What is the Difference Between Phone Answering Service and Call Center

Difference between phone answering service and call center - Neutrino Burst!

Phone answering service and call center are practically the same thing, it’s all about the phones and lots of people robotically responding to our calls – same thing with two different names.

It’s not!

Yes, many people outside the industry get confused about these two services and use these terms interchangeably in regular life. Although it sounds similar, there are some fundamental differences between phone answering service and call center.

In regular eyes, they may look the same. Both operating from a building, lots of phones involved, and people are working in cubicles staring at the computer screen and frequently touching their headphones. However, the difference between them is not about the physical appearance, or how they’re being manages – it’s more about how each process calls.

We’ll explain this shortly. But before that, let’s clarify the practical definition of phone answering service (live answering service) and call center.

What does phone answering service mean?

Usually, a phone answering service works for specific market segments. These businesses mostly require services in which the caller must speak to a real human being – such as doctors, real estate companies, trading companies, funeral homes, health services, etc.

In simpler words, phone answering service is a third party company who works on behalf of a business for receiving and conveying messages to the customers.

What does a call center do?

Whereas phone answering service focuses on personal and individual calls, call centers are focused on information blast, dealing with a large “horizontal” cross-section of relatively large businesses. They compile several requests and send the information to the client all at once.

A call center is an off-site office that is designed for handling business communication needs. It is more like a direct channel for customers for any large corporation allowing customers to ask questions and get the answer promptly. A call center service also termed as a service center and sales center.

In a way, we can say that telephone answering service technically is a type of call center, but a call center is not necessarily an answering service.

A happy call center team working in the office

Difference between phone answering service and call center

Following are some of the significant differences between phone answering services and call centers:

1. Scripting

Scripting is one of the key differences between a phone answering service and a call center.

Call center services are operated in a scripted environment indicating that the customer service representative sometimes has to follow complex explanation making their sound scripted. On the contrary, phone answering services create simple scripts so that it becomes easier for their agents to follow by ensuring natural-sounding conversation with the customers.

2. Gathering information

In terms of gathering information, both of the services collect essential information from the caller like their name, phone number, and issue at hand and ask probably some questions based on the situation.

For a call center, customer service representatives generally gather a large amount of data on the customer as it is necessary for them for attempting to fix the issue over the phone right here and now. As the call centers work for delivering a more comprehensive and in-depth service, they tend to gather more information from the caller.

3. Service coverage

Phone answering services cover almost everything from taking an essential message to handling emergency call situations.

Most importantly, they can serve thousands of different clients across several industries. In contrast, call centers can support complex calls. And through focusing details to the clients’ problems with giving plenty of attention, they attempt to solve the issues at utmost.

4. Call routing

Concerning call routing, there is some key difference between phone answering service and call center as typical calls are handled in different ways.

For an answering service, the calls are routed outwards to the right person. Instead of answering your questions, they will refer the correct person so that your issues can be solved. For instance, a phone answering company for an event business will not typically answer event-related questions themselves; instead, they will transfer you to the correct event specialist to reply to all of your inquiries.

Quite the opposite, the customer service representatives of call services are not only capable of answering questions of the customers over the phone but also handling their requests of themselves. They will only refer their customer outward if they are unable to solve the issue or cannot provide the service that the client is asking for.  

5. Call duration

For the call center, the call durations are usually longer about 4-5 minutes minimum sometimes even as long as 15 minutes.

That means with this calls of duration; a customer service representative is allowed to attend a single call at a time and stay with the caller until the issues are resolved. Call centers work best when handling complex calls that are required plenty of attention with focusing on a large number of details.

On the other hand, in telephone answering service, operators are trained in a way so that they can handle a high volume of calls. They are capable of attending up to three calls simultaneously. The call duration is short in answering service; 1-2 minutes long on average.

A headset and keyboard: essential for customer service

Is there any similarity between call center and phone answering service?

Yes, indeed!

One of the main similarities between call centers and phone answering services is that they both focus on communication and locate in office buildings filled with computers, cubicle and lots of phones. Both of these services employ off-site staffs to accept inbound calls and to make outbound calls for their existing and new customers and work to help them with their problems.

Is phone answering service a better choice than call center?

For small businesses, independent professionals, entrepreneurs or startups, phone answering service could be a great solution, particularly for those who are looking cost-efficient alternative to call centers.

The answering service uses a simple script for initial greetings but speaks like a professional with a warm tone to engage with the customers. If you are worried about the cost of hiring additional staff and the complications of the call center, then phone answering service is an excellent option for you which will work 24 hours a day, seven days a week and even in holidays. Thus, it allows you and your employees to focus on the tasks.

A call center is best suitable for large companies as it can benefit from a high volume of calls. Additionally, it gives the platform to enhance the business image, resolve problems and most significantly create a stronger customer base.


Now you know the differences between a phone answering services and a call center; hopefully, it’ll help you choose the preferred service for your business. It’s best to consider local/regional providers for call answering service and reputed/popular companies for call center service if you’re operating SME business.

That being said, if you want to share further useful information, please put those in the comment box below. Also, if you still have any confusion, let us know and we’ll try our level best to help you out.


  1. I like how you mentioned that a service that conveys messages to clients is what a third party phone answering specialist does. The managers of the company I work for are thinking of looking for a business answering service because they’re considering adding emergency hours assistance to customers who need help after we’re closed. I think it’s a good idea for my managers to consider all of their options when choosing reputable services to help take calls from our clients when our office is shut down for the day.

  2. It was interesting to learn about how routing a call to a person that can happen faster and get them to those that can solve their issues and can transfer them to the specialist. I can see how it could be really useful for a business to make sure that they are serving their customers better and they can be more effective. Having the phone answered by a professional could be really useful and allow them to have better customer service and retention.

  3. It’s interesting that you point out that hiring a telephone answering service can help keep your employees focused on their work. I’m thinking about starting a business in the near future, so hiring a telephone answering service sounds like a great idea. I’m going to look for a reputable telephone answering service that I can use.

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