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A call center service employee talking to a customer

What is a call center service?

A call center is a centralized department designed to handle phone calls from current and potential customers. Call centers can be inbound call centers and/or outbound call centers and be located either within a company or be run by hiring another company specializing in handling call centers or customer service outsourcing.

When it comes down to it, the main difference between call centers and contact centers is in the name. A call center generally takes or makes calls, while a contact center keeps in contact through any customer service channel.

call center diagram

Q: How do call centers work?

Call centers provide services that are used by businesses of all sizes to increase sales, such as:

  • Financial Institutions
  • Telcos
  • Insurance companies
  • Online merchants 
  • Telemarketing companies
  • Computer software 
  • Product help desks
  • Mail-order organizations
  • Polling services, charities 
  • Law firms
  • Medical practices
  • Real estate companies
  • Property managers
  • Any large organization that uses the telephone to improve customer service

What services are provided by call centers?

A great call center should do more than just answer inbound calls. In addition to ensuring customers can talk with a live receptionist, call centers can help resolve issues, give information, and provide new sales opportunities for organizations. It is the critical component of your customer service strategy. It can be a significant factor in the success or failure of your company.

Here are some characteristics that the best call centers have in common:
Business Support Services
It is essential to ensure that your call center has the services you need, including technical support, lead generation, follow-up surveys, etc.
High Levels of Service
Without operators that are knowledgeable and have the resources needed to help every caller, your call center will fail. The best call centers focus on delivering better customer experiences.
Availability to Help Every Customer
Working with a call center service ensures your customers can get their questions answered live with a 24-hour call center. Being able to help your callers consistently allows you to increase brand loyalty and enhance your business's reputation.

What are the two types of call center?

Whether you are considering operating your call center or looking to contract an outsourcing service, you should start by considering the types of services available.

Today, managers are very well aware that customer service and customer support are an essential part of business success. Call centers are one of the tools that companies use to provide clients with a support system. The primary types of call centers include inbound or outbound.

Inbound Call Centers

  1. An inbound call center employs agents who receive calls from customers. These call centers tend to focus on assistance for customers who need to solve their problems or need instructions. For example, suppose your internet connection stops working or is too slow. In that case, you can call your internet provider's customer service center to report the issue and fix it. Apart from on-call support, inbound contact center agents often provide contact information, email response, or chat support.

  2. The main goal of inbound call centers is to resolve as many customer issues as possible. The number of calls handled by agents largely depends on the number of people contacting the call center. On some days, the call center may be bustling, on other days, the inflow of calls may be much lower.

  3. Inbound Call Center Services benefits include:

  4. Handle seasonal call volumes
  5. Spend more time on your core business
  6. Reduction of fixed costs, maintenance
  7. Easily scalability to add agents
  8. Support customers after hours

Outbound Call Center

  1. In an outbound call center, agents call potential or existing customers rather than receiving calls from them. This type of call center is mainly used for sales and cold calls, promotions, and customer surveys, but it's not always the case. Some business owners choose to welcome their new clients with the so-called welcome call, during which agents provide further information on the company’s products or policies.

  2. Outbound Call Center benefits include:

  3. Provide lead generation opportunities
  4. Gather intelligence for market research
  5. Identify, engage and convert new leads
  6. Obtain actionable feedback via surveys
  7. Set appointments, confirm dates
What is the difference between inbound vs. outbound call centers?

Inbound and outboard call centers are effectively opposites. Inbound call centers are answering services and call centers that receive calls, while outbound centers make strategic sales calls. The objectives of the two call centers differ. Inbound centers are typically addressing customer concerns in an attempt to build loyalty and retain clientele. Meanwhile, outbound centers are seeking to build interest among potential buyers.

  • In-house call centers are owned and operated by your company. Your company's team takes care of in-house software development or software procurement and the installation, configuration, and hardware maintenance. Employees are tasked with answering the phone.
  • Outsourced call centers are generally a less expensive option favored by companies that can't or don't want to hire agents and spend money on training, offices, and technologies. They use the services of a third party company, a BPO (Business Process Outsourcer), that will provide the agents and sometimes the infrastructure to deliver the Call Center services on behalf of the primary company.

    The technology itself can be deployed on premise (Premise-based Contact Center), whereby the software is deployed and operated on the company premises, or the technology can be delivered as a service by a Service Provider who hosts the software and the technology in the Cloud (Cloud Contact Center).

Inbound Call Center Services

Although customer service is the primary function of an inbound call center, they can offer many other services, including generating revenue with cross-sells and upsells.

Here’s a look at some common services inbound call centers provide:
Product and/or Tech Support
An inbound call center agent helps customers solve a broad range of issues from password changes, updating account information, and responding to complaints. For problems like advanced technical support, agents may use one of many desk tools to route customers to IT specialists.
Payment and Order Processing
Though online ordering is incredibly popular, many shoppers still use phone calling to place orders. Inbound call agents can help customers complete their purchases over calls. Likewise, shoppers may contact a company to ask questions about their billing or resolve online payment issues.
Upgrade and Renewal Inquiries
Subscription-based businesses such as subscription boxes or SaaS companies may receive calls from customers who want to expand their current plan. In this case, inbound call agents should be trained to either upgrade shoppers’ plans themselves or redirect the call to a sales agent who can process the plan expansion.

Outbound call center services

At outbound call centers, sales reps primarily make calls to reach and attract prospective customers. Companies also use outbound call centers to conduct market research. Agents can call shoppers who match their target customer to learn more about their needs and interests.

Here’s a look at some common services outbound call centers provide:
Making Appointments
Appointment setting and appointment reminders are call center services used by B2B and B2C businesses to set up appointments with prospective clients. These activities are mostly used by service-oriented businesses, healthcare organizations, real estate agents, mortgage, financial, and insurance industries. B2B appointment scheduling is also used when products or services are complex in nature and require proper demonstration.
Lead Generation
An outbound call center agent can help salespeople generate and qualify leads. Cold calls help to identify opportunities. Collecting information over the phone can help identify if those leads are qualified to purchase (i.e., is it the right timing, and does the lead have the budget?).
Outbound call centers use software solutions to gather information, ensure accurate data entry about prospects, and increase customer interest in a company's products or services. Many outsourced outbound call centers specialize in telemarketing and creating custom scripts to help businesses acquire customers, promote their products, and increase sales.
While telemarketers engage with potential customers in any way possible (generating brand awareness, leads, or scheduling appointments), telesales focuses solely on closing deals over the phone. Sometimes referred to as inside sales, telesales agents pursue promising leads to improve conversions and increase revenue.
Market Research
Market research is conducted by an outbound call center agent to develop a better understanding of their customers and their competition. Using market research can improve messaging, and reps can develop more effective sales pitches.
Customer Surveys
An outbound call center agent can also be involved in conducting market research and customer surveys. Often, these services are outsourced to outbound call centers. They are used by companies and organizations to discover how customers react to their marketing efforts or track customer satisfaction with their products or services.
If your organization relies on donations to meet your financial goals, outbound call centers can help your organization with all your fundraising needs. They can make outbound calls to your list of donors and outbound solicitation calls to help you drive additional revenue to your organization.
Debt collection is a time-consuming process. By outsourcing debt collection services, you can enhance your business efficiency while boosting your accounts receivable collections. It can also streamline and improve your existing processes by outsourcing collections to experienced debt collection call center agents.
of customers say that customer service is an important factor that affects their choice of a brand.
of consumers say that they have stopped transacting with a business after a poor service experience.
of customers say that they have higher expectations for customer support than they had a year ago.
of global consumers have a favorable view of brands that contact them with proactive customer service notifications.
of customers prefer brands that respond to customer service inquiries and complaints on social media than those that don't.

Which call center service is right for your business: in-house or outsourced?

The Pros of Outsourced Inbound Call Centers
  1. Here are some of the benefits for companies looking for inbound centers and the advantages of having a call center in your organization.

  2. Improve productivity - For small businesses looking to make a mark in their market, an inbound call center provides low volume businesses with skilled agents. They are trained to manage increasing call volume as you grow your business.
  3. Cost Savings - Not only does an outsourced inbound call center team come with experience, but it also negates the need to worry about the fluctuating nature of many businesses. It's challenging to predict call volume for companies that are still in their growth phase.
  4. Increased Sales - Effective inbound call centers can not only ensure your current customers are satisfied, but it can increase product sales as well. Convincing current customers to try new products is much more straightforward than attracting new consumers.
  5. Customer-Focused - More than ever, businesses must not just be product-focused but also customer-focused if they hope to survive. By effectively engaging with customers, businesses can ensure customer care and customers remain satisfied.
  6. Customer Satisfaction - There are many aspects to keeping a customer satisfied besides having an excellent service or product. An inbound call center agent can gauge the customers' pulse and understand what they want, need, and expect from the company.
  7. Win Back Lost Customers - Every business loses at least a few customers along the way. An inbound call center team can be effective in bringing these customers back in the fold. Through surveys and other initiatives, agents can uncover reasons that entice the customer to return.
  8. Free Up Resources - Inbound call centers come ready with their equipment. They will be up to date with the technology needed for seamless customer communication. Not having to pay out of pocket for these costs means those resources can be used in other parts of your business.
  9. Managing Higher Call Volumes - Hopefully, your organization is in a constant state of growth, which leads to a higher call volume. Working with inbound call centers means no call goes unanswered. You can feel comfortable with fluctuating growth, or handling calls are something special like event registrations, knowing you have a team of agents on your side.
  10. Connecting to Global Time Zones - With the global nature of today's business climate, partnering with inbound call centers may allow you to offer global responses across different time zones, different cultural sensitivities, and provide round-the-clock service so customers can call at their convenience.
The Cons of Outsourced Inbound Call Center Services
  1. While outsourcing customer service, sometimes referred to as business process outsourcing (BPO), offers some great benefits, you should understand how it differs from an in-house call center before choosing a provider.

  2. A Lower Rate of Customer Satisfaction - Many business owners are worried they will lose customers if they outsource to a call center or telephone answering service instead of hosting it in-house. However, to address this concern, business owners can scrutinize the call center's track record or ask the service to provide references.
  3. Lack of Company Knowledge - Some fear outsourced agents may not be as knowledgeable about products and services for small businesses. To overcome this concern, clear and consistent communication about updates, new product launches, price changes, policies, and more is necessary to keep everyone up to speed.
  4. Call Center Agents: Shared Agents vs. Dedicated Agents - While you want agents to be passionate and make your customer service calls a priority, it is not a guarantee due to the number of clients they work for (and juggle). Hiring more expensive, dedicated agents could improve the problem if the cost isn't an issue.
  5. Security Concerns - The very nature of some businesses involves the exchange of personal info, such as a credit card number, names, addresses – information that needs to be secure. However, many call centers have layers of protection in place to ensure that your customers' data remains private and safe, including meeting HIPAA compliance.
The Pros of Outsourced Outbound Call Center Services
  1. Companies need an arsenal of marketing and sales techniques to keep up with fast advancing information technology and shorter customer attention spans. Here are some of the advantages of outbound call services.

  2. Generating Leads - Unlike other marketing methods, outbound agents help companies get in touch with prospective customers on a real-time basis and turn prospects into leads. As a result, the leads generated are stronger and more authentic than other leads generation methods.
  3. Lead Qualifications - Most lead generation efforts suffer from a certain percentage of error, relating to duplicity, omission errors, and a lack of genuine information. In such cases, an outbound telemarketing team can help qualify leads and create a more robust list of leads.
  4. Measure and Test Strategies - Outbound teams are regularly monitored, measured, and tested. Each team has its leader responsible for listening in on the calls and making rectifications in the process as needed. These aspects give companies leverage to fine-tune their marketing efforts and aim for higher customer satisfaction.
  5. Faster Than Traditional Outbound Sales Teams - Outbound telemarketing teams can get in touch with the target market directly in real-time, bypassing such limitations as door-to-door surveys. And engage in more meaningful conversations with customers versus other more traditional marketing tactics.
  6. Ability to Satisfy Customers - The opportunity to talk to a human representative is more effective at solving customer problems and addressing grievances. When customers come forward with issues, agents have the chance to rectify the problem and be responsive to customer needs.
The Cons of Outsourced Outbound Call Center Services
  1. Price vs. Value - A new BPO offering call center solution or IP call center companies will be an additional expense for your customer communication budget. Depending on which contact center you use, you may or may not need a wide range of services. And, you may have to make a significant commitment even before you're sure of the value to your company.
  2. Quality Control - Will your outsourced contact center do outbound as well as inbound calling? How much control will you have over the quality of experience? Many have replaced the low-cost call centers and answering services with low-cost AI and chatbots. When customers can't make sense of the pre-programmed responses, they’ll reach for the most expensive solution: the phone.
  3. Lack of Product Knowledge - Inbound and outbound contact centers BPOs work with many different businesses. Consequently, the employees are less likely to be evangelists for your product or service than they would if they were your employees. The outsourced contact center may be providing a service, not fulfilling your brand mission.
  4. Range of Communication Preferences - On the one hand, many BPO call centers are ahead of the curve and embracing new technology. But they're working with many companies that could be stuck in the 1980’s. Will your BPO contact center be able to handle the communication channels your customers prefer?
  5. One Size Doesn’t Fit All - Generally, this is a euphemism for “doesn’t fit anybody very well.” Most contact center outsourcing companies do not focus on creating options with different sizes, channels, financial agreements. They are not necessarily nimble, and in today’s fast-paced retail and e-commerce world, that’s a liability.

Additional Benefits of CCaaS: Virtual Call Centers

A cloud contact center is an internet-based facility that handles all inbound and outbound calling for a company. It's a software solution that offers a comprehensive suite of tools, call services, and applications that allow you to deliver outstanding customer service levels across multiple channels, including virtual agents, interactive voice response, virtual receptionists, SMS, email, and social media.

Many businesses have opted for virtual or cloud-based call centers that combine inbound and outbound call centers with various advanced features. Cloud-based call centers operate from anywhere. One significant advantage of a virtual call center is the possibility to integrate them with your existing tools, such as CRM or sales support systems.

International Support

These call centers can be divided into domestic and international call centers. Domestic call centers make and receive calls from people within the same country. So if your call center operates in France, your agents will be in touch with customers living in France only. On the other hand, international call centers receive and make calls to people worldwide and often use several local phone numbers or toll-free numbers to minimize fees for their customers.

What’s the Best Outsourced Call Center Service for Your Business?

Outsourced Call center services might seem similar, but the details of each company's offerings can vary quite widely. Once you start asking specific questions, the differences among the companies will become more apparent. To find out which vendor is right for your business, here are a few features to look for in an outsourced call center service.

Consider Pricing Plans and Contract Terms

Each outsourced call center service has pricing plans or models that are likely to be determined by your business's specific features. That might include anything from taking orders over the phone to setting appointments.

Be sure to ask about upfront fees and any incidental, holiday, and overage fees. To get the best possible price, don't be afraid to negotiate. Be prepared to discuss your average monthly sales volume and what services you expect the call center to perform.

Before you decide, ask for quotes from at least three companies and compare the terms and conditions. Be sure to ask what promotions are currently running and find out if free trials are available.

Read Customer and Professional Reviews

Read reviews from a variety of sources. Take note of what various publications are saying about the companies you are considering and what customers are saying.

Understand What Services Are Available

Choosing the right outsourced call center for your business comes down to what your needs are. Most call center service providers categorize their offerings into outbound and inbound calling services, and some may offer both.

Since tracking success is a performance benchmark, you'll likely want a reporting feature. Seek out companies that offer customer call completion and refusal reports. You may also want specialty answering services like live agents, live chat, webchat, social media communications, text messaging, the ability to work with mobile apps, and content marketing generation depending on the services pricing.

Not all of these call center features are necessary for every business. However, suppose you find that your staff is spending too much time answering calls and message taking. In that case, you’re losing sales because employees don't have time to follow up on leads, are missing customer calls (or taking 24-plus hours to return them), losing track of appointments, or not able to assist customers due to language barriers, it's time to consider an outsourced call center.

The Future of Outsourced Call Center Services
of organizations believe that customer service should be on the “quality” scorecard.
of the industry organizations believe that customers should have access to an agent who answers live calls.
of all executives interviewed think that Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) will have grown to a level that will justify strategic investments by 2019.
of call center businesses are looking forward to investing in Advanced Analytics to provide a better customer journey.
Created with Lunacy
of organizations think that the biggest challenge in making future investments will be integrating with current call center software.

Grow Your Business by Getting a Outsourced Call Center Service

Here are five ways that an outsourced call center can help grow your business.

  1. Gain and Retain Customers - Missed calls are a leading cause of lost business. If potential customers are on hold for a long time, or if a current customer cannot reach you "after hours," they may hang up and take their business elsewhere.
  2. Save Costs - Handling your customer service usually isn't inexpensive. You need employees to handle peak periods, as well as all the proper training and technology necessary. The costs add up. An outsourced call center is usually less expensive than an in-house operation.
  3. Ensure a Professional Reputation - The image your business presents is essential. Outsourced call centers employ trained professionals who know how to conduct proper customer service. However, for smaller businesses, a call center can also make your business appear to be a lot bigger than it is in reality.
  4. Improve Efficiency - Call centers have advanced technology and efficiency measures, which allow you to deal more effectively with customers and increase sales. Incoming calls can be prioritized based on their level of importance, turnaround times can be improved, and follow-ups and outgoing calls can be organized and executed.
  5. Broaden Your Customer Base - When your business is growing, you want to provide service to a wide range of customers. Outsourced call center services can include multilingual support in a variety of different languages, broadening your customer base.
Why don't you take RingCentral Contact Center for a spin? Find out how this omnichannel contact center solution can help you build customer relationships and maximize agent performance.