What is a call center?
A call center is a centralized department that handles inbound and outbound calls from current and potential customers. Call centers are located either within an organization or outsourced to another company that specializes in handling calls.
What is the difference between a call center and a contact center?
Call centers focus on one communication channel: the telephone.Contact centers provide support from additional channels, such as email, chat, websites and applications. A contact center may include one or more call centers.
Types of Call Centers
1. Virtual Call Centers
Virtual call centers have been adopted by businesses across the world.
These call centers use software that distributes calls to agents who are working in remote locations. Instead of all of the agents being positioned in one central office, virtual call centers employ reps from all over which creates a more diverse customer service team.
The benefit of working in a remote phone service role is that you can work from the comfort of your home. The company will send you all the tools you’ll need to do your job effectively including a headset, a microphone, and even a computer. After that, you can take the company’s online courses and training to prepare yourself for future customer interactions.
Companies benefit from this setup as it makes it easier for them to provide customer service across multiple time zones. Since the customer service team is working from various locations, businesses with remote call centers can provide coverage during off-hours without having to put employees on different shifts. This makes employee scheduling significantly easier for companies that provide 24/7 customer support.
2. Inbound Call Centers
When customers call into a business for assistance, there’s an inbound customer service representative on the other side of the line waiting to assist them. In this type of role, a rep is skilled in technical support, communication, and problem-solving. Having expertise in each of these areas makes for a better customer experience.
In this type of call center, reps must be prepared for anything. Calls that come in could be unfiltered — meaning angry, emotional, or extremely confused customers could dial into your line. The best inbound call reps are patient and assume good intent from every customer.
For more insight into the inbound call center experience, take a look at this video from self-storage company CubeSmart. This showcases a day in the life of their inbound agents.
3. Outbound Call Centers
Outbound call centers are responsible for solving customer issues after they’ve made a purchase from your business.
You might be wondering, “What’s the benefit in calling a customer to see if they have issues with your products or services? Isn’t that opening a can of worms?” And the truth is, it’s building a stronger customer relationship.
All sorts of things can happen after a customer makes a purchase. They may experience buyers’ remorse which could lead to returns. They might have a simple question about a feature that they haven’t made time to ask about yet. Or, they may have simply called your inbound customer service line and waited on hold too long and never called back.
Outbound call centers are oftentimes more pleasant than the inbound call centers, and it’s easy to imagine why. If a friend gave you a call just to check in, say hello, and offer assistance, how would you feel? Warm and fuzzy on the inside, I’d bet.
The same thing happens with customers when service reps offer proactive assistance. The simple gesture of offering support can build positive customer relationships and turn them into loyal brand advocates.
The next time the customer does need assistance, they’ll look forward to calling your outbound line.
4. Automated Call Centers
Some call centers are automated which means the company uses computer-based systems to handle some or all of the call center responsibilities.
Automated call center responsibilities may include scheduling customer appointments or sending shipping updates via email or text. Many automated systems also incorporate interactive voice technology for common inquiries like finding a business location or confirming hours of operation.
Companies with this call center capability typically require fewer customer service reps — and tend to save time and resources — since there’s already a process in place to address a portion of routine customer needs.
On the topic of automation, artificial intelligence (or AI) is also revolutionizing how call centers operate.
In this episode of the MarTech Podcast, hosted by HubSpot’s Podcast Network, Vocodia’s Brian Podolak discusses how AI and emerging technologies are changing the way call centers do business. Check it out below.
5. Omni-Channel Call Centers
Omni-channel call centers are gaining popularity as businesses look to offer additional customer support options to supplement phone communications.
In most cases, the tried-and-true process of fielding customer inquiries over the phone is still the primary source of contact. And, it’s the best way for customers to reach your support team if all else fails.
But additional channels like text, email, social media, and live chat on a website or in an app work together to support an omni-channel call center strategy.