A call center is a centralized department used for receiving or transmitting a large volume of inquiries by telephone. It handles all telephone communication with new and existing customers and is located either within a company or outsourced to another company that specializes in handling calls.
Call centers can handle inbound and outbound calls, although some may specialize in one or the other. An inbound call center handles calls from current or potential customers about product or service support, complaints, account management, or information inquiries. An outbound call center makes calls on behalf of a company or client for telemarketing, lead generation, emergency notifications, and debt collection. It is possible for call centers to be both inbound and outbound.
Interactive Voice Recognition (IVR) systems are used to answer calls, address customer queries, and route calls using speech recognition technology. Automatic lead selection or lead steering is also used to improve efficiencies.
Types of call centers
Aside from inbound and outbound call centers, further classifications include:
- In-house: The company owns and operates the call center. Agents are hired by the company.
- Outsourced: The company hires a third party to handle calls on its behalf. Large organizations typically do this to be cost effective. Costs are reduced by removing the time and effort it takes to hire and train agents and the funds it takes to buy and update call center technology.
- Offshore: The company outsources its call center operations to an organization located in another country. This is done to save money on agent wages and provide service 24/7. Customers typically do not prefer an offshore call center because of difficulty in understanding the agent and lack of knowledge about the company or product.
- Virtual: The company pays a monthly or annual fee to a vendor that hosts the call center telephony and data equipment in their own cloud-based facility. Agents are geographically dispersed in smaller groupings or in their own homes.