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What is the Difference Between a Business Phone and a Contact Center?

Many businesses have long moved away from business phones to contact centers as the demand for customer service far exceeds the functionalities and features of a business phone system. All in all, what is the difference between a business phone and a contact center?

Let’s use the example of Feature phones vs. Smartphones to understand the difference between a business phone and a contact center.

In newer versions, traditional feature phones handle the basics such as calling, texting, calendar reminders, media player, alarm, and sometimes internet connectivity.

While the Smartphone, which accounts for 85% of American cellphone users, offers you much more than essential communication. You can browse the internet, send emails, install multiple apps, play high-resolution games, perform a health check, control home devices, and do much more.

American cellphone users
American cellphone users

The choice between having a feature phone or a smartphone depends on the user’s need, like business phone systems and contact centers.

This article will help you have a clearer understanding of both for easy decision-making.

We’ll discuss the following:

  • Understanding business phone and contact center
  • Difference between Business phone and contact center (with focus on types and features)

Understanding Business Phone System and Contact Center

A business phone makes and receives calls, manages voicemails, and forwards calls to different extensions or numbers. 

Importantly, features of a business phone system typically include but are not limited to caller ID, call waiting, call forwarding, voicemail, and conference calling. 

These features help businesses simply communicate with customers.

Nevertheless, communication becomes more complex as businesses grow, making a business phone system less efficient.

On the other hand, a Contact Center offers a more advanced communication system designed to handle a high volume of inbound and outbound communication across different channels. 

Contact centers are omni-/multi-channeled  with advanced features such as Automatic Call Distribution (ACD), Interactive Voice Response (IVR), Call Recording, Speech Analytics, and Integration with other business solution platforms.

Let’s examine the…

Differences Between a Business phone and Contact center.

First up…

Business Phone

When choosing a business phone system, the three main options are Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), Private Branch Exchange (PBX), and Key System Unit (KSU). 

  • Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP): One of the newer and more commonly used business phone systems is VoIP. It uses the internet to send voice signals (rather than traditional landlines). It allows businesses to communicate with prospects via the internet and a computer. 
Voice over Internet Protocol
  • Private Branch Exchange (PBX): If you’ve ever needed to dial a specific number to make an external, you were probably using a PBX system. Unlike standard multi-line phone systems with line limitations, such as two-line or four-line systems, PBX systems allow multiple handset devices to connect to a centralized hub. 
  • Key System Unit (KSU): The KSU is the most basic phone system with all the essential communication features a business needs. Nonetheless, it lacks portability and flexibility.  It uses a central switching device – the KSU – to determine the phone-line selection manually. It allows approximately ten phone operators and is suitable for small businesses with no more than 40 employees. 

While each of the listed options has its pros and cons, the common features of a business phone system are:

  • Interactive Voice Response (IVR)
  • Call waiting/On-hold messages
  • Click-to-call
  • Call forwarding
  • Voicemail
  • Call conferencing
  • Multi-lines
  • Auto-attendant

Interactive Voice Response (IVR)

IVR systems are often the first point of contact with callers. It’s essential to have it figured out for a smooth transition of consumers to the right agent or solution to queries.

Interactive Voice Response (IVR)

It interacts with callers through voice or touch-tone keypad selection and provides the appropriate responses in voice, text, callback, or any specified means.

Call waiting/On-hold messages

Businesses can record messages that inform the caller that the next available agent within an estimated time will answer their call. You can also play music over the line while the caller waits.


With a click-to-call feature, the stress of manual dialing is eliminated, alongside the possibility of dialing errors. Agents can initiate calls with a single click. 

Call forwarding

With call forwarding, callers can be redirected to available agents to avoid long call waiting times, leading to poor customer satisfaction and a high call abandonment rate.


Voicemail systems help business phones attend to recorded messages from consumers. These calls can be transcribed with speech-to-text (STT) technology for documentation and easy scan for salient details without taking notes.

Call conferencing

Multiple callers can participate in a call. This feature helps organizations with remote employees.

Call Conferencing
Call Conferencing


Call center agents can switch between calls to better manage times of high call volumes. The business’s size determines the number of lines needed.

Auto Attendant

The automated attendant is a voice menu system that acts as a digital receptionist, assisting in transferring callers to their desired extension. Automated attendants are best for large businesses that require phone operators to direct a large volume of incoming calls.

Let’s examine the features of the…

Contact Center

The contact center allows businesses to reach customers and prospects through multiple channels and provides options to deliver customer satisfaction.

The common types of contact centers are:

  • Inbound Contact Center: The business focuses on receiving customer calls through various channels. Examples are tech support, sales inquiries, complaints, and more.
  • Outbound Contact Center: Here, agents initiate calls to customers/prospects to convince them about a service or follow-ups. Examples are telemarketing and cold calling, fundraisers, marketing research, surveys, post-sale follow-up calls, etc.
  • Cloud Contact Center: The contact center is internet-based and handles all business inbound and outbound communication. It’s relatively easy to set up as it does not require much hardware. Users can access this service through a web browser on their computer or mobile device. 
Cloud Contact Center
Cloud Contact Center
  • On-premise Contact Center: This requires the contact center’s communication hardware, software, and infrastructure to operate from an office space. 
  • Omnichannel Contact Center: This allows customers to reach out to businesses from different channels, synchronizing messages from each channel to a dashboard for easy accessibility of agents. 
Omnichannel Contact Center Solution
Omnichannel Contact Center Solution
  • Multichannel Contact Center: Customers can reach businesses across multiple touch points. However, conversations are not synchronized but siloed. 

Contact center features combine those of a business phone with more functionalities:

  • Omnichannel/Multichannel
  • Automatic Call Distribution (ACD)
  • Analytics and Reporting
  • Integrations
  • Business texting
  • Dialer options
  • Self-service


The multichannel contact center integrates multiple consumer touchpoints to create a complete end-to-end customer journey. Touch points include social media, text, voice, email, and the web. 

This solves the challenge of customers sharing the same information multiple times across different channels.

Automatic Call Distribution (ACD)

ACD automatically identifies, answers, and routes incoming calls. Its primary purpose is to distribute calls efficiently to prevent extended hold times.

With the skill-based routing feature, when a customer calls in with a need in a specific field, agents with the best-fit skillset get a first-hand look at such requests, thereby increasing first-call resolution rates.

Analytics and Reporting

The right contact center provides analytics for real-time monitoring and custom reporting for fast insight into contact center performance. You can analyze metrics like pick-up rate, abandonment rate, average handling time, shrinkage rate, and first-call resolution rate.

Features like sentiment analysis help you understand whether a call is generally positive, negative, or neutral. 


Cloud contact center providers like Aloware integrate with your favorite tools to simplify business-customer communication. You can sync your CRM for up-to-date contact and customer information. 

Hubspot integration
Cloud Call Center Integrations

Also, there is an open API to automate almost anything and everything in your sales and support process, helping you score better customer experiences.

Business texting

Contact centers allow your business to reach prospects by text messaging

You can securely broadcast thousands of text messages with shortcodes for your sales campaigns and Engage with your prospects and customers on their most active communication channel.

Business Texting
Business Texting

Dialer options

Contact center leverages power dialers that can automatically dial for you rapidly so your sales team can work faster.

You can customize your dial flows and call-back options and efficiently manage customer data with seamless CRM integration.


Self-service enables customers to deal with issues that don’t necessarily require speaking to a live agent. 

The contact center maximizes self-service, reduces call volumes to agents, and increases the quick resolution of customer complaints. Self-service can be implemented through chatbots, frequently asked questions, call-back requests, and IVRs.

Self-service 101: 88% of customers expect brands to have an online self-service portal.

Customer Self-service
Customer Self-service % Expection

Final thoughts

The key differences between a business phone system and a contact center are its purpose, features, customer experience, and integration with other business systems. 

However, while a business phone system is suitable for small businesses or businesses with a low volume of communications, a contact center is designed to handle a high volume of inbound and outbound communications across multiple platforms efficiently and effectively. 

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