Inbound, outbound, blended, hybrid—navigating the different types of call center models can require its own dictionary.
Luckily for you, we’ve created that dictionary right here.
If you’re looking to outsource your call center needs, but aren’t sure which model is right for you—or even what models are available—we’re here to help. In this article, we’ve outlined the ten most popular call center models, as well as what they’re best for, so you can easily determine which model is right for your current needs and goals.
Inbound Call Centers
What comes to mind when you picture a call center?
If you’re like most people, you imagine rows of desks with hard-working agents taking incoming phone calls from customers who need help or have questions. That’s an inbound call center, and it’s one of the most common call center models. Inbound call centers manage incoming customer communications, either by phone or multiple channels.
Some services that may be offered by inbound call centers are:
- customer service and support
- full-service help desk
- multilingual support
- technical support
- order taking
- appointment setting
- customer chat and multichannel support
- omnichannel support
Almost every company who sells a service or a product will need some support for inbound calls. If your customers reach out to you with questions about hours, products, orders, returns, account help and more, an inbound call center can take care of those calls. And since customer support can make or break a customer’s experience with your brand, taking care to partner with a trusted, experienced inbound call center is a must.
Outbound Call Centers
Conversely, outbound call centers—as the name suggests—handle outgoing communications to customers. This can be marketing and sales related, or it can be related to service and support.
Some of the services an outbound call center may offer include:
- lead generation
- audience surveys
- upselling and cross-selling
- customer success and clienteling
While outbound call centers are less crucial than inbound call centers, they still play an important role for many businesses. That role can be short-term—perhaps completing a specific surveying project or generating a set number of new leads—or ongoing.
Outbound call centers are a great model for companies who are looking to grow their business, expand their marketing efforts, improve sales, or strengthen customer success. Teams who want to outsource manual sales efforts—like lead generation and upselling—should also consider outsourcing to optimize resources and get faster results.
Blended Call Centers
Blended call centers integrate both inbound and outbound services into one model.
As such, this call center model is best for companies who want to focus on both customer support (inbound services) and success (outbound services). Alternatively, companies who want to improve their service levels (inbound) while growing and expanding their client base (outbound) can benefit from a blended call center.
In short: if you need both inbound and outbound services, a blended call center is your best bet. Two major benefits include affordability and communication.
If you’re already leaning towards hiring both inbound and outbound teams, hiring a single blended team will likely be more affordable. And, as you can guess, the communication between inbound and outbound teams is stronger when using a blended model compared to hiring two separate teams.
Multichannel or Omnichannel?
As you investigate call center models, you might see multichannel and omnichannel call centers frequently mentioned. Although these two terms are sometimes used interchangeably, they have some key distinctions.
Multichannel call centers handle inbound customer communication on a variety of channels, not just phone calls. As such, they’re more properly referred to as “multichannel contact centers.” These call centers may handle phone, email, SMS, social media, and more.
By allowing customers to reach your brand on the channels they prefer, you can improve customer satisfaction and retention. In addition, service levels are generally higher with a multichannel approach, because agents are often able to handle multiple chats or emails in the time it takes to handle a single phone call. Not only do customers get faster service, but your service becomes more efficient as well, allowing you to handle more tickets with the same amount of time and resources.
Omnichannel call centers handle a variety of channels as well, but their focus is more about creating seamless customer experience across all platforms and channels. While multichannel teams focus on each channel individually, omnichannel solutions seek to integrate customer data and history across all touchpoints and channels so that customers have a streamlined, integrated experience. With omnichannel, every agent always knows the customer’s history, preferences and relevant data as soon as they pick up the phone (or answer the chat).
As such, omnichannel contact centers require more robust technology, CRM solutions, and strategy, but they’re also extremely effective at creating exceptional customer experiences. In today’s world, multichannel is the minimum for most businesses, while omnichannel is the gold star for companies who want to go above and beyond.
Inbound, outbound, multichannel, omnichannel—these models are focused on a particular goal or type of service. However, you can also find call center models based on another important factor—location.
Just as in real estate, when it comes to call centers, location matters.
The location of your call center can affect everything from the strength of your partnership to the services offered to the excellence of your customer service. So, what location models are available, and which is best?
Onshore Call Center Model
An onshore call center model is a call center that is located in the same country as the business it’s serving. This is sometimes referred to as “domestic outsourcing.” Many businesses feel that this is the highest-quality, least risky option, but that’s not always the case.
For one, onshore call centers are typically the most expensive call center model. Costs of living in the US are high, and so are overhead costs, so per-agent rates are higher. Does a higher price guarantee higher quality? Sometimes, but not always. In addition, you might actually have access to fewer call center services when you use an onshore model. Onshore agents are less likely to be bilingual, and onshore call centers may have a more difficult time offering 24/7 or after-hours services.
However, there are also clear benefits to an onshore model, for example:
- access to a highly skilled labor market
- more affordable and scalable than hiring in-house
- no language or culture barriers = better connection with your customers
- fewer miscommunications or frustration due to linguistic fluency
- more control over the outsourcing process and quality
Ready to perfect your CX?
So, is onshoring right for your business?
Businesses who require the highest level of quality, security and linguistic capability—such as luxury brands, legal firms or healthcare organizations—should consider an onshore model for the highest levels of quality and control.
For brands who use Global Response’s onshore teams, onshoring looks like easy communication, effortless outsourcing and consistent results. We’ve helped brands like FILA and LACOSTE deliver exceptional customer experiences while increasing online sales 25%, reducing response time, and improving customer conversion and retention.
Offshore Call Center Model
Offshore call centers are located geographically far from the business they’re serving. US-based companies typically offshore to India or the Philippines.
The major benefit to offshoring is that it’s very affordable—typically the cheapest of all the outsourcing options—and scalable. Since costs of living in offshoring countries are much lower than that of the US, per-agent fees are much lower. In addition, the labor market is often larger, yielding more call center agents and easier flexibility and ability to scale.
However, it also has its disadvantages. Offshore call centers typically provide lower service levels and call center quality than onshore or even nearshore models, so it may not provide the best customer experience. Due to lower levels of linguistic and cultural fluency, there’s a higher probability of miscommunications and communication difficulties that can frustrate clients and tarnish your brand reputation.
For teams who need to run very large call center operations, or who are looking to scale quickly or dramatically, offshoring is a great choice. Teams who are just getting started and looking for very affordable call center models should also consider an offshore model.
Nearshore Call Center Model
Nearshoring is a great “Goldilocks” option between offshoring and onshoring, offering some benefits of each while reducing their risks and disadvantages.
With a nearshore model, your call center will be located in a nearby country—often Mexico or Puerto Rico. As such, you get a more affordable call center since, as with offshoring, cost of living is lower in nearshore locations. However, you also get a higher quality of service, since nearshore agents tend to have much more familiarity and fluency with US languages and culture.
Another benefit of nearshoring is the proximity, offering you ample control and accessibility for day-to-day operations and quality standards. More similar time zones also make it easier to collaborate. With that said, many nearshore operations still offer after-hours or even 24/7 service. The primary disadvantage of nearshoring is that it’s not as affordable as offshoring.
So, is nearshoring the right choice for your brand?
Many brands could benefit from a nearshore model, particularly if you’re looking for a balance of quality and affordability. Nearshore models also typically offer a wide range of services and customizable solutions, plus access to an expanded labor force that make them very scalable and able to grow with you.
Virtual Call Centers
In modern call centers, a fourth location model is becoming more popular: a virtual call center model. Virtual call centers—sometimes called “homeshore models”—take advantage of remote or hybrid workspaces to employ agents from a variety of geographic areas and reduce overhead. With modern cloud-based and CCaaS software, operating a virtual call center is easier than ever, and it offers a wide range of benefits:
- access to a wider labor force
- more benefits for employees, which leads to higher quality talent
- reduced costs for overhead and office spaces
- more time zones and geographic flexibility, which makes it easier to offer multilingual or 24/7 services
- incredibly flexible and scalable
With a virtual call center, you can easily hire agents from different time zones to effortlessly cover the hours you need service. Similarly, you can hire just a few agents who are bilingual to offer multilingual service, rather than having to operate an entire call center of multilingual agents.
Homeshoring also combines many of the benefits of other models. You can have some agents who are native to the US alongside the scalability of a worldwide workforce and the affordability of offshore and nearshore agents—all within a single, distributed team.
We ramped up our homeshore operations in 2020 as work-from-home solutions skyrocketed, and it’s changed the game for our clients. Not only can we offer a flexible workforce and a significant discount, but it also gives us significant advantages with talent acquisition, ensuring that we provide the highest quality brand specialists for your call center.
Hybrid Call Center Model
Finally, a hybrid model—as the name suggests—combines several location models into one team. For example, you might have the majority of your team in an onshore model with a smaller, offshore segment as well. Or you might have a nearshore team with some virtual agents in other locations.
One of the main benefits of hybrid models, sometimes called “smartshoring,” is the ability to segment tasks to their most appropriate team and location. In many cases, clients may prefer to have onshore agents focus on high-touch phone calls and customer communications, while offshore teams focus on lead generation and provide multilingual support.
In this way, you get all the services you need at a more affordable cost—and can offer the best customer experience in every situation. Plus, with a wider range of agent locations, you have more availability for a variety of language support and after-hour services.
For businesses who want to outsource a variety of services—and want the best agent for their brand no matter where they’re located—smartshoring is an affordable and flexible model that provides your brand with top-notch quality.
With one of our clients who uses a hybrid model, we were able to implement omnichannel solutions to improve speed of answer by 40%, increase online sales by 130% and improve service levels across the board.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Call Center Model
So, with all of the models available, how do you narrow down which is best for your brand? Consider these four major factors:
Business needs and customer expectations. Do your customers expect your brand to be reachable 24/7? Do they want to contact you via social media, or would an email suffice? Considering customer expectations gives you clear insight into what to focus on and where to allocate resources. That is, if your customer base is all located in one small region of the US, you may not need to offer multilingual support.
Similarly, business needs—both now and in the future—can help you determine the best location model for your call center, as well as what services (i.e. inbound vs. outbound) you should be outsourcing.
Budget and cost considerations. Obviously, budget is a major factor for many businesses. Some call center models are simply more affordable than others—and if you need to scale quickly or frequently, that’s a budget consideration as well.
Geography and time zones. How important is it to have proximity to your call center? Do you want or need to offer 24/7 service, or is it more important for your call center to be located in the same timezone as your business? These questions, among others, can help you determine the best shoring model. Of course, don’t forget that you can utilize virtual or smartshoring models to get the best of both worlds when it comes to proximity and time zone flexibility.
Finding the right partner. Finally, even the perfect call center model for you will fall short if you invest in the wrong partner. Look for trusted call centers with client testimonials, proven results, clear expertise and experience, and a communication style and culture that matches your own.
For a call center provider that offers many of the models on this list—and has 40+ years of proven experience with customer service and CX solutions—contact Global Response. Our commitment to quality customer experiences is how we’re able to drive consistent results for our clients, no matter what call center model they choose.
Want to see how Global Response’s flexible call center models can help meet your needs? Connect with one of our experts today.