What Is a Call Center?

Call centers are a big part of the business world. These are centralized departments within companies, or sometimes third-party call center services, that handle a variety of inbound and outbound calls to and from clients, potential customers, and others. If a call center isn’t located within a company, it’s usually operated via cloud software, making it easy for third-party providers to keep you in the loop and for you to track the important metrics along the way. 

There is a lot of variety when it comes to the call center, and today they can be just about as customized as any business desires. In this guide, we’ll discuss the difference between call centers and contact centers, inbound vs. outbound services, and the benefits of choosing to outsource your call center needs. (Plus a bonus mention of why Smith.ai should be your first choice for that—but more on us later.)

What is the difference between a call center and a contact center?

This is one of the most common questions people ask. To some, it’s an issue of semantics and there is no real difference. However, in the lineage of the names, you can see the reason they are different: call centers usually communicate primarily through phone calls. Contact centers, on the other hand, may communicate via phone, email, fax, social media, chat, and other applications or channels. 

Contact centers might even have their own call center within their organization since someone will need to handle the phone call part of contact. Either type of service can be used for things like:

  • Sales and lead generation
  • Customer retention and follow-up
  • Feedback and customer satisfaction
  • Customer service and support
  • Market research and surveys
  • Upselling and cross-selling
  • Upgrades and renewals
  • Orders and payment processing
  • Appointment setting
  • Telemarketing

These are just some of the most common uses of contact and call centers. You can choose the services that you need when you’re setting up your contact or call center operations, whether you’re doing things in-house or outsourcing. 

Inbound vs. outbound call centers

The next question people have is about inbound and outbound call centers. Inbound call centers typically handle incoming queries from existing customers or interested parties that want to learn more about a product, schedule an appointment, or otherwise engage with a company. They usually do more of the customer service and support type work, but there are plenty of great inbound call centers that do well with marketing, too. 

Outbound call centers typically handle things like cold calls and sales calls, payment or order processing, appointment setting, market research and surveys, and other outreach-style services. You can have outbound call centers make customer service check-in calls if you’d like, but there may also be a better option. 

Companies that need both types of services from inbound and outbound call centers would do well to enlist the assistance of a hybrid or dual-purpose call center. This is a service or company that will handle all of your calls, both incoming and outgoing, and that will be able to route them properly and resolve each one accordingly. It’s a great way to combine all of your calling efforts in one place and not have to do all the work yourself. 

Speaking of outsourcing, let’s take a look at some of the benefits that come with it. 

The benefits of outsourcing

Should you choose to outsource your call center needs, you’ll find several different benefits. For starters, you’ll save a lot of money because you won’t be paying for staffing, equipment, onboarding, overhead, etc.—the list of expenses gets quite long when it comes to adding services to your company. Instead, for a fraction of the cost, you can enlist professional agents to handle all your call center-related needs. 

Another benefit is that call centers are more efficient when that’s their entire purpose. Even if you have a seemingly strong in-house call center or customer service department, a dedicated professional service could easily outpace your team and prove to be a much more worthwhile investment than you thought. 

Outsourcing to a call center service will give you flexibility and agility in your outbound and inbound calling efforts. You’ll be able to grow and change your plans in real-time and make sure that you’re keeping up with the latest best practices because your agents know their industry. And on that note, that specialized industry knowledge that only comes from outsourced call centers is definitely going to improve your brand reputation.  

Along with all this, you’ll also find quality monitoring, robust reporting tools, and other resources that will improve the quality of service, response times, resolution rates, lead generation, conversion rates, and so much more. Unless your company is large enough to warrant its own in-house call center (and few are), you should stick to outsourcing because you’ll get access to the best agents in the industry for a fraction of the cost of creating your own team or department. 

When you might not have time or the means to dedicate live operators to man the phones, outsourcing will ensure that you have the best, most well-trained staff that can handle all of the different needs of your business along with a custom solution to make sure nothing is overlooked. 

Where does Smith.ai fit in?

At Smith.ai, we offer a lot of call center services, but we consider ourselves to be a team of virtual receptionists, more than call center agents, and are dedicated to handling all admin tasks in that regard. We’ve also grown to offer a host of both inbound and outbound calling solutions, including those for lead intake, appointment scheduling, outbound sales support, outreach campaigns, and so much more. 

For companies that have the volume and need a dedicated call center that specifically handles inbound and/or outbound phone calls, that is an option. However, if you’re just looking for a little extra help with communications and admin, a team like the 24/7 virtual receptionists at Smith.ai could be just what you need. 

To learn more, reach out to hello@smith.ai to discuss your needs or schedule a consultation today. 

Elizabeth Lockwood

Elizabeth Lockwood is the content marketing associate at Smith.ai. She focuses specifically on writing and editing engaging articles, blog posts, and other forms of publication.

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