Inbound And Outbound Contact Center

Table of Contents

A contact center is the business division from which agents handle customer communications that include sales conversations, technical questions, and other interactions. Unlike call centers, contact centers give customers access to multiple communication channels (text, chat, email, etc.)

Due to their ability to improve the customer experience, contact centers are becoming incredibly popular in numerous B2C industries, from ecommerce and retail to financial services and real estate.

Two of the major types of contact centers are inbound and outbound, and each type has its own use-cases, methodology, benefits, and technologies.

Today, we’ll help you understand the fundamental differences between outbound and inbound contact centers so that you can choose the best one for your specific business.

What is an Inbound Contact Center?

An inbound contact center is the business division that handles inbound, or incoming, customer interactions using a variety of communication channels.

Agents, chatbots, or interactive voice response software field and respond to emails, calls, and texts from customers who have questions about various topics. The customer could be asking about how to use a product they just ordered or how to set up automated billing.

Generally, an inbound contact center is more focused on customer-service interactions than it is on sales. Though agents may assist a customer in payment processing, they are mostly restricted from proactively reaching out to make sales calls.

That is typically the focus of outbound contact centers, which we’ll discuss later on. Instead, the main focus of an inbound contact center agent is to give inbound callers a fast, positive, and friendly experience that results in their issues being resolved.

Types of Inbound Call Services

Below are some of the types of inbound contact center services agents provide for customers:

  • Product and Tech Support: Agents help with password issues, product usage, account updates, and other technical problems customers are having.
  • Payment Processing or Inbound Sales: Inbound contact center agents help customers make their purchases and place orders over the phone.  
  • Upgrades and Renewals: Subscription-based companies might need to help customers upgrade or add to their current plans.
  • Complaint Resolution: Agents work to set upset customers at ease by expressing understanding and offering solutions.

Depending on your business model, your inbound contact center might handle one or all of these services. Regardless of the reasons your customers reach out to you, inbound contact centers provide a great opportunity to increase brand loyalty.

What is an Outbound Contact Center?

An outbound contact center is the business sector responsible for proactive outbound customer communication across a wide range of communication channels.

Though outbound agents do field incoming calls, their main focus is to reach out to customers to make sales and spread brand awareness. They initiate the conversations. And they mainly use phone calls or email to do so since these tend to be the most effective channels for selling.

The typical outbound contact center agent is quota-carrying, meaning they have to make a certain number of sales within a given period of time, and part of their compensation is commission-based.

Agents, therefore, spend most of their time cold calling, cold emailing, researching potential leads, attempting to make upsells to current customers, updating their CRMs, and doing other sales-oriented tasks.

Types of Outbound Call Services

Although making sales is their main purpose, outbound contact centers provide a wide range of services for businesses:

  • Telesales: B2C businesses with lower priced, transactional products typically use their outbound contact centers to cold call individuals and attempt a close on the first call.
  • Appointment Setting: Companies with higher-priced, complex products or services like SaaS or financial services may have agents whose goal is to book sales meetings with qualified leads for a higher-level salesperson.
  • Market Research: Agents may reach out to individuals to conduct market research about their product performance, customers, or competition. The intel they collect informs product, marketing, and sales decisions.
  • Telemarketing: Reps call potential leads and attempt to push them towards a sale in any way possible, whether that means just generating product awareness with a pitch or actually closing a sale.

Outbound contact centers can provide great benefits for a business such as improved brand awareness, increased sales and revenue, and stronger customer relationships.

Difference Between Outbound and Inbound Contact Centers

Both inbound and outbound contact centers serve as business divisions from which a company’s agents can talk with customers.

The key difference between inbound and outbound contact centers is that inbound contact centers focus on receiving and answering customer communications to provide customer service while outbound contact centers focus on initiating customer interactions to generate sales.

Below we’ve highlighted some of the other major differences between the two:  

Inbound Contact Center Outbound Contact Center
Main Purpose Answer and respond to incoming customer calls, texts, emails, and other accepted forms of communication. Reach out to customers to make sales or spread brand awareness via primarily cold outreach.
First Actor Customer Agent
Technologies Used Interactive voice response (IVR), chatbots, automated call distribution, CRM, and call tracking. Automatic dialer, predictive dialer, CRM, email automation software.
Agent Mindset Agents are patient, helpful, polite, and knowledgeable about the customer and product. Agents are engaging, resilient, able to overcome objections, and persuasive.
Services Provided Product and tech support, order processing, inbound sales, upgrades, and complaints. Telesales, meeting setting, telemarketing, market research.

Technologies Used in Inbound and Outbound Contact Centers

There are some technologies that both inbound and outbound contact centers use. For instance, they both use customer relationship management (CRM) software to track customer information, like purchase history and job title, that they can use to more effectively assist or sell the customer.

Inbound and outbound contact centers both also use some form of workforce management software, which enables agents and managers to track output, record calls, and monitor performance. However, there are some technologies found more frequently in one type than in the other.

Below are technologies that are more common in inbound contact centers than outbound ones:

  • Interactive Voice Response: IVR is an automated phone system technology that empowers customers to find information without having to talk to an agent. The system will also route the inbound calls to specialists or departments based on their answers to the recorded voice message’s questions (whether they hit 1 for technical support or 2 for billing).
  • Automated Call Distribution: ACD is software that routes incoming calls to the best available agent based on rules you set up in the system. For example, you might set it up so that all callers from the west coast go to a certain set of agents.
  • Call Tracking: When someone calls in, this software tracks what inspired them to call (what they recently did or encountered) and thereby assesses the performance of marketing campaigns.

And here are some technologies you’re more likely to see in an outbound contact center:

  • Automatic Dialer: This software automatically dials numbers on a list of leads and connects an agent to the call. This increases productivity by eliminating the need for agents to dial phone numbers into keypads.
  • Cold Email Software: Offering email templates and automations, these tools enable agents to send out personalized prospecting emails more quickly to potential customers.
  • Predictive Dialer: This tool saves agents time they would otherwise have wasted calling leads who don’t answer. It automatically calls down a list and moves on to the next person whenever it reaches a voicemail or disconnects. When it reaches a live person, it quickly connects the agent.
  • Cal Scripts: Although not necessarily technology in the common sense, call scripts guide agents through how to make effective cold calls and talk about the product.

The above lists don’t take into account the technology needed to support multiple communication channels like text and online chat, which are becoming increasingly necessary to offer your customers.

Because having and integrating so many disparate channels is tedious and costly, many businesses subscribe to cloud contact center software. This eliminates the need to buy, maintain, and upgrade individual software and hardware solutions.

These cloud solutions come with the above technology and more, and they enable reps to use all the channels they need to satisfy customers. Not to mention, the providers are always adding contact center features, be it automated message suggestions or more pre-built reports, to their platforms.

How to Choose the Right Contact Center for Your Business

Having an outbound contact center is typically a smart choice if your product or service lends itself to in-person sales or if you regularly need to conduct market research.

If your business is focused on generating inbound leads through digital marketing, as is the case for most retail and ecommerce businesses, then you may have no need for an outbound contact center.

As for inbound contact centers, you can benefit from one if you have a sufficient number of customers who frequently call your business for help with technical support, basic questions, or payment processing.

Many business owners feel that they’d benefit from both an inbound and outbound contact center, even if they need one’s services more than the other. Fortunately, the two aren’t mutually exclusive.

Many businesses are now using hybrid contact centers, which enable agents to communicate with customers using both inbound and outbound methods.

Combining the two enables your inbound and outbound agents to operate from the same data set as well. So an agent focused on making a sales call to a lead can see that the customer recently called in with a question about a new product.

To create a hybrid contact center, we recommend using a cloud contact center software like Contacto, which gives agents the online tools and channels they need to productively handle both inbound and outbound customer interactions.

There’s no need to buy an inbound contact center solution and an outbound contact center solution. The hybrid software provides features from both types.

Plus, because your contact center is in the cloud, agents can access it from anywhere at any time, and you don’t need to worry about maintaining software and paying for in-house IT. The provider handles all of that, while you focus on delighting and engaging your customers.

Conclusion

As a reminder, inbound contact centers are filled with agents who receive incoming calls, emails, and other forms of communication. Meanwhile, outbound contact centers have agents that make the first move, conducting cold outreach to leads and current customers typically in order to generate sales.

Because most businesses have to both assist customers who need help as well as proactively prospect for new business, they opt for a hybrid contact center.

If that sounds like you, check out how Contacto, a hybrid, cloud-based, omnichannel contact center, can help you improve your customer experience and business revenue.

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