What are Inbound Call Centers?

July 9, 2024

Explore other posts on these topics:

Even with the ever growing number of communication methods, from email to text to chatbots, the phone call continues to be a core function of any customer service department. That’s why so many businesses invest in contact centers. Contact centers can improve the customer experience, allowing you to keep up with high call volumes and personalize interactions. 

While exploring your options for voice, you may notice two main types of call centers — inbound and outbound. How do these two differ, and when should you use one over the other? Learn more about outbound and inbound call centers from Intermedia. 

What is an Inbound Call Center?

Inbound call centers handle incoming calls from existing or potential customers. Customer support teams field these calls, answering questions or resolving issues. As you can imagine, customer service is the top priority with inbound call centers. Your teams want to go above and beyond so that even if a customer is frustrated, they hang up satisfied because they received an answer to the problem. 

Inbound call centers provide several services that encompass the various reasons for customer calls. Common functions they help inbound call center agents with include: 

Product and Technical Support 

Product and tech support are common reasons for incoming calls. These include updating account information and troubleshooting malfunctions. According to Statista, the main reasons for customer calls in 2023 were reporting issues or asking questions about products or services. Inbound call centers should also enable call routing so that when agents can’t answer questions or resolve problems, they can route customers to the right support team.   

Payment Order Processing 

Despite the popularity of online ordering, some customers prefer to order via the phone, especially for larger purchases. Agents complete these orders and process payments. They may also resolve payment or billing issues.  

Inbound Sales

In some cases, customer calls may provide opportunities to make a sale. For instance, subscription-based companies may receive calls from customers who want to upgrade their subscriptions. Agents may help customers with these upgrades or renewals or redirect calls to sales teams who can assist with these processes. 

Help Desk 

Remember — the main purpose of inbound call centers is excellent customer service. Help desk services offer general assistance, whether customers have questions about products, want to submit a complaint, or make a payment. Even when agents can’t meet a customer’s needs, they know the right rep for the job and can route the call accordingly. 

An effective inbound call center emphasizes building a strong customer relationship and operating with empathy. It’s also about personalization, with some inbound contact centers offering options for email and chat beyond calling. This customizes customer interactions, allowing them to connect with the business on their terms. 

What Are the Advantages of Inbound Call Centers? 

Even as customers have multiple methods of communicating with businesses, some research indicates phone calls are the preferred choice. According to a study from HubSpot of over 250 consumers, 69% prefer phone support over other options. Another study from McKinsey underscores the importance of personalization. Its findings indicate that 71% of consumers expect personalization, and over 75% say a lack of personalization would diminish their experience

For these reasons and more, businesses use inbound call centers to boost customer satisfaction. Consider the following advantages this service may have for your organization:  

Delivering a Better Customer Experience

Whereas outbound call centers benefit sales, inbound call centers are all about the customer. Beyond simply responding to customer queries, they help your business strengthen customer relationships. The more customers feel your business is available to meet their needs, the greater loyalty they may have. 

What’s more, by providing an exceptional customer experience, you can stand out from the competition. This can be especially true if your inbound contact center offers omnichannel support with email, SMS messages, and chat functions, which offer the personalization many customers demand. 

Handling Higher Call Volumes 

Inbound call centers provide the flexibility your business needs as it scales. With growth typically comes a higher call volume. Eventually, a single customer service team won’t be able to manage them all. An inbound call center grows as you grow, with trained agents ensuring no callers are neglected.

Increasing Efficiency and Productivity 

With the enhanced capabilities of inbound call centers, your business can achieve greater efficiency with customer calls. Relying on agents to handle these calls also frees up time for staff to focus on other, more productive tasks.

Inbound Call Centers: Use Cases

Every business delivers customer service, whether they serve consumers directly or other businesses are their primary customers. For example, the travel and tourism industry frequently fields calls about reservations and cancellations or questions about destinations. Market research organizations may use inbound call centers for gathering consumer feedback and drafting compelling reports. In the retail space, inbound call centers are valuable for order processing and returns. 

B2B companies frequently offer demos and consultations, and inbound call centers can help field these sales-oriented calls. Insurance and other service providers use call centers for customer support and to manage claims. Government agencies may also leverage inbound call center technology to handle high volumes of citizen calls efficiently.  

Inbound Call Center Metrics 

Any time your business implements a new system, you want key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure its success. These metrics help you understand the impact inbound call center services have had on business communications and reveal areas for improvement. KPIs include: 

Average Handle Time 

Average handle time measures the time it takes an agent or agents to assist a caller. You might track average handle time from the moment a caller connects to when they disconnect or include key post-call activities, such as updating information in the CRM platform. You want a lower average handle time — but be careful. If it’s too low, it might suggest rushing through calls and not truly resolving issues. The goal is to deliver an efficient call experience where callers disconnect and are satisfied with the results.  

Call Arrival Rate 

Call arrival rate analyzes the frequency of inbound calls over set periods. It reveals inbound calling trends, such as certain hours of the day or seasons of the year when calls peak. This helps your business determine how best to schedule staff so there are enough agents to respond to calls. 

Average Call Abandonment

Customers might hang up before communicating with anyone, but these instances can still be valuable. Average call abandonment calculates the frequency of these incidents. The ideal is zero calls. If your average call abandonment is high, it suggests inefficiency in your inbound call center to address. 

First Response Time

How long do callers wait before speaking to an agent? First response time provides insight. Generally, a lower first response time is better. If it’s high, you might have staffing or technology inefficiencies.

First Call Resolution

First call resolution measures the instances where a caller’s issue is resolved in the first call. Customer experience can diminish greatly if they must be transferred two or more times before connecting with an agent who can answer their question or solve their problem. So, the higher the percentage of first call resolution, the better. The opposite is the repeat call rate, which measures how often customers call multiple times before resolution. Both metrics provide similar insights. 

Percentage of Calls Blocked 

A blocked call means the caller received a busy tone upon dialing. This may be because there are not enough agents to field calls or because the current technology can’t accommodate the number of incoming calls. Percentage of calls blocked measures these occurrences. It should be low. If not, you want to examine your existing phone system and staffing levels and adjust. 

Agent Utilization Rate

Gain insight into agent productivity with this metric. It considers the time agents spend with a single task, which begins when they pick up the phone and ends after they wrap up post-call activities.

Unlike some other metrics, the ideal agent utilization rate will depend on your industry or business. Some businesses may require more involved post-call tasks. Compare agent utilization rate with other KPIs. When those metrics reach their target, determine the agent utilization rate at that time. This helps you identify your target for this metric. 

Cost per Call 

Determining cost per call helps ensure your inbound call center is cost-effective. To calculate, divide the total cost of all calls — which includes labor, technology, and general expenses — and divide it by the total number of calls. 

The ideal cost per call will depend on several factors, including your company’s size and the products and services you offer. However, a high cost per call usually suggests your system isn’t cost-effective. Maybe agents aren’t being efficient enough, or the technology is too expensive. Whatever the cause, cost per call helps identify if there’s a problem and encourages the business to cut costs. 

What Are the Main Differences Between Inbound and Outbound Call Centers? 

Outbound call centers are for salespeople to contact potential customers. Outgoing calls may be to prospects who have not yet interacted with the sales team (cold calls), while others happen after a prospect has expressed interest (warm calls). The three main sales calls include: 

  • Lead generation: Cold outreach helps salespeople identify qualified leads. They ask the prospect questions to determine if they might become a customer. 
  • Telemarketing: Arguably the most recognizable outbound call, telemarketing involves cold calling prospects to sell products or services. Salespeople may also use warm calling for telemarketing, such as contacting prospects who have signed up for a newsletter or completed a webpage form fill. 
  • Appointment setting: Outbound call center agents can set up appointments between potential customers and sales reps. 

Besides sales, another reason for outbound calls is market research. Once a prospect becomes a customer, sales teams want to follow up to hear more about their experience with the product or service. Outgoing calls may also be to members of your target audience — customers and prospects — with surveys relevant to sales. This market research helps personalize offerings further to increase leads. 

Which Is Best – Inbound or Outbound Call Centers? 

There is no right or wrong answer. Whether your business opts for an outbound or inbound call center depends on your specific needs. Each also has unique benefits. For example, an inbound call center enables businesses to develop stronger customer relationships. Conversely, outbound calls can tarnish these relationships. Some research finds that over one-third (35%) of consumers won’t buy from sellers who repeatedly cold call them

Yet, outbound call centers can sometimes be less costly. Inbound call center services typically require more experienced agents and might be more expensive. Ultimately, businesses want to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of each solution per their specific needs before choosing a solution. 

One option that combines both functions is a hybrid call center. Beyond enabling inbound and outbound calls, hybrid call centers centralize communications by providing a single phone system for different types of calls. This can aid customer relationship management since different team members can access information to enhance call experiences. It also makes it easier to modify guidelines and ensure consistency since updates apply to one system that all agents use.

How to Choose the Right Inbound Call Center Solution for Your Business 

Evaluate the needs of your business before settling on a call center solution. The traditional approach was having an on-premises call center within a centralized office. This option is more feasible for larger businesses that can accommodate an in-house call center but might be costly for others. 

Call center outsourcing is one alternative; it allows businesses to save money on renting a call center office and can provide more operational flexibility. However, outsourcing presents some challenges. Outsourced agents may not have the same knowledge of your products and services. As many companies outsource call center functions overseas, there may be the added challenge of communication barriers or cultural differences, which may diminish caller experience. 

Another solution delivers the same benefits of outsourcing and more while keeping communications closer to home. Cloud-based call center software offers an advanced communications platform with various features to help organizations manage customer interactions on different channels, including phone. Whereas traditional business phone systems have simple functions like auto attendants and basic reporting, Contact Center as a Service goes beyond, providing features like: 

  • Interactive voice response (IVR) provides an automated menu that directs callers to the right department or agent. It enables more intelligent call routing, call forwarding, and similar functions. 
  • CRM integration increases access to caller information like demographics and purchase history for more efficient call resolution. It can also empower more effective coordination between different departments. 
  • Call recording gives customer service managers records for analyzing agent performance and providing better feedback. 
  • Call monitoring allows managers to observe calls silently to assist with agent training. 
  • Call reporting through artificial intelligence and other tools to deliver real-time and historical reporting for monitoring performance and enhancing decision-making.  
  • Self-service options allow callers to complete certain tasks without needing an agent for convenience. 
  • Automatic caller information gives agents information about the caller before answering to personalize service. 

Unlike a call center solution, contact center software does more than voice. It’s a multichannel management tool for handling customer interactions on the phone, email, texting, social media, and webchat. The terms call center and contact center are often used interchangeably, but businesses want to understand this difference when exploring solutions. Today, it’s rare for a company to only interact with customers using one communication channel. Choose a contact center solution to improve business communications across various channels.  

Contact Center Solution from Intermedia 

Streamlined communications are critical to providing a great customer experience. One of the most effective ways to achieve better business communications is with an inbound call center. Your company can take it further with a contact center, which accounts for the multiple channels you use for customer interactions. 

For an affordable and reliable contact center solution that enables better customer engagement from wherever, turn to Intermedia. Our Contact Center as a Service software helps to maximize the customer experience through smart routing, streamlined call queues, and multichannel options. It also empowers better outbound calling with outreach capabilities. 

Businesses also benefit from customizable reports, real-time insights, and AI-powered analytics to improve inbound call services. Designed for hybrid and remote work, companies can deliver a great customer experience even with dispersed teams.  

Contact Center integrates with many productivity tools and will work with your existing unified communications system. However, you may find using Contact Center with Intermedia’s unified communications solution — Unite — offers more benefits. When you integrate Unite with Contact Center, you increase the functionality of Contact Center, increasing flexibility, collaboration, and visibility over communications processes.  

Contact us to learn more about our contact center solutions or request a quote today. 

Rob Oscanyan

Rob is Director for Product Marketing for Contact Center as a Service here at Intermedia.

July 9, 2024

Explore other posts on these topics: