What is an inbound call center?

In this article, we’ll look at the definition of an inbound call center, learn how they are set up, and compare inbound vs outbound call centers.

It’s ‘No-meeting Thursday’ in your office. You finally have the time to sit down and set up that automation software you signed up for. You realize two things — it’s the last day of your free trial and you need help, ASAP. Emphatically deciding to not procrastinate anymore, you ring up their Support. An agent tries to understand your issue and gleans the information that you are a trial user. They ask you to wait for a minute in order to check if anyone from the trial onboarding team is available to assist you. Then, they transfer your call to the right department and they help you set up your software. This is an example of an inbound call center in the B2B space.

You’re back home. Suddenly, you get a notification from your mobile banking app informing that your standing instruction has been carried out, and a reasonably worrying amount of money has been debited from your bank account. But you do not remember setting up any such instruction. You panic and call up customer service. First, you encounter an IVR. You wait, impatiently, until the IVR menu tells you which key to press to get in touch with a human. You press that key, a customer service rep answers and immediately solves the problem, and the money is back in your account. This is an example of an inbound call center in the B2C space.

So, what is an inbound call center?

As you can see from the examples above, an inbound call center can exist for different purposes. A call center that predominantly handles inbound calls, like a helpdesk, and is equipped with the technology to receive, segment and route incoming calls to the right team or department is called an inbound call center.

An inbound call center can be set up in-house or outsourced to a call center service provider. It can be an on-premise call center where all the call center agents sit in the same location and work, or it can be a virtual call center where agents work remotely from different geographies.

Inbound call centers are present across many industries and are typically used for customer support or service, inquiries, inbound sales, office receptions, and any business function that attracts inbound calling. They are crucial in travel and hospitality, healthcare, retail and eCommerce, and the software space where emails and chats are likely to make resolutions long-drawn.

How are inbound call centers set up?

How an inbound call center is set up depends on whether it is on-premise or virtual. An on-premise inbound call center can be set up using a traditional PBX/premise-based phone system or a modern cloud-based call center software. Traditional PBX requires capital investment, time and resources to set up telephony infrastructure, hard phones, and cables (lot of it). Cloud-based call center software, on the other hand, only requires an internet connection, laptops, and an office space — because the call center is still on-premise. You can set up a virtual call center with a software-based solution because your call center is location-agnostic and agents can work from anywhere. Office space is optional too.

Inbound call center software would typically have the following features:

  1. Local phone numbers or toll-free numbers to make it easier and cheaper for callers to reach them
  2. IVR system to segment inbound calls
  3. Call queues to ensure that calls ring to the right department
  4. Wait queues to increase the probability of callers talking to a call center agent
  5. Voicemail capability as a fallback mechanism in case there’s no one to attend calls
  6. Smart call escalations to reduce missed calls
  7. Call center dashboard for supervisors to get a live overview of all inbound calls and agents

It’s interesting to note that modern inbound call centers also give options like queue callback and callbacks thus supporting or providing outbound calling as well. All these features ensure that inbound calls are segmented, routed and answered.

Inbound vs outbound call centers – what is the difference?

Not all call centers are heavy on inbound calling. You may have received marketing or cold calls asking if you’re looking for a personal loan or a credit card. These come from outbound call centers. Outbound call centers are not only different from inbound call centers based on the direction of phone calls involved. Their use cases are also different. Outbound call centers are typically used to power outbound sales, running surveys, asking for donations, canvassing during elections, and so on.

Outbound call centers can be set up using a PBX or a call center software with the following capabilities:

  1. Dialers to automate dialing and then connect it to available agents
  2. International numbers to access global audiences at affordable rates
  3. Call masking to make phone numbers more personal or local
  4. Voicemail drop to automate leaving voicemail messages for prospects or leads

These features also help in improving conversion rates i.e. enticing more people to answer phone calls.

Outbound call centers were traditionally seen as profit centers while inbound call centers were considered cost centers. This was because outbound call centers played a more evident role in increasing revenue through customer acquisition. However, this trend has changed as businesses are increasingly understanding the importance of customer retention over customer acquisition. Acquiring a new customer is more expensive than retaining an existing one. Inbound call centers also contribute to stabilizing revenue by reducing churn through proactive customer support, and growing revenue by exploring avenues of cross-sell and up-sell. So, not only are the capabilities of inbound call centers evolving, their objectives are also changing with the times.

Would you like us to explain anything else in the call center domain? Let us know in the comments. We’re listening.

Illustrations by Nikhil Kanda


About Freshcaller

Freshcaller is a plug-n-play call center software that helps businesses set up virtual call centers with the power of cloud telephony. Users can purchase local and international toll-free numbers, get real-time visibility into call queues and ongoing conversations, route calls to specific agent groups, set up custom business hours for each department, and more.

If you want to find out more about what we do, check out www.freshcaller.com.

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