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What Is the Difference Between BPO and a Call Center?

by Meg Monk

If you're a business looking to outsource your customer service or tech support, it's important to understand the difference between a BPO and a call center. Choosing the right vendor can be challenging enough without trying to translate new terminology and jargon. That's why we're making it easy to understand the difference between a BPO and a call center, what each can do for you, and how to decide which fits your needs best.

What Is BPO?

Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) is the practice of contracting behind-the-scenes and customer-facing tasks to a third-party provider. The different types of BPO services include back office and front office services. Back office refers to non-customer-facing activities, such as accounting, human resources (HR), or legal assistance. 

In comparison, front office work includes customer-related tasks, such as marketing, sales, or customer support services. You can outsource specific job duties or an entire department. The most common examples of the different BPO categories include working with a marketing agency, outsourcing off-hours customer service, or partnering with a managed service provider (MSP) for technical support. 

Companies also choose contractors based on the location of BPO or call center facilities. Your options include offshore, nearshore, or domestic services. There are differences between domestic and international call centers. However, selecting the right combination helps your company reduce costs and focus on business-critical activities.

How Is an Outsourced Call Center Different?

A call center is one type of business process outsourcing. You can keep your customer service interactions in-house as a department of your company. Alternatively, you can choose one or more activities to outsource. For instance, you may hire an answering service to handle after-hours customer support. In that case, you picked a task and decided to outsource it. That's BPO. A call center is one of many available different BPO categories. 

In comparison, a call center is a branch of your business (in-house or outsourced) that handles inbound and outbound communication with customers. The term "call center" originally arose from telephone conversations. However, since email, chat, SMS, and social media have become prominent modes of communication, many call centers now refer to themselves as "contact centers." That's because these centers manage conversations across multiple channels, not just phone calls.

BPO vs. Contact Center: Three Main Distinctions

The main difference between BPO and call center services is that BPO refers to any outsourced task or department, whereas a contact center can be managed in-house or by a third party. Depending on your specific needs, you may use BPO in various ways across your organization, including outsourcing call center operations.

Call Centers Fit Into Different BPO Categories

Call centers vary widely according to your industry and customer-specific needs. A contact center for your outsourced HR tasks interacts with your employees and fits into the back office BPO category. Outsourced customer service centers focus exclusively on being the face of your company, either through answering inbound calls and chats or outbound sales and customer service calls. 

While call centers mainly cover communications, BPO consists of many tasks that don't include having conversations with employees or customers. You can outsource your payroll to a third party, and your payroll provider may contract with a call center to provide your customer support. 

BPO and Call Center Management Structures Differ 

While BPOs are outsourced and usually run their operations, call centers can be managed in-house or by a third party. Some companies even develop their own contact center operations to maintain more control over the customer experience. 

As such, you have the option to oversee the management of your call center or outsource it. If you partner with a customer service provider or contact center, the third party handles their representatives' hiring, training, and performance. You'll have access to data analytics but don't manage the day-to-day operations.

Activities Vary Among BPO Services and Call Centers

Contact centers handle multiple communication channels and focus solely on the outlined BPO activities. Call center agents may schedule appointments or qualify leads, but they typically don’t compute your taxes or design your sales brochure. Instead, organizations use BPO to contract these services to a third party.

When to Use BPO or Contact Center Services

Choosing the right fit for your business comes down to what responsibilities you need help with. Suppose you're looking for help with customer communications, such as answering calls, making outbound sales calls, or working through live chat conversations. In that case, your best bet is an outsourced call center provider. 

You can select certain tasks for this BPO category, such as managing a 24-hour hotline for your customer service department or handling late payment reminders for your billing staff. However, if you need help processing back-office tasks such as research, data entry, or accounting, you'll want to partner with a BPO with experience and skills in those areas.

Support Your BPO or Call Center with the Right Tools

BPOs and contact centers use software to help manage their duties and communicate with customers and internal teams. UJET's contact center as a service (CCaaS) software can help your BPO or call center to operate efficiently while providing a modern, centralized customer experience. That includes:

  • Privacy-by-design that ensures you meet global data security standards for any industry. 
  • Automation and intelligence at every stage of the customer journey for operational efficiency.
  • Modern, in-app customer service that blends channels for a seamless conversation.

Learn more about how UJET powers the world's largest BPOs and contact centers with CCaaS 3.0.