When people subscribe to Connections Magazine, they are asked if they are an in-house or an outsource call center. I am surprised at how frequently this question is fumbled. In view of all this — and at substantial risk of offending knowledgeable call center veterans — I offer the following call center basics:
Inbound Call Centers answer calls. Their agents are in a reactive mode, waiting for the phone to ring or the next call in queue. Inbound call centers are equipped with ACDs (Automatic Call Distributors) to efficiently send calls to the “next available agent.” Many inbound operations are staffed 24 x 7, with their agents scheduled to work in anticipation of projected call volume based on historical data and marketing initiatives.
Outbound Call Centers make calls to customers and sales prospects. Their job is proactive. Even if agents’ work is not “sales” per se, they still need a sales mentality. They must engage the called party, lead them towards an objective, and deal with rejection — some of which may be personally directed. Outbound call centers rely on predictive dialers to place calls. Agents are scheduled as needed to complete a requisite number of calls within a certain window of time, as limited by law.
In-house Call Centers are an internal department or division of a company; they provide services exclusively for their own company. The chief advantage of an in-house call center is that greater control and oversight can be given to the call center, its agents, and their activities. An in-house call center can be a cost-center or a profit-center. Cost-centers do not generate enough revenue to cover their expenses and need to be subsidized by the company, whereas profit-centers generate enough business to cover their expenses.
Outsourcing Call Centers do work for other companies. Their business is making and receiving calls. They often enjoy an economy-of-scale that is not feasible for an in-house operation. As such, their margins allow clients to save money, while they make money. Agents at an outsource call center work for their clients, but work with their client’ customers or prospects. Outsource call centers are increasing in number and importance as more companies look to outsourcing as a way to increase service levels and options, return to their core competencies, save money, or all three.
Offshore Call Centers are simply any call center that is located in a different country, or “offshore.” Offshoring is often erroneously considered synonymous with outsourcing. A recent trend has been moving call center activity to other countries that offer stable technological infrastructures and boast qualified workers who possess lower wage expectations.
Whatever type of call center work you do, do it well — that is the essential lesson of Call Center 101.
(For more call center basics, go to StartACall.com)