What Is the Difference Between Inbound and Outbound Call Centers?
What You’re About To Learn:
What is an Inbound Call Center?
What is an Outbound Call Center?
What Is the Difference Between Inbound & Outbound Call Centers?
Types of Inbound Calls
Two Categories of Outbound Calls
Types of Outbound Calls
Do You Need an Inbound or Outbound Call Center Service?
What Is an Inbound Call Center?
Just as the name implies, inbound call centers handle mainly inbound phone calls from customers and potential customers. Given the nature of these calls, this type of call center tends to be more customer service-based.
Inbound call centers focus on answering questions and resolving customers’ concerns. Inbound call centers also deal with complaints from customers. Since they are the only contact many customers will ever have with your business, it’s imperative that these representatives are polite, helpful, and well-versed in company policy.
What Is an Outbound Call Center?
In contrast to inbound call centers, outbound call centers tend to make more calls than they receive. Their main focus is reaching out to customers and potential customers, making sales, and publicizing the company.
Representatives in these call centers typically work from lists of current or potential customers. This allows them to make sales and cold calls, and spend time helping customers upgrade their services.
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In short, inbound and outbound call centers are opposites. As the name suggests, inbound call centers receive calls from customers or interested consumers, while outbound call centers make calls to leads or prospects in an attempt to make a sale. As a result, inbound call centers generally focus on building customer loyalty, improving customer retention and providing excellent customer service in response to any customer questions or concerns. Outbound call centers, on the other hand, look to build or deepen interest for potential customers to move them further along the purchase funnel.
Types of Inbound Calls
Inbound calls come in all shapes and sizes, but they tend to fall into one of four categories.
1) Customer Service
This is when a current customer calls with a question or concern, or to manage their account. These calls include:
- Customer feedback
- Over-the-phone payments
- Updates to mailing addresses
- Questions about policies, practices, and so forth
In many cases, these concerns can be addressed electronically, and many inbound call centers have begun playing recordings while customers are on hold, directing them to applicable online resources.
2) Technical Support
This is where customers call when something breaks on their end. When a product isn’t functioning properly, customers tend to call in to try to resolve the problem. Whether it’s a cell phone that’s not receiving gifs, or a computer that won’t turn on, technical support tends to hear from customers that are less than happy with the current state of affairs.
Because of the disgruntled nature of most of the calls, inbound centers that handle technical support require staff with patience and level-headedness, capable of dealing with complaints and demands. With the right team, concerns can be answered and tempers cooled, restoring brand loyalty and encouraging repeat sales.
3) Inbound Sales
In some instances, inbound call centers will receive calls not from current clientele, but rather from prospective buyers who are looking for more information. When this happens, it’s called an “inbound sales” call, and talented staff can capitalize on the opportunity. Tact and salesmanship are key here, and presenting a polite and welcoming face for the company can turn a lead into a customer.
Some larger businesses have entire call centers devoted specifically to inbound sales, rather than combining several types of calls. When this happens, the center can be staffed specifically with sales in mind, allowing the company to put their best foot forward.
During an inbound sales call, the representative should first aim to build a rapport with the prospect, establishing common ground and offering useful information. They should also let the prospect guide the conversation, ask open-ended questions, and be transparent to gain the prospect’s trust.
4) Upgrade and Renewal Inquiry Calls
This form of inbound call communicates with existing customers who have chosen to renew, upgrade, or combine their subscription plans. Customers are typically satisfied with the level of service they receive from the business, leading them to continue the relationship.
Inbound center agents should be familiar with the company’s entire product line, ongoing promotions, and the benefits of retaining or upgrading their plans. In addition to being knowledgeable and convincing, they must be trained to process the renewal or upgrade themselves or assist the customers by routing the call to an authorized sales agent for plan expansion.
Two Categories of Outbound Calls
While there are some outliers (such as political organizations conducting polls, and companies conducting surveys regarding service and product quality, or market research), outbound call centers tend to focus on sales, and the calls fall into one of two categories.
1) Cold Calls
Cold calls are made to potential customers who weren’t expecting the contact. Their first interaction with the company is this phone call, for better or worse. Depending on the individual receiving the call, this can create feelings of frustration and distrust on the part of the potential customer, making it harder to close the sale.
The staff of cold call outbound call centers needs a thick skin, as those who don’t appreciate the call often express their disapproval. For teams that can tough it out, though, there are some sales to be made.
2) Warm Calls
Warm calls, unlike cold calls, are the result of some previous interaction with the lead. Whether it’s a referral, an interaction at a convention or meetup, or a previous call. Because the lead is expecting the call, these calls are usually better received, and as a result, have better conversion rates.
Types of Outbound Calls
1) Appointment Setting
Outbound agents schedule meetings or appointments between the customer or lead and the assigned salesperson. They will confirm the best time and date for the current or potential client to interact with a company representative. The agent should be efficient and accurate but also engaging, to keep the prospect motivated to stay in touch.
2) Lead Generation
Outbound agents create leads via warm and cold calls, recognizing opportunities to pique an individual’s interest in the company’s products. They gather information during the call to determine the likelihood that a prospect will convert from being simply curious to becoming a customer.
Telemarketing is different from lead generation—in fact, you might compare the former to being a door-to-door salesperson. These sales agents pitch their products over the phone based on a given target list. They generate interest in the product or service by telling prospects how it can be the best solution for their needs.
Often lumped in with telemarketing, telesales has a different end goal in mind—to close the sale. Sales agents usually take over where the role of telemarketers ends. They have to be patient and persuasive, both for pursuing qualified leads and then converting them into sales.
It’s crucial for telesales agents to have a good list of qualified leads since their performance primarily depends on conversion rates.
5) Market Research
Outbound calls are not always for closing sales—some are made to get the pulse of a product, service, or brand. During the call, an agent will ask a set of questions prepared by the market researcher or business concerned to learn more about the target audience (and their perception of the company or product). Data gathered will be used to modify products or adjust marketing strategies.
Inbound and Outbound Call Center Services – What’s Right for You
Whether you need inbound or outbound call help depends on what your team is struggling to handle. If you can’t seem to keep up with the rate of customer service and tech support calls, then you could probably use the help of an inbound call center. If your team is having a hard time following up on a long list of leads, then an outbound call center might serve your business best.
Either way, if your business is growing and your team is stretched thin, you could likely benefit from call center services. Whether it’s a competent customer service team you need or some sales superstars who can get the word out about your incredible product or service, finding the right call center can make a world of difference.