What is an Outbound Contact Center?
For many businesses, contact centers operate as the hub of their customer communications. Call center agents take inbound calls from people who need help, working to improve customer experiences as well as nurture pre-existing relationships with those who call.
Outbound call centers, on the other hand, have a completely different function. Though both outbound and inbound call centers may look similar, the calls and conversations they make and have are focused on different goals.
If you want to learn more about inbound vs outbound call centers, this is the guide for you. We’ll walk you through the specifics of inbound and outbound calling, tips for optimizing your outbound contact center, and answers to common questions.
Ready? Let’s get to it.
What is outbound in a call center
As you might guess from the name, outbound involves communication that goes out from your contact center. Most outbound centers are focused on sales and marketing, such as B2B lead generation, appointment setting, collections, fundraising and market research. Agents in sales call centers work to qualify leads and gather contact information that can be used to find potential customers.
Whenever you get sales calls, for example, you might be talking with outbound call center agents. If you compare your own experiences with phone calling a business vs when you receive calls from a marketing company, you can better understand the roles agents in sales play.
What is lead generation?
Lead generation is a strategic sales business process in all industries served and targeted by outbound marketing efforts. Though the tactics a business uses will vary, the goal is always the same: draw new prospects to the company so you can sell to them. Common lead generation tactics include:
- Social media marketing - When Wendy’s roasts you on Twitter and invites you to enter its contest, there are agents working behind the scenes to get your info and build a stronger connection.
- Content marketing - Every good piece of content has a custom call to action that encourages readers to complete a specific action that gets them more involved with the company. This might be a button that sets appointments with sales reps or a reminder to subscribe to the official video channel.
- Digital marketing - If it’s online, it falls under the company’s digital strategy. Mobile app developers, for instance, usually build account requirements into business apps, using these registrations to get in touch with new leads.
- Event marketing - Ever wondered why you have to sign up for that free event? Outbound marketers use event registration forms to build lists of potential customers who may be interested in their products.
- Direct marketing - You’re probably most familiar with this form of marketing, often accomplished through cold calls and emails. Direct marketing is used to sell consumer products directly to prospects, rather than first building a connection that leads to a purchase.
Though lead generation is a function of outbound call centers, it is also used for inbound sales. We’ll talk more about the difference between both types of contact centers later.
What is the outbound process?
Agents who work in an outbound call center may connect with leads through a variety of methods. Rather than waiting for you to make the first move (like chatting with a live agent through a business website), the outbound process starts when the business reaches out to you.
Let’s say your business is looking to find new leads who may be interested in your new product design. Your outbound contact center agents get to work, calling prospective new customers to try to interest them in making a purchase. Since the agents are dialing the customer, rather than taking incoming calls, they are using the outbound process.
Though the start and purpose of the interaction are different, they still involve two-way conversations with your customers. By choosing an outbound call center solution that supports and advances your goals, you can build lasting relationships through any kind of interaction.
What is the difference between an inbound and outbound contact center?
As we mentioned above, the biggest differences between inbound and outbound contact centers are the purpose and efforts of each. While working in an outbound contact center, agents reach out to prospects for lead qualification and sales efforts. An inbound call center, on the other hand, accepts communications coming into the business, managing the customer story to achieve the highest level of customer satisfaction.
Key features of contact center software: inbound call centers vs outbound call centers
Though both types of contact centers are working towards different goals, they both need quality contact solutions to reach their audience. To run both a top outbound call center or the best customer service department, businesses need an omnichannel contact center platform that offers features such as:
- Phone calling
- Live chat
- SMS messaging
- Social media
- Artificial intelligence
And so on. Since both sales and customer service are critical to business development, many companies use call center software with both inbound and outbound capabilities to build hybrid contact centers. Limiting any scaling and maintenance needs to one contact center solution saves time and money that can then be used for greater gains elsewhere.
Outbound call centers: Frequently Asked Questions
Now that you know all about outbound contact centers, it’s time to talk about the realities of operating one in your business. Below, we’ve answered your most important questions about outbound calling and the benefits it can bring to your contact center.
How do you handle outbound calls?
Successful call handling starts with your team and the tools you use to equip them. First, you have to have the right call center solution.
It’s all about dialers
Though both inbound and outbound solutions have similar features, software made for customer service won’t offer the same results as one designed for sales. Outbound software uses a variety of dialer tools to efficiently connect businesses and customers for sales. With a solution like RingCentral, these tools include predictive dialers, preview dialers, and progressive dialers.
These tools use a combination of data and algorithms to “predict” when an agent will finish their current call. In the meantime, they autodial new numbers to limit the amount of agent downtime. Some calls end in voicemails, busy signals, or disconnected numbers, so the dialer also estimates the number of calls that will go through to keep agents busy and queues full. A predictive dialer improves efficiency and frees up agent time so they can focus on connecting with customers, not making more calls.
The unknown can be one of the worst parts of cold calling. With a preview dialer, you can give your agents helpful information about the customer - before the call connects. This preparation is invaluable to outbound call centers. Agents can see and understand all of the info you have on that particular lead before speaking with them. It gives agents time to adjust their strategies and mindset to increase the likelihood of getting the response they need. This support helps your employees feel and perform better, keeping everyone happy.
Progressive dialers address the most frustrating flaw of automated dialing: connecting agents to dead calls and voicemails. Rather than dialing more to make up for unsuccessful calls, this dialer focuses on the quality of the calls it makes. By making fewer calls, it ensures that agents and customers always connect to a person immediately. Your agents will be able to spend more time having valuable conversations and less energy on calls that don’t provide results.
Strengthening your efforts and teams
Next, create your outbound strategy. Getting outside guidance from a consultancy firm is a great option if you are building your outbound contact center from the ground up.
Agent training is your next greatest priority. Don’t just throw agents, customer service managers, or virtual receptionists into the mix because they have experience in a call center. Offer the education, support, and resources any employee needs to become an effective outbound agent. When your team is ready and able to succeed, your contact center will, too.
Market research, appointment setting...What do agents actually do in outbound contact centers?
Though most are focused on sales, outbound agents reach out to leads and customers to accomplish a wide range of tasks. If someone is due for a dental cleaning and hasn’t yet made an appointment at a clinic, an agent may give them a call to strengthen the relationship and schedule a visit. To better understand the business’ audience and competition, agents can also conduct market research through surveys.
From reminding customers about upcoming subscription cancellations to cold-calling prospects, agents are valuable players for a multitude of efforts.
What if I don’t have the resources for an outbound contact center?
You’re not alone! Business process outsourcing (BPO), especially call center outsourcing, is a common solution for companies in numerous industries, including:
- Real estate firms
- Healthcare practices
- Management companies
- Video production companies
- Software development companies
- Web designer companies
- Law firms
- Cloud consultant companies
To name a very few. For some companies, outsourcing outbound agent roles is the best option. If you don’t have the capacity or desire to run a full outbound call center in-house, this might be the best call.
If you want your own agents interacting with leads, however, you might consider non-voice BPO back-office services. Rather than managing interactions, your outsourced service will take care of the background work. This might include administration, data analysis, and other internal (“non-voice”) efforts.
BPO outsourcing is a great option for many businesses and may offer the services you need to build a thriving outbound operation.
What role do customer experiences play in outbound?
Inbound and outbound play separate roles in a business, but they intersect when it comes to the customer experience. Most of the interactions that occur in an inbound call center involve an agent solving a customer’s problem, so the customer’s experience here naturally has more weight and significance.
That said, outbound agents connect with prospects, people who will hopefully become customers because of the experience they have with a sales rep. Even if your outbound contact center isn’t technically part of your customer service department, the way customers feel about their interactions with your agents is critical to business growth. Every agent, no matter their role, should be empowered to keep prospects and customers happy in every conversation.
What’s next for my outbound contact center?
Your successful outbound contact center starts with the software you use. As you perfect your outreach strategy, make sure you’re using a platform that lets you:
- Get up and running quickly
- Scale up or down on demand
- Run your contact center on modern cloud architecture
- Use tools built for agents, supervisors, and analysts
- Empower your agents to have the right conversations every time with powerful scripting options
- Connect your contact center to the rest of the company
- Utilize one vendor for all communications, especially for a hybrid inbound/outbound call center