When it comes to call centers, there are basically two types – inbound and outbound call centers - both using advanced software to improve the efficiency of operations and maximize the effectiveness and productivity of the agents working in a call center. While many call center software systems are capable of providing both, it’s still important to recognize key differences that separate inbound and outbound call centers to know what to look for when making a decision on which solution will best serve your business needs.
Since the ‘inbound’ refers to the direction of the call – just as the name suggests – inbound call centers receive and handle phone calls from current and potential customers. Instead of actively making calls, inbound call center agents react to situations initiated by customers and find effective ways to resolve them accordingly.
Inbound callers are usually seeking technical support and product or service assistance – given the nature of these calls, inbound call centers tend to be more customer-service focused. Considering the growing customer demands for immediate service, many inbound call centers are expected to be available 24/7. The staff is typically hired based on the amount of anticipated calls.
Most of inbound call center service providers rely on the IVR (Interactive Voice Response) technology and intelligent call routing systems to ensure callers are connected to the right agents. The idea behind designing inbound call center solutions is to keep agents as busy as possible, reduce the number of call drops and cut down call waiting times. In this type of call centers, first call resolution (FCR), average seed of answer, average handle time, abandoned call rate, average call transfer rate and customer satisfaction score (CSAT) are the top metrics to measure.
Providing customer service before, during and after the purchase is a primary objective of inbound call centers. The agents should be equipped to handle all types of customer inquiries including product/ service issues, questions about prices/ polices/ practices, account updates, customer feedback and complaints, etc.
Inbound call center agents may also provide technical support to customers - that includes troubleshooting and resolving tech related issues, configuring equipment or software, etc. Tech support is usually broken up into levels (or tiers), with higher ones handling more complex problems. These agents usually require technical knowledge and hard skills.
Taking orders from customers is another common duty of inbound call center agents. It involves assisting customers in placing orders and processing them to ensure timely delivery, as well as eliminating customer concerns. The efficient performance of agents can additionally help businesses to increase overall sales.
In cases when agents receive calls from prospective buyers who are looking for more information about a company’s products or services – they may be required to provide inbound sales services. It generally means capitalizing on the opportunity to motivate callers and turn warm leads into clients, or at the very least, adding them to the database for future sales.
What is Outbound Call Center?
In contrast to inbound call centers, outbound call centers are making outgoing calls, for the most part. Businesses use outbound call centers mainly for making sales calls to existing customers for renewals/ upgrades, cross-selling and up-selling, or reaching out to prospective clients with cold calls. Therefore, most of outbound call centers are rather sales-focused.
Outbound call center agents may also call customers for offering proactive customer service (such as informing them about delivery or delays, etc.), performing customer satisfaction surveys, conducting market research, collecting debts or booking appointments. Agents typically work with the lists of customers and prospects to get in touch with and use a CRM system to tack and manage their interactions.
Outbound calls are usually made either manually or automatically via different types of dialers that allow agents to make more calls in a stipulated time fame, reduce idle times and increase their productivity. Conversion rate (percentage of calls that resulted in a successful sale), calls per agent, calls per account, first call close (FCC), hit rate, list penetration rate, average call length, average hold time, occupancy rate, abandoned call ratio and call quality are some of the key outbound call center KPIs to measure.
Outbound call centers use software solutions to gather information about the prospects and use this data to increase customer interest in a company’s products or services. A number of outsourcing outbound call centers particularly specialize in lead generation and telemarketing to help businesses in acquiring more potential customers, promoting their products and increasing sales.
Outbound call center agents can also be involved in conducting market research and customer surveys. These services are very often outsourced to outbound call centers and are used by companies and organizations to discover how customers react to their marketing efforts, or track customer satisfaction with their products or services.
Appointment scheduling and booking call center services are used by both B2B and B2C businesses for setting up appointments with prospective clients. These are mostly used by service oriented businesses, health care organizations, real estate segment, mortgage, financial and insurance industries. B2B appointment scheduling is also used when products or services are complex in nature and require proper demonstration.
Debt collection services require agents to call individuals or entities that owe money to a business with an attempt to convince debtors to begin repayment. There are specialized debt collection call centers that are staffed by trained and certified collection agents. Consequently, the agents will have knowledge about the type of debt, the debtor’s profile and offer different ways of negotiating.
Considering today’s market needs, the majority of modern call center software solutions are blended and support inbound and outbound calling capabilities, enabling businesses to provide both inbound and outbound call center services. Larger call centers are often split between inbound agents handling customer support and outbound agents involved in sales activity. Whereas in smaller call centers the agents may manage both – inbound and outbound calls. For businesses looking to offer customer service and support for inbound communications, as well as reach out to customers proactively through outbound communications – a blended inbound and outbound call center software would be a preferred solution.
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