If you hear people talking about a call center, they will often ask whether it’s “inbound” or “outbound”. The difference between inbound and outbound simply refers to who is placing the call. If a customer places a call that’s inbound, as the call is “coming into” the call center. If an agent places a call that’s outbound, as the call is “going out” of the call center.
In reality, most call centers are a mixture of the two types. This is called a “blended” call center. Almost all call centers can be considered blended though, so they usually identify with which direction, inbound or outbound, most of their calls go. The inbound and outbound designations also tend to align with certain types of businesses. For example, outbound call centers are typically heavily involved with telemarketing or collections operations. You know, the kind of calls we all try to avoid.
An outbound call center can be a valuable asset to the business, but I want to focus on inbound call centers in this post. A big challenge for inbound operations is that the business has very little control over when a customer decides to make a call. This lack of control makes it hard for a business to know how many agents they need to have working at any one time so customers don’t get frustrated by long wait times. There are some general trends that can help here though.
For example, not a lot of people call in the middle of the night. Call spikes, which are times when there are a lot of calls, then to occur in the early morning, lunch, and early evening times. Which makes sense as this is when most people have a little free time. There are also other causes for call spikes. A power outage for an electric company, severe weather for an insurance company, Valentine’s Day for an online flower seller, or a fare sale for an airline.
Fortunately, historical call volumes are a good predictor of future call volumes. A common call center application, workforce management or WFM, does just this. It uses historical call patterns to predict future ones. Even better, it can automatically schedule agents based on those forecasts to make sure enough agents are working throughout the day to avoid excessive wait times.
WFM used to be something that only larger call centers had access to, but cloud-based WFM solutions have made the technology affordable for small and medium sized operations. Cloud contact center solutions also offer the ability to automatically adjust for volume changes and only pay for what is used. These kinds of operations save a lot of money, as an flower retailer doesn’t have to pay for the peak capacity they need in February when business is slower in August.
A successful inbound call center has become a cornerstone of turning customer service into a competitive advantage by delivering a truly differentiating customer experience. Cloud call center software makes that possibility available to all sizes of contact center operations.