If you currently use inbound or outbound call center services and are looking for ways to:
- expand your services
- improve service levels
- increase efficiency
- develop more flexible and scalable models
- support business growth
…then a blended call center might be a better fit for your business.
What is a blended call center, and how do you find the right mix for your needs and goals? We’ll walk you through what you need to know to make the right decision.
Understanding the Types of Call Centers
While there’s many different types of call centers, for the purposes of a blended call center, there’s really just three models you need to know: inbound, outbound, and, of course, blended.
Inbound Call Centers
Inbound call centers handle inbound customer calls and customer support. Modern inbound call centers make use of IVR and ACD technology to automatically route callers to the appropriate departments or agents to handle their calls. Typically, these call centers focus on one of the following areas:
Inbound call centers vary in cost depending on the services needed and the location of the call center—for example, nearshoring is an affordable alternative compared to domestic call centers.
Outbound Call Centers
Outbound call centers focus on outgoing calls and customer research, marketing or sales. For outbound call centers, automated dialers are the more necessary technology, so agents can focus on connecting with customers and not manually calling through lists only to reach answering machines or inactive numbers. Typically, outbound call centers focus on:
- marketing and sales
- audience research and surveying
- follow-ups or appointment setting
- upselling and cross-selling
- lead generation
Blended Call Centers
As the name suggests, blended call centers handle both inbound and outbound calling. If you need both, a blended call center is a great way to optimize efficiency, collaboration and reduce costs. Blended call centers may make use of either:
- both inbound and outbound teams managed in the same call center, or
- blended agents, who handle multiple functions or channels
Opting for a call center with blended agents is another way to further optimize efficiency and resources. With blended agents, if your inbound call volume is down, you can easily transfer some agents to work on outbound calling for the remainder of their shift, or vice versa.
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Assessing Business Needs and Goals
Is a blended call center the right choice for you?
Although blended call centers can help optimize efficiency and resources, in order to do so, you’ll need to carefully assess your business needs and goals.
First, identify the types of calls you need handled, and the volumes of each.
For example, if you’re wanting to handle both inbound and outbound functions, but you’re getting significantly more inbound calls than the needed level of outbound, you’ll want to adjust the dynamics of your blended team appropriately.
If you have widely varying inbound call volume, you should consider a blended team that uses blended agents, so agents can move between the two types of calling as volume dictates.
If you have an existing call center, you should analyze call center performance and efficiency metrics to understand your benchmarks before bringing on a new team. Some metrics to consider:
- Average Time in Queue
- Calls Handled per Agent
Understanding your current benchmarks can help you understand the efficiency of a blended call center team as it compares to your current metrics, and if it would be a worthy investment. Your performance metrics can also point to your greatest business needs.
For example, if callers have long wait times, you likely need to increase your inbound capabilities. However, if the average handle time is quite high, it may point to a need for more training, or more outbound support to address problems before they begin.
Other non-performance business metrics and needs—such as stronger lead generation pipelines, eliminating backlogs, or increasing cross-sales—can point to a need for increased outbound support.
Creating a Blended Call Center Strategy
If a blended call center seems like a good fit for your current needs and goals, then how do you go about creating a strategy for one?
In short, you’ll want to think through four main categories: staffing models, workforce management, queue management and technology. Here’s what to consider with each:
Evaluating staffing models
There’s a variety of staffing models available for inbound, outbound or blended call centers, including onshore, offshore, nearshore, hybrid and more. The most popular are these three:
onshore staffing: hiring or outsourcing domestically
offshore staffing: outsourcing to a call center located geographically far from your place of business, typically the Philippines or India
nearshore staffing: outsourcing to a call center located internationally, but geographically near to your place of business, often Mexico or Puerto Rico.
A hybrid model introduces more than one of these geographic locations—and/or remote agents—into your call center. This can often be the best of both worlds for many blended call centers. For example, you might use nearshore agents for inbound calls and offshore agents for outbound calls, or vice versa. The key is finding a model that best suits your goals and needs, and finding a provider who has the necessary teams to source this model.
At Global Response, we have a network of call centers and teams around the world to create staffing models and flexible solutions that work for your goals. We can provide blended call centers that source the best agents from any staffing model, based on your goals, needs and budgets.
Considering Workforce Management strategies
As you create a blended call center strategy, staffing isn’t the only concern—you’ll also need to consider how to manage and effectively schedule your staff. Workforce management (WFM) tools and strategies are essential to accurately forecasting call volume and estimate scheduling and staffing needs. If you’re not already using WFM technology, you’ll need to do so to create a blended call center strategy that’s efficient and effective.
Not only can WFM help you efficiently use your resources, but it can also be a guide to help you choose or adjust your staffing or call center model.
Develop call routing and queue management protocols
Once you have your staff in place, you need to have systems to effectively manage your call volume, queue, inbound callers and outbound tasks.
For example, you’ll need to have an effective way to route inbound callers to appropriate agents. ACD and IVR systems are two technologies that can help you do this efficiently. In addition, you’ll want to have a system in place for when agents should switch tasks—i.e. moving from inbound to outbound calling, or vice versa.
Doing so will help maximize efficiency while also managing your queue. For example, you might implement a system that notifies a number of agents to switch from outbound to inbound calling if the number of calls in queue, or queue wait time, reaches a certain limit. Alternatively, some agents might switch from inbound to outbound tasks during lower call volume periods.
Integrate technology and tools for efficiency
As discussed already, having the right technology and tools in place doesn’t only make it easier for agents to do their jobs well, but also creates more efficient processes.
For blended call centers, one of the most essential pieces to consider is a tech stack that allows you to integrate both your ACD and your outbound dialer with your CRM system. Not only do you need to efficiently route both inbound and outbound calls, but in order to get the most benefit from a blended call center, both of those routes should connect to your CRM—allowing all customer data to stay updated and in one place.
For example, if an agent made an outbound call to a customer last week, and now the customer is calling to follow up, the inbound agent who answers the call should have all the details, call history and context needed to handle the call quickly and appropriately—saving time while also providing a streamlined experience for your customers.
Implementing and Managing a Blended Call Center
Once your call center strategy is in place, you only need to implement and manage the day-to-day operations of your call center. Of course, this is much easier said than done!
One way to manage this easily and effectively is to outsource your blended call center to a trusted provider, like Global Response. With a team of experts on your side, your blended call center will be implemented quickly and managed effectively, providing you with the results you’re looking for while giving your customers a high level of customer service.
If you’re managing your own blended call center, you’ll need to:
- provide adequate training and coaching for agents
- communicate the blended call center strategy and systems to staff and agents
- perform ongoing monitoring and analysis of performance and quality
- implement a quality assurance process for continuous improvement
- integrate the necessary software for day-to-day management and data analysis
Monitoring performance and quality metrics is essential, whether your call center is in-house or outsourced. After all, if you don’t understand your current performance and benchmarks, it will be difficult to know how or what to improve. At a minimum, blended call centers should measure:
- Call Abandonment Rate
- Calls per Agent
- CSAT & NPS for inbound callers
- Average Time in Queue
The right software can help collect and organize this data for you. Even with the right software, though, you still need a team of experts who can help analyze results, provide feedback and coaching for underperforming agents, reward high-performing ones, improve training and so on. If you don’t have the resources for this in-house, an outsourced team can help take your call center to the next level through detailed analysis and reporting.
How to Find The Right Blended Call Center Partner
Is a blended call center right for you?
Finding the right mix of inbound and outbound services to meet your needs can be difficult and requires a delicate balance of strategy, staffing, workforce management and data.
The easiest way to find effective solutions is to work with a team of experts who understand your industry and audience and can get you results.
Global Response has 40+ years of experience in the CX industry, and we know how to get results for your brand. Through our high-quality agents and expert leaders, we can help you develop strategy, execute inbound and outbound call center services, measure results, improve your service levels and more. If you’re curious to learn more about blended call center services and interested in flexible solutions that meet your needs, reach out to an expert from Global Response today.