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October 26, 2020

The Difference Between Inbound and Outbound Customer Service

What does a transformational inbound customer service strategy look like and how does it differ from an outbound strategy? 

When a customer calls into your contact center they have a task they want to see accomplished. Ideally, that task is completed in the shortest amount of time and to the fullest degree possible. 

Quality inbound customer service limits the amount of time your customer spends on phone calls and puts customer satisfaction at the center of everything.  

Today, a well-conceived inbound customer service strategy is more important than ever. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, inbound call volumes have increased by about 16%. There is a big demand to deliver experiences that are transformational, especially as so many customers find themselves in challenging situations. 

With this increase in inbound call volume comes some significant hurdles to maintaining customer satisfaction:

  • Staffing issues
  • Wait times
  • Efficiency of service

How do you maintain a competitive edge 

Types of call centers: Inbound & Outbound

An inbound call center receives incoming calls from customers. Customers then interact with customer service representative groups depending on their type of inquiry. Customer service representatives generally monitor inbound service channels like live chat and social media for customer troubles or questions. An outbound call center, on the other hand, makes outgoing calls to consumers.

Inbound vs. outbound: What’s the difference?

There are two types of call centers: inbound and outbound. While they may vary in the metrics they track and the mediums they use to provide exceptional service, inbound call centers, and outbound call centers both hinge on the use of call center software that meets customer expectations and enables customer success. 

Inbound and outbound call centers differ in the types of calls they get from customers, but inbound and outbound calling can be done on the same contact center platform when contact center solutions are unified. 

Inbound call centers use customer service representatives to monitor live chat and field calls from customers, among other things. Outbound call centers are often closely tied to sales teams and marketing departments and use outbound outreach via email, phone class, and even text messages from sales representatives to spur incoming calls from customers.   

Top features of inbound contact center platforms

IVR (Interactive Voice Response)

By integrating an advanced IVR with AI capabilities and digital messaging into your contact center, inbound customer service can be improved dramatically. IVR has been around for ages. It has been a useful tool in routing customers and gathering information prior to human-agent interaction. But the IVRs of the past are clunky. Customers were forced to sit through menu options that didn’t apply to them, were put on hold without knowing the wait time (which, studies show, makes the wait time feel even longer), and were often misheard by the IVR software. Today’s IVR can do so much more. It is more intuitive, easier to interact with, and “smart.” Advanced IVR features tools such as virtual hold queue, front-end qualification, and even payment capability. 

3 benefits to using an Advanced IVR in your call center

Insight

Advanced IVR ideally integrates customer data from a CRM. By answering a few identification verifying questions, IVR can access a breadth of information about the customers. Using this information IVR can help get customers farther along the customer service path before they even speak to an agent. Furthermore, it enables intelligent routing in the call center. This saves time and frustration on both the customer’s and agent’s parts.  

Ease of use

Quality customer service means getting it right the first time. Using front-end qualification questions IVR establishes the nature of the customer’s call. IVR is then able to assign customers to agents with correct and relevant knowledge to their inquiries. Calls routed using IVR help customers spend less time on hold (good!) and have their inquiries resolved accurately, the first time (also, good!). IVR simplifies the customer experience. 

Versatility

Customers can use IVR to fill out forms, find answers to FAQs, or even schedule a service request. Many of the tools IVR provides reduces routine call volumes. IVR can usually handle 80% of inbound volume on its own. This reduction allows agents to jump in when their knowledge is really needed. They can put their expertise to use rather than answer questions about business hours or bill due dates. 

A word on wait times

Wait times are the worst. Whether you’re waiting in line at the grocery or on hold listening to muzak, waiting has the feeling of purgatory. Luckily, advanced IVR has tools like in-queue self-service, queue position information, and estimated wait time. Passive wait times can even be eliminated with the use of call-back and digital messaging in the call center.  

Digital Messaging

IVR has come a long way and is more useful at managing inbound call volume than ever before. But, there are some areas that can be improved. Digital messaging picks up where IVR leaves off— and can even be used to supplement or augment your IVR

Sometimes existing customers need to change contact information. IVR isn’t always great at comprehending words spoken by customers. To get accurate information such as addresses, call centers can utilize messaging. 

Digital messaging can also be used to confirm appointments, send reminders, or as an IVR supplement while customers are waiting. Instead of tethering your customer to a phone call, digital messaging can provide on-the-go assistance when appropriate. 

Messaging can also help in handling inbound call volumes. Messaging shifts the customer service environment from 1:1 to many: one. An agent can service multiple customers at once, saving precious time. 

But, it’s not only about all the ways advanced IVR and digital messaging help create an effective call center. Customers tell us they want it. According to a customer survey commissioned by Nuance Enterprises, 67% of participants preferred using self-service over interacting with another human. A LiveVox survey reported that 64% of customers want two-way messaging in their customer service experience. 

The bottom line is customers want to be served efficiently and effectively. Inbound calls are better served and sorted using advanced IVR and digital messaging. Both IVR and digital messaging take a customer-focused approach and the results are marvelous. 

Top features of outbound call centers

CRM

CRM integration allows outbound call center representatives and sales teams to consolidate customer information and speedily offer answers or target the right messaging by customer group. In an outbound call center, CRM integration empowers agents with vital information on every occasion and across every outreach channel. CRM integrations are similarly useful for inbound contact centers, but in outbound speed to lead scenarios it’s particularly important to have customer information tied together in one place for campaign automation.

CRM integration can also automate call routing and other responsibilities for live human agents in an outbound call center. 

Every incoming call received by means of an outbound campaign is tracked in the CRM and that return call data can be collected and reported on to show conversion rates. An outbound representative can effortlessly view a contact’s profile as well as any preceding touches or interactions, including past histories, open tickets, or past purchases in a single interface. As a result, agents and managers get a 360-degree view of every campaign initiative, customer interaction, and conversion that occurs.

Call recording & monitoring

For greater efficiency in outbound call centers, managers use call recording and monitoring software to report on or reveal learnings and best practices from incoming and outgoing calls.

With call recording and monitoring, supervisors listen to calls and propose adjustments and improvements to agents. Supervisors can also “barge in” to calls to assist service representatives in resolving customer queries and troubles in real-time.

Managers can also replay call recordings to identify pain points and train their agents on the appropriate resolutions. Monitoring and recording functions are ideal for both outbound and inbound call center operations. These tools are crucial for optimizing agent performance and the overall quality of each call-center customer interaction.

What’s right for you? 

The above features outlined for both inbound and outbound call centers can drastically improve customer satisfaction and engagement rates. The important thing to remember is that choosing which one is right for you doesn’t have to be an either/or decision. Adopting conversational IVR, expanding omnichannel, or integrating CRM into your call center solution should be driven by what makes the most sense for the goal you’re trying to achieve, not by whether you do inbound or outbound service primarily. 
Learn about our Unified CRM.

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About LiveVox

LiveVox (Nasdaq: LVOX) is a next-generation contact center platform that powers more than 14 billion interactions a year. By seamlessly integrating omnichannel communications, CRM, AI, and WFO capabilities, the Company’s technology delivers an exceptional agent and customer experience while reducing compliance risk. With 20 years of cloud experience and expertise, LiveVox’s CCaaS 2.0 platform is at the forefront of cloud contact center innovation. The Company has more than 500 global employees and is headquartered in San Francisco, with offices in Atlanta; Columbus; Denver; New York City; St. Louis; Medellin, Colombia; and Bangalore, India. To stay up to date with everything LiveVox, follow us at @LiveVox or visit livevox.com.

To stay up to date with everything LiveVox, follow us at @LiveVox, visit www.livevox.com or call one of our specialists at (844) 207-6663.

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