What Are Inbound Call Centres? (With Definition and Tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 14 April 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Making sure customers can contact you easily if they have questions or want help with your products or services is an important part of running a successful business. Organisations often benefit from inbound call centres, particularly large companies. Learning about inbound call centres allows you to determine if establishing one can help you improve your operations. In this article, we answer 'what are inbound call centres?', discuss what an inbound call centre representative does, explore the differences between inbound and outbound call centres and share the benefits of inbound call centres and ways to improve your services.

Related: Examples of Call Centre Interview Questions (With Answers)

What are inbound call centres?

Learning the answer to 'what are inbound call centres?' is important in determining whether they can help your business operations. Inbound call centres contain teams of customer service representatives who answer incoming calls and messages from customers. Businesses with inbound call centres often accept enquiries from customers over the telephone, by email or through live chat messages.

Inbound call centres typically focus on customer service issues rather than sales. Customers typically contact an inbound call centre for questions about a company's product or service. For example, a customer who purchased a computer may call for help troubleshooting an issue, such as internet connectivity. Alternatively, the caller might ask for suggestions on accessories like printers and speakers.

What does an inbound call centre representative do?

An inbound call centre representative manages incoming phone calls and messages from customers requesting help with products or services. They help them resolve their problems by asking questions to determine the cause of the issue, guiding the customer through troubleshooting processes and referring customers to management as needed for complex issues. Other primary duties of an inbound call centre representative may include:

  • de-escalating situations by remaining patient and calm with customers

  • ensuring customer satisfaction before ending conversations to encourage repeat business

  • informing customers about new products or services they may have an interest in purchasing

  • keeping customer data confidential and organised in customer relationship management (CRM) systems

  • handling billing concerns and processing payments for products or services

  • collaborating with other departments to provide customers with accurate information

  • training new employees on software programmes, company policies and service procedures

Inbound call centre representatives may work at a company's headquarters, retail location or a separate call centre facility. Many companies are transitioning customer service representatives to remote positions, so they often work from home and communicate with customers and their teams online.

Related: Skills Required for Good Customer Service

Inbound call centres vs. outbound call centres

Inbound and outbound call centres both involve handling sales operations and assisting customers. In some companies, customer service representatives may do both, particularly if the company is smaller or has a low number of calls each day. Other companies keep separate teams for inbound and outbound calls. Even with their similarities, there are some key differences between outbound service and inbound call centres.

Inbound call centre

Inbound call centres are departments in which company representatives respond to calls and messages the customer initiates. A representative then answers their question or resolves an issue the customer has with their current purchase. They may also suggest new products or upgrades, if appropriate. The focus for inbound service is on assisting the customer, rather than trying to sell a product or service. Some inbound call centre services may not involve sales at all, depending on why the customer contacts the company.

Some examples of inbound call centre services include:

  • helping a customer choose which television service could be best for them

  • telling a customer how to pay their bill online

  • assisting a customer who received a defective product

  • processing refunds or exchanges for customers who received the wrong item

  • answering questions about how to install or upgrade a piece of software

  • recommending a new couch for a customer's living room after they call in to ask for advice

Related: What Does a Customer Service Representative Do? (With Skills)

Outbound call centre

An outbound call centre is a department in which the representatives of the company contact the customer. The customer service representative may call a customer to inform them of a sale, tell them about a new product that may interest them or ask if they're interested in upgrading their current services. In most cases, the focus of outbound service is sales, but companies may use outbound services to improve customer relations as well. For example, some companies use outbound call centres to ask their customers for feedback about a recent purchase or service the company provided.

Some examples of outbound call centre services include:

  • calling a customer to ask if they're interested in hiring a personal shopper for their next trip to the company's store

  • emailing a customer with information about a promotion offering a discounted upgrade to their current software

  • informing a customer about the company's new product line through a phone call

  • contacting a potential customer to inform them about a new business and its products or services

  • calling a customer and suggesting a case or screen protector for the tablet they purchased

  • asking a customer by email if they had questions about their new smart TV

Benefits of inbound call centres

Inbound call centres can have advantages for companies, employees and customers by helping ensure customer satisfaction, streamlining processes for employees and making business operations more efficient. Here are some primary benefits of inbound call centres and how they can help a company grow and thrive:

Improve your customer service experience

It's important to offer customer service options that fit the size and nature of your client base. Small businesses may not require an inbound call centre to serve their customers efficiently, but large companies and their customers typically benefit from a dedicated customer service team. Having an inbound call centre makes it easier for customers to contact a company, which can improve customer retention. It's also important to consider the customer service platforms that may be most helpful for your customers. For example, a software company may prioritise live chat services.

Manage a high volume of incoming calls and messages

Having an inbound call centre can make it easier for your customers to reach a customer service representative and can also help customer service teams manage calls effectively. If customers don't receive a timely response from customer service teams, their experience may negatively affect their perception of the company, which often leads customers to find products or services from other companies. Similarly, employees may find it difficult to manage too many calls, emails or messages at once, which can cause burnout and affect employee retention. Maintaining an inbound call centre can make customer services processes easier for customers and employees.

Increase the efficiency of business operations

Customer service is a significant element of overall business operations. If a company finds it challenging to get and maintain customers, they likely also have issues selling their products and services. As having an inbound call centre simplifies work processes for representatives, it also helps them work more efficiently. This can streamline business operations by helping the company maintain customer relationships and improve job satisfaction among employees.

Related: 12 Good Customer Service Examples

Tips for providing service at inbound call centres

Inbound call centres can improve customer relations and help a company sell new products to existing customers. Positive interactions with an inbound customer service representative can improve the company's reputation as well, particularly if the customer tells others about their experience. If you want to improve your inbound call centre services, here are a few tips.

  • Recognise or reward inbound service employees who provide an excellent experience to customers.

  • Provide multiple ways for customers to contact you, such as live chat, phone, email or text support.

  • Focus on customers when you train your support agents and encourage them to focus on customers when they provide service.

  • Minimise the time a customer waits to speak with someone by offering a call-back service or hiring enough staff members to manage the expected number of calls during the company's busiest times.

  • Encourage your support agents to give managers feedback on ways to improve the company's inbound service to customers.

  • Give inbound service agents the resources and support they need to provide exceptional service, such as easy access to managers who can help them, a database with helpful information like product details, answers to common questions and tips on how to manage challenging situations.

  • Communicate your expectations clearly so every inbound agent knows what you want them to focus on when they speak with customers.

Explore more articles