Call centers can handle all the support services for your business without you having to break a sweat.
But there are two main types of call centers businesses can use: outbound and inbound. Outbound call centers make outgoing calls to customers while inbound call centers handle incoming calls.
In this article, we’ll cover what an outbound call center is, how it differs from inbound call centers and its key aspects. We’ll also highlight five crucial tips for successful outbound call center management.
This article contains:
(Use the links to jump to a specific section)
- What is an Outbound Call Center?
- Outbound Call Center vs. Inbound Call Center
- 3 Key Aspects of an Outbound Call Center
- 3 Major Types of Technology Used in Outbound Call Centers
- 5 Crucial Tips for Running an Outbound Call Center
Let’s get started.
What is an outbound call center?
The primary function of an outbound call center is to reach out to customers to increase your sales by targeting both existing and potential customers.
Three key components essentially mark an outbound call center:
- Operations: Mainly sales (and all its functions) and customer and client service.
- End-users: Prospects and your existing customers.
- Agents: On-site, remote, or outsourced call center agents.
For new customers, outbound centers use services like telesales and telemarketing campaigns. On the other hand, they focus on customer support services for existing customers — to make them a recurring client or customer of your company.
It’s also important to note that a call center is different from a contact center.
Contact centers use multiple communication channels (social media, emails, chatbots, etc.), while call centers use phone calls to interact with customers.
Let’s now take a close look at how outbound call centers differ from inbound call centers.
Outbound call center vs. inbound call center
Is the outbound call center the right option for your business?
One way to find out is by comparing it with an inbound call center.
Here are five essential differences between outbound and inbound call centers:
1. Differences in purpose
For both inbound and outbound, the primary goal is to manage customer interactions. You can do this through incoming calls or outgoing calls to customers and prospects.
The difference lies in who initiates contact.
Inbound callers usually call with a request in the form of tickets. Through the company’s database, the agent can get information on the caller and help them out with their concerns.
On the other hand, agents call the customers in an outbound call center. They usually do this to let them know of new offerings, discounts, etc. For example, a promotional call from a banking company is most likely from an outbound call center facility.
2. Differences in challenges
Both call center models face quite different challenges:
- Inbound: increase customer satisfaction by resolving the queries of the customers.
- Outbound: increase the conversion rate — it’s the percentage of prospects who convert into customers.
Additionally, outbound calling involves reaching out to prospective customers without any prior appointment or interaction. As a result, prospects might not be in a position to listen to the agent or are simply not interested.
However, in inbound calling, the onus is on the customer to make the call. Lack of interest or time is usually not the primary concern for inbound call centers.
3. Differences in approach
In the inbound center, the agent mostly has to help the customer through their queries. It also involves searching through the database to get more information on the customer.
As inbound calls tend to be problem-oriented, three skills are essential to handle them:
- Problem-solving skills: to solve customer’s problems effectively.
- Listening skills: to capture the depth of the problem.
- Technical knowledge: of the product or service to help out the customer.
On the flip side, an outbound call center agent should have good communication skills, especially in terms of persuasion. People who have a knack for sales or worked as sales agents are a proper fit for this job.
4. Differences in calls handled
Here’s a quick look into how inbound and outbound call centers differ based on the nature of the calls handled:
An inbound call center manages:
- Customer service: Resolving customer’s questions and queries.
- Technical support: After-sales support for a product.
- Inbound sales: Attend to sales calls from customers.
However, an outbound call center deals with:
- Cold calling: Outbound prospecting about the product or service.
- Warm calling: Calling a person who’s interacted with the company before.
- Customer research: Conducting customer surveys to gather more information.
- Notifications: Informing customers about new offerings, discounts, or sales.
3 key aspects of an outbound call center
Let’s check out three key aspects of outbound call centers:
1. Customer acquisition
Compared to social media marketing, outbound telemarketing offers a direct one-to-one personal connection.
Moreover, it’s also a cost-effective approach.
Instead of spending a significant amount of money on billboard ads or other broadcast media, you can micro-target the audience to acquire new customers.
And traditionally, reaching out to new customers meant door-to-door marketing. But it suffers from two significant problems:
- Prospective customers could be concentrated in just a few locations or scattered across a vast region, making it harder to spot them.
- Agents must spend time physically commuting to these places.
Here’s how outbound calling helps you resolve both these issues:
- By just having to call from the comfort of your office, you can save energy and increase productivity.
- You can reach people in different geographic locations, giving you more potential prospects to connect with.
2. Customer retention and loyalty
Getting new customers via promotional or cold calls is great, but retaining them can be a challenge.
Outbound calling can help you here.
Your outbound call center agents can call clients and inform them of new products and services, special offers, and any benefits you may have for loyal customers. Your call center agents can also conduct customer experience surveys to gauge customer satisfaction, receive client feedback, etc.
3. Call center metrics
A key component to any business process is how you can track its progress to determine whether you’re on the right track or not.
Outbound call centers give you that capability.
You can track metrics like average duration, cost per call, and success rate to understand what’s working and what’s not in your outreach strategy. Based on these insights, you can improve your future outreach efforts.
Looking for more call center metrics?
Read our article on 10+ essential call center metrics to track in 2021.
3 major types of technology used in outbound call center
Call center software helps outbound call centers automate processes, keep track of progress through various metrics, and increase productivity.
Here are some common software used in outbound call centers:
1. Dialer software
Manual dialing is a thing of the past. You now have automated dialing that helps speed up your outreach efforts.
Usually, an outbound call center uses four types of dialers:
A) Predictive dialer
A predictive dialer uses algorithms to determine when the agent will be able to handle the next call. Based on this, a certain number of phone numbers are dialed in advance.
The specialized algorithms work with the call center data to determine the number of calls the agents can handle.
B) Progressive dialer
A progressive dialer connects the agent to the next call as soon as they’re done with the previous one.
Unlike a predictive dialer, which can cause slow responses on the agent’s side, a progressive dialer works at the agent’s pace. Through this automated dialing, you make sure that agents address the customers instantly.
C) Power dialer
A power dialer helps increase productivity levels by instantly dialing the next number after the call ends.
If the contact didn’t attend the call, it immediately moves to the next one. This way, agents won’t have to spend extra time browsing through the contact list.
D) Preview dialer
A preview dialer gives agents a brief idea about the next customer and lets them choose whether they want to dial the customer or skip to the next.
This way, the agents make sure that the customer gets accurate solutions to the problems.
2. Call recording software
Using call recording software is a key component to monitor agents.
Along with working as a quality management tool, it also helps with compliance-related issues.
For instance, companies have to strictly adhere to laws and regulations such as TCPA (Telephone Consumer Protection Act) and Do Not Call registries. If they fail to comply, companies have to face hefty fines.
By recording calls, you have additional proof to safeguard you and your company.
3. Analytics software
A wide variety of companies focus on making their business operations data-driven. It helps them quantify and track goals better.
The same goes for outbound call centers as well.
Analytics software helps you a lot with managing outbound call centers effectively. It helps you:
- Track your agent’s performance on parameters such as call duration.
- Record conversations on outgoing calls to evaluate the agent’s conversational skills.
- Create improvement plans and performance-based incentives.
Moreover, the software also generates reports that give you a complete view of the day-to-day business activities.
5 crucial tips for running an outbound call center
Most challenges with running an outbound call center revolve around managing the time and productivity of call center agents and meeting revenue goals.
Here are five tips to help you meet these challenges head-on:
1. Campaign planning
The cornerstone of an outbound call center are campaigns — projects aimed at selling a product or service.
Implementing project management principles to your campaigns can give them structure.
Some of these include:
- Setting KPI (Key Performance Indicators) like calls per user and connect rate to track your progress.
- Creating a timeline and including milestones.
- Conducting thorough capacity planning to determine how many calls are to be handled by each agent.
2. Prepare a calling list
The calling list contains the phone numbers of every potential customer.
Call center companies can either buy these lists from a third-party vendor or compile them with their user database.
If buying from a third party, it’s better to sample the list to judge the quality. However, it isn’t recommended to purchase a contact list as it could contain people who aren’t interested in your offerings.
Additionally, your agents should dynamically update the list so that each new agent can tell which are fresh prospects and have been approached before. If you want to save time, CRM software helps you to automate that as well.
3. Look out for the pause
Usually, prospects can quickly determine outbound calls by the 3-second pause at the start.
This pause often happens because of the dialing machines that judge whether it’s a human or an answering machine. Only then do they transfer the call to an agent. This can typically take up a few seconds.
But this delay can lead to significant call drops.
A good predictive dialer can help you avoid this. It makes sure that calls are assigned to agents as soon as they are available.
4. Motivate agents to perform well
Underperforming agents won’t help you realize your business goals.
Outbound calls require specialized skills in persuasion and sales — it can be relatively more intensive than inbound calling.
As a result, it’s important to give timely perks and incentives for better agent performance. It motivates the agents to work harder and drive more prospects into clients. Motivation goes a long way in increasing agent productivity.
5. Use productivity and time management tools
You can judge agent performance from their output. However, this is easier said than done — especially on a scale.
Moreover, monitoring agent’s work manually is prone to error. A data-driven approach gives more insight into how an agent is performing.
Fortunately, tools like Time Doctor can help you out here.
Time Doctor is a powerful productivity management tool that helps you manage employee productivity. It’s used by several industry giants as well as by SMEs. Thanks to its scalability, it can adapt to your business needs perfectly.
Time Doctor provides you with several advanced features like:
- Time tracking: Track and analyze how much time your agents have worked for per task.
- Distraction alerts: Help your agents stay focused on tasks by alerting them in case of inactivity.
- Activity and screenshot monitoring: See whether your agents are working or not by taking timely screenshots of their computer activity.
- Third-party integrations: Use the powerful Chrome extension to monitor productivity across other apps such as Trello or Asana.
Outbound call centers are a critical part of the sales, marketing, and support processes for many companies. You reach out to prospects and customers via phone calls to perform market research, generate leads, and more.
However, you should have a great outbound strategy in place to ensure smooth call center operations.
For instance, using tools like call recorders and auto-dialers is essential to streamline processes and improve agent productivity. It’s also vital to plan your campaigns in advance and regularly analyze what you can improve to boost customer satisfaction.
Andy is a technology & marketing leader who has delivered award-winning and world-first experiences.