Inbound and Outbound Telemarketing
By Anne Geller
On a cellular level, a call center is basically just a workflow, a very organized and well-oiled workflow. Probably the most discernible difference in a call center is the direction of said workflow. Is it inbound or outbound? Nowadays, almost anyone familiar to the call center industry can tell the difference between the two.
Even aspiring applicants know beforehand, based on what they believe to be their strength and weaknesses, where in that direction they should belong. Some just want to belong to a certain direction either (inbound or outbound), solely based on an experience told firsthand. Now whether the alleged experience told is truthful or not is highly questionable since experiences are prone to subjectivity.
The object of this article is to try to minimize, if not completely remove, the subjectivity and at least illuminate the facts to some extent.
So what is an inbound call? But before that, what is the most typical description an inbound agent might tell you about the kind of calls they get? Customers calling in are irate and needy. This is probably true to a certain degree.
Inbound calls are when customers call in, an IVR (Interactive Voice Response) most likely will take the call and will prompt them for information, the call in turn is routed to the proper department or person, and the call is handled.
In the inbound category, you have the types of interactions that are initiated by the customer:
• Customer service (customers call with questions about their accounts)
• Sales (customers call in response to direct mail or other advertising or to purchase items)
• Technical support (customers call with questions about how to use a product or a service)
So why, according to majority of inbound agents, describe the demeanor of their caller as irate or needy? It’s because of the nature of the call itself. It’s all about the customer and their needs. It may be about their credit cards, their cable connection, and their wireless router and sometimes, they just want to know why they haven’t received their catalogs yet. A machine answering on the other end doesn’t always lighten up their mood. A long wait for an operator or agent doesn’t help either.
On the other hand, a call center employee initiating the call from a client or customer list for any given reason in a specialized software program is referred to as outbound calls. Tenured outbound agents in this category will give you mixed descriptions to the type of customer they sometimes get, depending primarily on the type of account.
With outbound call centers, the company initiates the call. This includes the following:
• Telemarketing (salespeople call customers or prospects)
• Collections (agents call customers regarding overdue bills)
For telemarketing calls, customer demeanor typically depends on whether it’s a business to consumer call – B2C (when you call households) or business to business call – B2B (when you call other businesses). No thanks to the growing number of people scammed by fly-by-night telemarketers or boiler rooms, calling B2C can be challenging. This is why legitimate telemarketing companies are working overtime to change that image. The moment the prospect identifies the call as a telemarketing call, either you get cursed from head to toe or they just hang up. Sometimes, it really depends on luck rather than skill.
B2C calls on the other hand, will get you a more professional person on the other line. Well at least here the person on the other end (usually the “gatekeeper” or receptionist) will let you finish with your opening spiel. Outbound agents handling these types of calls will often tell you, “It’s not what you say, but, how you say it.”
Collection calls generally, are the tamer ones as far as customers are concerned. Just remind them of their overdue bill, if they get irate because they’ve already paid then apologize and end the call. Anyway, if they’re lying and they still miss that payment, well, it sure will reflect on the next bill.
There are other specialty calls both inbound and outbound, with different customer reactions like for credit card fraud verification calls, authorization calls or poll and survey questions, which we won’t get into. How a customer reacts, is really inconsequential, what’s really important is how an agent, whether it’s inbound or outbound, will react to their reaction. It’s not about their reaction, but how an agent handles their reaction.