What is the difference between the inbound and outbound processes in a call center?

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Call center agent speaking with a customer

There are two types of calls you can handle in a call center: inbound & outbound. Below, we’ll discuss the differences between these types of call centers so you can choose the best business phone option for your organization. 

The most significant difference to consider as we review inbound and outbound call centers is the purpose of each. In an inbound center, agents accept communications from customers to provide the best customer experience possible. In an outbound contact center, your center’s agents reach out to existing customers for collections, and more often, to potential customers for lead generation—focused on sales.

Inbound Call Center

An inbound call center handles inbound phone calls from prospects and existing customers. Inbound call centers are more customer service-based than outbound call centers. They focus on addressing customer queries, concerns, or complaints. The different inbound call center services include:

  • Customer services
  • Product and technical support
  • Help desk services
  • Inbound sales
  • Payment and order processing 
  • Upgrade and renewal inquiries

These call centers are all about fielding different types of inbound calls and providing customer support. Your call center should equip itself with the services necessary to suit the scope of your customers’ calls. And you should sort your call center agents into teams that each focus on one particular type of incoming call.

You may want your IT specialists to receive calls inbound for tech support and agents with a knowledge base in accounting to focus on payment or order processing. Allowing inbound call agents to specialize in one area will improve customer satisfaction. They’ll be experts in their area and able to support customers more effectively, resulting in better call resolutions.

Inbound agents: Skills, qualities, and performance evaluation

You can't talk about the key differences between inbound vs. outbound call centers without talking about their frontliners—the agents. It's important that agents have the required skills and the capacity to adapt to specific processes.

With their customers in control and likely seeking support, inbound agents need to have the following skills and qualities:

  1. Excellent listening and problem-solving skills
  2. Patience and empathy for customers
  3. Deep knowledge of products or services
  4. Great attention to detail
  5. Ability to handle pressure

Quick word on evaluation:
An inbound agent's performance is typically measured by resolution speed and customer experiences. To be able to do their job well, they also need the right technology (e.g. inbound agents need to have access to customer information ASAP).

Essential inbound call center technologies

Another key difference between inbound and outbound contact centers is the technology that businesses leverage to make their processes efficient and effective. Some of the main tech used in inbound call centers are:

Interactive voice response (IVR)

RingCentral’s interactive voice response system

IVR is an automated portion of your phone system that interacts with customers and gathers essential information via a menu. It can automatically provide your call center’s customers with the information they need or provide context. 

It will allow the call to be routed to the right support services or provide information to the agent so they can handle the call better. It can also integrate with a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system to retrieve more information about the customer story to match them with the most suitable agent.

CRM refers to the tools, processes, and techniques businesses use to acquire and retain customers.

Call Center Analytics software

Screenshot showing various call center metrics

Your inbound call center agents work from their first call to provide excellent customer service. But, how do you track your team’s performance in handling incoming calls, particularly if you run a virtual call center? Here at RingCentral, we offer cloud contact centers with call center software that tracks performance and agent productivity metrics set by you. We provide excellent business solutions for call monitoring and quality assurance.

Call routing

A critical aspect of your inbound call center solutions should be call routing. Forwarding calls automatically to the right teams or agents makes call management more effective. It removes the need for a receptionist to route calls manually and makes telephone answering much more efficient.

Outbound Call Center

While inbound call centers focus on receiving calls, outbound call centers focus on making calls. These call centers concentrate on outreach to outbound customers via live chat, text messaging, and phone calls. Outgoing calls are usually generated from a list of phone numbers of current and potential customers. 

There are two main types of outbound calls: warm calls and cold calls. Cold calls occur without any prompting from the prospect. A warm call is either requested by the prospect or is a follow-up from a previous communication. Outbound call center services include:

  • Lead generation - Outbound calling is ideal for lead generation. It’s a strategic business process that focuses on drawing in new customers. During this type of call, you can use appointment scheduling to set a time to talk that works best for your prospect. Social media is an excellent place to source customer information for this purpose. 
  • Telemarketing - You can use this as an opportunity to promote a new product to prospective or existing customers. This service can bring in new customers or lead to greater customer retention.
  • Telesales - Making sales calls over the phone or via text messages can be a quick and straightforward way of increasing revenue. 
  • Market research - You can make customer calls to carry out surveys. This will enable you to answer specific questions. Employing SaaS will also help you gather crucial analytics.

Outbound agents: Skills, qualities, and performance evaluation

Outbound calling center agents typically focus on sales, not customer service. As such, they require specific skills and qualities different from those that handle inbound calls. Here are a few examples:

  1. Ability to read customers and their moods to make sales
  2. Awareness of people's time
  3. Friendly but assertive

Quick word on evaluation:
Success for agents in outbound contact centers is measured by metrics like first call close and conversation rate. To be truly effective, outbound center reps also need access to leading technologies.

Essential outbound call center technologies

Some tech will be the same (like IVR and CRM integration) and will be formatted to fit the purposes of outbound calling. Your outbound contact center software can also include:

Auto Dialers

Dialers help establish dialing efficiency to help your outbound call center agents focus on making sales. You can use predictive, preview, or progressive dialers, depending on your business’s needs. These features will help increase conversions and make the most of your agents’ time.

Screenshots showing how agent scripting works

RingCentral Engage Voice

RingCentral Engage voice is a cloud-based solution that streamlines and automates blended and outbound communications. This solution offers features like agent scripting, IVR, call recording, automatic call distribution (ACD), and more on one easy-to-use dashboard.

Conclusion

The differences between an inbound or outbound call center and inbound and outbound calls are considerable. Ultimately, you may even consider outsourcing with a BPO contact center. But if you want more cost savings in the long run, having your own contact center is the way to go. Just look into service providers that can offer the best solution—with all the valuable features and functionality—for you.

If you’re still undecided, view our demo to get a feel of how RingCentral can benefit call centers.