Did you know that 73% of customers prefer to communicate over the phone with customer support, especially when they’re facing a problem with a purchase or a service company provides?
Also, 73% claim that they tend to fall in love with a brand after talking to friendly and polite customer service representatives, while 82% will turn to competitors if customer service is poor.
Call centers' professional customer support is crucial for retaining customers and building a positive brand reputation. But with so many types of call centers, how do you choose the right one?
This guide will answer your questions.
Let’s dive in.
Table of Contents
What Are Call Centers and Why Do They Matter?
Call centers are specialized departments that handle inbound and outbound calls for the company they represent. While they used to strictly focus on phone calls, today call centers handle multiple communication channels to provide a perfect user experience.
The advantages call centers provide best reflect their importance.
Call centers improve user experience and build customer trust and loyalty, enhancing brand image and credibility. They are an excellent tool for lead generation, conversions and market research. On top of all, call centers can be time and cost-effective customer support services.
The 10 Types of Call Centers
Call center types can be categorized in two ways:
- According to the services they provide
- According to the location they work from
The first six types of call centers on our list are sorted based on the services they provide: inbound, outbound, combined, automated, omnichannel and multichannel call services.
Considering the location they operate from, we can also differ virtual, in-house, outsourced and offshore call centers.
Let’s take a look at the features and specifics of each of them.
- Inbound Call Centers
- Outbound Call Centers
- Combined Call Centers
- Automated Call Centers
- Omnichannel Call Centers
- Multichannel Call Centers
- Virtual Call Centers
- In-house Call Centers
- Outsourced Call Centers
- Offshore Call Centers
1. Inbound Call Centers
The most popular form of customer support, inbound call centers, dates back to the 1960s when they were known as answering centers. They successfully resolved customers’ complaints and requests, so their function remains unchanged.
Inbound call centers take clients' calls. Call center agents receive incoming calls on behalf of the company as customer support representatives.
The most common inbound services include answering questions, resolving issues, loyalty programs, tech support, inbound order processing and dispatch.
Although inbound call centers can operate in-house, many companies opt for outsourcing because they lack staff or their telephone infrastructure cannot support large call volumes.
2. Outbound Call Centers
Outbound call center agencies call interested parties and clients on behalf of a business or organization. They provide various services: from checking customers’ satisfaction with the purchase, which builds a relationship of trust and positive brand sentiment, to lead generation through promotions and events.
Some standard outbound services include market research, telemarketing, phone surveys, customer onboarding, product recalls, event registrations and scheduling appointments.
3. Combined Call Centers
Combined or blended call centers provide all services mentioned in the previous two categories: inbound and outbound, from customer support to order processing. They are a comprehensive solution for all companies that want to make all their services available over the phone.
4. Automated Call Centers
Many call centers use automation features, artificial intelligence and voice technology, to handle some or all inbound services. An example of automated call centers is IVR contact centers, where callers interact with the self-serve menu using dial entries or speech recognition features.
This type of call center is very time-efficient. It allows agents to focus on tasks that require human attention and creativity, leaving the rest to the computer-based systems.
Automated call center responsibilities include online scheduling, appointment reminders, email management, holiday greetings, automatic SMS messages and dealer or franchise locator.
5. Omnichannel Call Centers
While some call centers focus on phone calls only, omnichannel call centers provide inbound and outbound services using multiple communication means. They use calls, texts, emails and social media platforms to get in touch with customers.
Omnichannel call centers unite all communication channels in one place, facilitating agents to follow up on previous conversations, regardless of the platforms they took place on.
6. Multichannel Call Centers
Similar to omnichannel, multichannel call centers also use phone calls, faxes, SMS, email and social media for inbound and outbound customer support service. The difference is the structure — each communication channel works independently in multichannel call centers.
7. Virtual Call Centers
Virtual call centers have unique work organizations. In the past, all call center employees were situated in one location, usually an office building, due to technical limitations.
Today, things have changed. Thanks to advanced internet technologies, decentralized virtual call center agents work remotely from worldwide locations, using different languages.
Virtual call centers provide inbound and outbound services, delivering 24/7 customer support across multiple time zones at lower operation costs.
8. In-house Call Centers
An in-house call center works within the company whose services it represents.
Building an in-house call center is a significant investment, although it gets cheaper in the long run. The company employs customer service representatives, takes care of their onboarding, and provides them with technical training and all the necessary working equipment.
In-house call centers allow the company’s management absolute control over the operations and resources. Still, they have even more advantages:
Agents can provide in-depth information about the company’s products or services since they are better connected with technical staff in the company.
If agents cannot solve the problem, they can forward it to a specialized team much faster than outsourced agents.
Agents can provide organization management with all the insights they gain from interactions with customers to improve the company's business strategy.
9. Outsourced Call Centers
If the company needs a cheaper alternative to an in-house call center, it can outsource all its responsibilities to third parties — customer service outsourcing companies.
Outsourced call centers can provide all the company's inbound and outbound services: from answering customers' questions, resolving problems and scheduling appointments to outsourcing lead generation and telesales.
If this is of interest to you, make sure to check out our complete list of the top outsourced customer support companies.
10. Offshore Call Centers
Outsourced call centers have a subcategory — offshore call centers. They work overseas, in eastern European or Asian countries, where prices are significantly lower, while workers are professional and diligent.
Although cheaper, offshore call centers can cause a language barrier between customer support representatives and clients. This problem can be avoided with careful candidate interviewing.
Types of Call Centers: Final Thoughts
Knowing all 10 types of call centers and their specifics will help you choose the right one for your company’s requirements.
Research your target audience and customers and conclude whether they would benefit more from inbound, outbound or combined call center services.
If you’re building an in-house call center, focus on choosing candidates with highly-developed communication skills and provide them with in-depth technical training.
If you opt for outsourcing call center responsibilities to third-party, you can find candidates among all available agencies using an online marketplace such as DesignRush.