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What’s the Difference Between a Call Center and Telemarketing?

What’s the Difference Between a Call Center and Telemarketing?

Contrary to what some may believe, call center operations and telemarketing are generally two distinct functions. One focuses on the customer experience and service, while the other concentrates on prospect conversions, upsells, and cross-sells.

Telemarketing carries a negative connotation in the eyes of the public, but it is a tried and true method of increasing revenues and profits. Call centers have shortcomings as well, especially when wait times are extensive, yet, when done right, call centers can be a very successful way to improve customer experiences.

Both call centers and telemarketing serve an essential function for businesses to accomplish their goals and provide customers with service for products rendered.

Call Center 101

Call centers serve an important function and role for businesses of all sizes. Providing customers with products and services inevitably means issues will arise that customers need assistance with.

Having call centers gives customers a convenient option to seek assistance from knowledgeable brand agents efficiently and easily. Providing this service is a crucial element of the overall customer experience, and when executed well, significantly enhances the customer experience.

Call centers have changed drastically over the last decade. Most recently, the global remote work revolution has given rise to a new breed of call centers, where they are not only centers as the name suggests but spread out amongst the homes of customer service representatives who take and make calls from their homes.

Customer service representatives who provide your call center services take and field customer calls associated with issues, complaints, or concerns with products and services they’ve purchased.

These issues could be as simple as not knowing how to turn a device on or changing a billing address or method. Problems could become more complex, such as technical issues that need resolving or needing to make returns and exchanges due to defects.

The wide range of issues that make their way to call centers results in dynamic services rendered. Many call centers have several layers of service, such as departments that only handle billing and other departments that only handle technical issues. This results in a robust organization within the company itself, and as you may imagine, it can become quite costly.

Telemarketing 101

Within the walls and halls of call centers, you will often find a special division or department focused solely on sales, also known as telemarketing. Telemarketing serves a distinct function separate and apart from the primary mission of a traditional customer service call center.

As we mentioned previously, call centers focus on providing service to existing customers who are experiencing problems with products and/or services. The call center's main objective is to rectify the issue and bring the customer's dissatisfaction back to satisfaction.

Telemarketing is ultimately sales conducted over the phone, often from a position of cold-calling. Companies receive prospects from various marketing sources, and those prospects are then contacted via telemarketing sales reps. This can include past customers as well.

Telemarketing was once primarily done solely by phone, but advances in mobile technologies and the rise of social media have led to a more robust system that includes SMS business texting, social media communications, and email marketing.

Call Centers vs. Telemarketing – How Are They Different?

Call centers and telemarketing share many similarities, and as mentioned previously, they are often conducted out of the same buildings or offices. However, they differ in one major way, which is found in their distinct foundational purpose.

Call centers focus on service and enhancing the customer experience, whereas telemarketing focuses on sales.

Call Centers at a Glance

  • Customer Service
  • Problem Resolution
  • Technical Support
  • Proactive Support & Customer Insights
  • Billing Questions
  • Policy & Account Services

Telemarketing at a Glance

  • Upselling
  • Cross-Selling
  • Cold Calling
  • Prospect & Lead Conversion
  • Existing Customer Marketing

Call Center Keypoints

Customer Service

Customer service is at the heart of what a call center exists to provide. Customers need a resource to contact whenever they incur issues and problems. You could think of customer service as the overall umbrella of all other call center functions.

Problem Resolution

The number one reason customers call your call centers is that they have a problem. This problem could be as simple as a missing shipment or as complicated as a technical issue. The role of the agent, in this case, is to ensure that the customer’s problem is handled properly and that they remain a loyal customer.

Technical Support

When the issue involves an issue technical in nature, many call centers provide advanced customer service in the form of technical support. These highly trained customer service representatives are able to guide customers in resolving issues that involve the operation of hardware or software.

Proactive Support & Customer Insights 

Proactive support customer service representatives attempt to seek out and prevent issues that customers may face. These professionals also contact customers after a sale to make sure the customer is satisfied and not experiencing any issues with your company’s products or services.

When done properly, customer support agents will provide meaningful feedback to the brand regarding the customer’s comments or concerns so that they can further improve their product or service.

For example, suppose a fashion brand receives an influx of customer support calls after a product launch, and the customer support team is able to gather information about a faulty zipper. In that case, they can take that to the product team to fix the zipper for future orders. This will result in fewer returns, fewer customer support needs, and more satisfied customers.

Billing Questions

Call centers are a great resource for fielding billing questions and issues. Customers may need to update billing addresses, adjust cards on file, or check account draft information. Call centers are a wonderful resource to help resolve these concerns quickly and efficiently.

Policy & Account Services

When customers have questions about their policies or their accounts, they can contact your call centers to have those questions answered. It may be as simple as finding out their username or having your customer service team reset their password so they can regain access to their online account management.

Telemarketing Keypoints


Upselling is a great sales tactic that encourages customers to purchase a service or product that is more enhanced than the one they’ve chosen or been shopping for. These conversions provide opportunities for increased revenues and profits.


Cross-selling is the fraternal twin of upselling, and when done together, they are the perfect recipe for revenue increase. Cross-selling offers additional products that complement the core product the customer has already purchased.

Cold Calling

Cold calling is at the heart of what the telemarketing department does. Telemarketers have a list of leads to contact in the hopes that they will convert the lead into a sale. In these instances, the customer is contacted by the company before they’ve made a purchase.

Prospect & Lead Conversion

Cold calling leads to the conversion of prospects and leads into paying customers. Leads and prospective customers can be derived from a wide array of sources that are usually generated from marketing efforts.

Existing Customer Marketing

Telemarketing also focuses on existing customers when cold calling. When customers have not made additional purchases in a while, telemarketers can reach out and attempt to have them make additional purchases.

Blurred Lines

Sometimes, the unique roles of call centers and telemarketing become blurred. This blurring of purposes is not always a bad thing. Training your customer service representatives to upsell and cross-sell customers when they call in with issues provides additional opportunities for revenue generation.

Additionally, when telemarketing representatives contact existing customers, they may be presented with issues and problems the customer is experiencing. Training telemarketers on how to resolve basic issues can reduce demands on call center representatives and increase customer satisfaction.

Investing in the training and preparation of both departments will lead to higher customer satisfaction and greater customer experiences.

Don’t Be Shy

Many companies or customer service representatives shy away from asking customers to make additional purchases. This, however, is a grave mistake. If your customers enjoy your products and services, they will be more than happy to continue doing business with you and making additional purchases. Therefore, don’t be afraid or shy to ask!

Sometimes customers don't know that they can be better served by making an additional purchase. Identifying that need and fulfilling it is a service to the customer and one that you will benefit from as well.

Wrapping It All Up

Call centers are an essential element of providing enhanced customer experiences and services to your customers. Investing in these resources to offer the best value and service for your clientele will lead to higher customer satisfaction, increased brand loyalty, higher profits, and revenue growth.

Telemarketing often comes with a scarlet letter, but that doesn’t have to be the case, especially when telemarketing is performed with a customer-first approach and mentality. The best way to conduct telemarketing is to do it in a way where the customer does not identify it as telemarketing but instead as customer service and needs fulfillment.

Awesome CX specializes in providing high-growth companies with customer service solutions designed to enhance customer experiences and develop long-lasting relationships between you and your most valuable asset — your customers.

Let us help you take your customer service and telemarketing to the next level. Contact us to learn more today!


Why Call Center Agents Are Today's Heroes | Forbes

Cold Calling: Definition, How It Works, Examples and Difficulties | Investopedia

What Is Cross-Selling? | Investopedia