipient is unavailable to speak directly with. Messages may include caller contact information, the purpose call, and any other relevant details.


  • Appointment Scheduling. Answering services and call centers may assist businesses with appointment scheduling by managing calendars, booking appointments, rescheduling appointments, and sending reminders to clients or customers.


  • Customer Support. Both services may provide basic customer support by addressing inquiries, resolving issues, providing product or service information, and assisting callers with general questions or concerns.



Answering services and call center services may offer reporting and analytics for tracking call metrics, monitoring performance, and gaining insights into call trends, caller behavior, and service effectiveness. Answering services vs call center services share some common features, but they differ in terms of scale, scope, specialization, and level of service provided, which is essential to consider. Businesses should carefully assess their specific needs and objectives to determine which service is best suited to meet their requirements.



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