The Difference Between Inbound and Outbound Call Centers

Sean Lund-Brown

Call centers are a large part of the business world today. They’re how several companies get things done when it comes to customer service, cold calls, and inbound sales, among other efforts. Of course, there are different types of call centers out there and each has its pros and cons to consider. Whether you’re setting up a call center or just trying to find one to use for your business calling needs, you’ve got a lot to learn. 

Fortunately, we’ve got the resources to help you get the insight and information that you need. Of course, we won’t be able to tell you which one suits your needs, but you can benefit from both inbound and outbound calling—and in some cases, rather than choosing one type of call center, that means finding a better, more dynamic solution (like the dedicated agents at Smith.ai, but more on us later). 

Here's what you need to know about inbound and outbound calling centers, as well as how to choose the best solution for your sales and support calling needs. 


Inbound call centers


As the name suggests, inbound call centers are responsible for handling incoming calls from customers, prospects, vendors, partners, and others. They may come in the form of support inquiries or sales calls, but the majority of the phone services in this type of call center are based on answering incoming calls. 

Inbound call centers can be set up for customer service and/or sales, as mentioned. They offer a chance for people to reach out to your company and get the assistance that they need on their time. When you utilize the latest technology in your call centers, you’ll also ensure that people get the best solutions and that you streamline your operations with the power of AI and automation. 

Of course, you should never let the AI answer the phone—almost all consumers prefer a live person to answer and direct their call when they’re interacting with a business. Support teams and sales agents can staff these centers, or the services can be provided by an outsourced company to provide a more diverse range of services at a lower cost. As far as sales are concerned, inbound call centers tend to fare better simply because people are reaching out to the business, and not the other way around. Essentially, inbound calls are warm leads, while most outbound calls are cold leads. 

And even if they are a little warm, they’re not nearly as toasty as the incoming calls from consumers seeking more information about your business. Inbound call centers handle things like:

  • Tech and/or product support
  • Membership renewal and upgrade questions
  • Payment and order processing
  • Setting appointments
  • Lead generation and telemarketing using outside advertising
  • Answering other questions and inquiries


Outbound call centers


Outbound call centers are primarily responsible for making outbound calls. If they do get incoming calls, they’re usually return calls from messages that they’ve left or appointments they’ve made. The majority of the calls go outward from agents to customers, prospects, vendors, and others. 

Outbound calling is still used in sales, but it’s not nearly as common as inbound calling and other marketing and prospecting methods. Outbound call centers may also make calls for survey follow-up or market research, inviting people to be a part of their study on how their marketing is working in the first place. 

Outbound call centers usually handle:

  • Sales calls
  • Renewal and upgrade calls
  • Outreach and prospecting
  • Lead generation
  • Market research
  • Surveys



Which is better?


This is kind of a trick question—but it’s one that a lot of people ask. The “trick” here is that what’s better for your business might be different than what’s better for someone else’s business. The other caveat here is that you can benefit from both services. Ultimately, a business will be most effective with a dynamic, hybrid call center solution that handles inbound and outbound needs alike. 

Yes, it’s more work for agents, but it’s also a chance to combine all of your communications in one place. It’s also going to streamline them and free up more of your time. And, when you choose to outsource to a hybrid call center or answering service, you’ll be able to ensure that it’s all being handled by those who are skilled in communications, admin, and sales support of all kinds. 

It centralizes your communications and ensures that there is a consistent customer experience throughout the entire journey, from prospect to return customer and every step in between. Plus, you can scale and change things as you go and know that it will stay organized because everything is coming from a single source. 

The phone is still a critical part of business. Handling it properly can determine how successful (or not) your business will be. Part of that comes in finding the right call center solutions and software to help you manage your calls, no matter where they come from or what their content may be. 


Skip the call center and get a customized solution instead when you partner with Smith.ai


Whether you’re overwhelmed by the options or just in a position where it might be better to outsource, we’ve got you covered. In addition to our 24/7 virtual receptionist services like live website chat and after-hours answering, we provide full support for inbound and outbound sales calls and can utilize the power of AI to improve your company’s success in marketing and prospecting. 

Plus, we’ll do it all while you focus on the other aspects of running your business and keep your sales team in front of the customers that are ready to close. Let us help you create a custom strategy to manage everything you need, including inbound and outbound sales and outreach and so much more. 

To learn more, schedule a consultation to discuss how our inbound and outbound solutions can provide the outreach you need at a fraction of the cost of a call center or in-house sales team. You’ll also find us at hello@smith.ai or (650) 727-6484.


Sean Lund-Brown

Sean Lund-Brown is a current Marketing Assistant for Smith.ai. A graduate from Metropolitan State University of Denver, Sean graduated with a BA in Music and an individualized degree in Teaching Vocal Pedagogy.

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