Inbound vs. outbound call centers: which one is right for you?
Can a call center really alleviate pain points in your business?
Maybe you’re struggling to keep up with a recent influx of customer service calls. Or maybe you’re struggling to scale up your customer team at cost. Or you have a long list of leads that you haven’t been able to follow up with.
With any of these circumstances (and more), hiring a call center can help improve customer service and sales and reduce overhead costs.
But which kind of call center is right for your business?
While there’s various types of call centers, when it comes down to picking the best type of call center to alleviate your specific pain points, it’s important to consider whether you need an inbound vs. outbound call center.
In this article, we’ll break down the differences between inbound and outbound call centers, their services, and how to leverage both inbound and outbound call centers to add value to your business.
What is an inbound call center?
Inbound call centers, as you might imagine, handle inbound calls from customers (or others interested in your services).
Inbound call centers are most useful to serve as customer support and to take care of questions or issues from current customers. As a result, inbound call centers need to be focused on brand alignment, relationship building, empathy, and, of course, support.
Inbound call centers are also customizable beyond just calls.
An inbound call center (or contact center) can provide a variety of inbound communication channels—from voice calls to SMS, web chat or social media—to provide effective support for your customers.
Inbound call center services
Inbound call centers can provide a variety of services and tasks. Here are some of the most common:
- Customer service. Customer service is one of the main goals of an inbound call center, and may take the form of updating account details, initiating returns, listening to (and solving for) customer concerns or feedback, or answering other questions or concerns from current customers.
- Product or technical support. Many inbound calls from current customers may involve some issue or question about a current product or service. In general, a customer calls in whenever something isn’t working, so inbound call center agents should have patience and empathy when solving customer concerns. For advanced technical support, inbound call centers may use tech systems to route the caller to advanced IT support.
- Inbound sales or upgrades. Although it’s less common now in the Internet age, it’s still not uncommon for current or prospective customers to call to inquire for more information about products or services, place an order, ask about upgrading their service, or otherwise ask questions that may end in a sale or upsell.
- General Inquiries. Of course, there’s many other reasons why a customer may call your business—to ask about store hours, inquire about a specific product, change a password on their account, clarify a return shipping policy before purchasing, and so on. Inbound call center agents need to know the ins-and-outs of your brand to answer these questions quickly and accurately for inbound callers.
Do I need an inbound call center?
Most businesses could benefit from an inbound call center to provide consistent customer service and technical support. Outsourcing an inbound call center also frees up valuable internal resources (and costs!) to support other projects and initiatives.
If your business needs a large fielding volume of customer requests, an inbound call center can:
- Take pressure off of internal teams that are currently providing customer support
- Provide consistent customer support and branded messaging
- Provide 24/7 customer support (if needed)
- Save time and money from overhead costs through outsourced inbound call centers
- Implement technology and systems to reduce handle time and improve customer satisfaction
- Track, monitor and implement metrics, data reporting and KPIs to improve operational efficiency
Working with an outsourced inbound call center like Global Response can be a great way to provide consistent, superior customer support.
What is an outbound call center?
Outbound call centers manage, unsurprisingly, outbound calls. They often function with more of a focus on sales and marketing than on customer service (as is the case with inbound call centers).
With marketing and sales in mind, outbound call centers are focused on selling, engagement, accessibility rules and commitment. An outbound call center agent will still need to be personable and empathetic, of course—to make a connection with the customer and represent your brand well—but they also need to understand sales and the ins-and-outs of your product and offerings.
Outbound call centers are often highly automated as well, making use of modern technology to create solutions to more efficiently tackle everything from lead generation to outbound dialing.
Outbound call centers services
But isn’t an outbound call center just cold-calling?
Not at all. Outbound call centers can offer a variety of services to support your sales and marketing goals, whether that’s market research, lead generation or direct sales calls.
- Market research. Sometimes, you may want to survey your existing audience, or the general market, for research about an upcoming product launch, new product features, or to get the perception of a certain brand or service. An outbound call center can help by calling through the target audience and asking a defined list of research questions to gather data to gain a better understanding of your customers and your competition.
- Lead generation. Outbound call centers can also be used to generate new leads for your business, whether that’s through cold calling or “warm calling.” With warm calling, the call center agent reaches out to someone who’s previously interacted with your company in some way (perhaps through a referral or at an event). Outbound call centers can also be used to return requests for more information about your company.
For example, say someone fills out a form on your website for a quote or for further information about your product. Of course, you could just send them a templated email. But will that be enough to reach them over the hundreds of other emails in their crowded inbox? Alternatively, you could have a friendly brand specialist reach out by phone, be available to answer any questions, provide them with product information and make a connection that will lead to a future sale.
- Telemarketing. While telemarketing sometimes gets a bad reputation, there’s no signs of it slowing down anytime soon. Telemarketing can help spread awareness, pitch products and services to a wider market, and generate leads and interest by sharing how your product can meet consumer needs. Telemarketing agents can also assist your business by scheduling appointments or assisting with other pre-sale steps.
- Sales. Of course, outbound call centers are a great solution for generating sales and collecting data on current and future customers’ needs as well. An outbound sales call differs from that of a telemarketing call or lead gen call by picking up where the previous call left off—after interest is gauged, a lead is generated or a product is pitched via a telemarketing call, a sales rep can follow up with a further call to answer further questions and close the deal.
Inbound vs. outbound call centers: the differences
As the names suggest, inbound and outbound call centers have different focuses: namely, inbound calls vs. outbound calls.
Let’s take a look at some of the key differences between inbound vs. outbound call centers:
|Inbound call centers||Outbound call centers|
|Receive inbound calls from customers, often focusing on technical support or customer service.||Make outbound calls to current or prospective customers, often focusing on sales or upgrades.|
|Focused on brand alignment, relationship building, empathy and support.||Focused on sales, lead generation and market research.|
|Can take orders and generate sales.||Can take orders and generate sales or leads.|
While both inbound and outbound call centers are able to take orders and generate sales; outbound call centers tend to be more focused on this (using techniques like cold calling, warm calling, telemarketing, upselling or lead generation).
What's the purpose of inbound vs. outbound call centers?
Not only do inbound vs. outbound call centers provide different services, but they also have different end goals and purposes.
Inbound call centers are much more focused on providing customer service—whether that be taking an order or upgrading someone’s membership, providing technical support, updating an account, initiating a return or answering any number of questions about company policies. The main goal is to resolve the customer concern as quickly and efficiently as possible, and provide excellent customer service.
Outbound call centers are more focused on sales and marketing. At an outbound call center, the agents may still be assisting customers with upgrades, membership questions, taking orders, and so on, but in this case, the agents are the ones initiating the call. Outbound call centers may also be focused on calling consumers who are not yet customers to do market research, gauge potential interest or generate new leads.
How to leverage both inbound and outbound call centers
So, which is right for you: an inbound or outbound call center?
The answer comes down to your unique goals, challenges and pain points as a business. Inbound call centers are a great solution to customer support needs and care for existing customers or an audience who is already familiar with your products and services.
An outbound call center is a great solution for leveraging marketing, lead generation, research and/or sales to an external audience that you haven’t already reached.
Which pain points within your business need addressing right now?
You could use an inbound call center if:
- you’re struggling to keep up with the demand of customer service inquiries
- you have a highly technical product that often requires technical support
- you’re struggling to grow your current customer service team at scale
You could use an outbound call center if:
- you’re struggling to follow up with the amount of leads your business has
- you need to do extensive market or customer research
- you’re looking for a people-centered approach to drive sales
Each serves a distinct purpose and, perhaps unsurprisingly, provides the most value when combined.
The benefits of a hybrid call center
A hybrid call center combines both the inbound and outbound call center models to provide an approach that provides the benefits of both. Many businesses could benefit from a combined model that allows your brand to reap the benefits of both inbound and outbound call centers distinct purposes and values.
When combined, the hybrid call center model also centralizes both inbound and outbound calls and communications within a singular team. This aids in streamlining customer communication and allows agents to work from a single customer management system. A central customer management system allows the call center agents to have access to the full background of each customer’s experience and communication, allowing them to provide personalized service, decrease response and handle time, and increase customer satisfaction.
Whether you need inbound call center services to increase customer satisfaction and handle inbound customer service calls or communication, or are ready to tackle lead generation and sales through outbound call center services and marketing, working with an outsourced call center can help support your team and lower overhead costs.
Global Response offers call center services that are as customer-focused and brand obsessed as you are. Your brand deserves the best—and our customer-focused strategies help you improve customer service and sales across any platform, anywhere.
Ready to eliminate your customer service or sales pain points? Get in touch with Global Response today.