Call Center Basics

By Peter DeHaan, PhD

Peter DeHaan, Publisher and Editor of AnswerStatWhen I ask folks if they work at an in-house or an outsource call center, I am surprised at how frequently this question is fumbled. At risk of offending knowledgeable veterans, I offer the following call center basics:

Inbound Call Centers answer calls. Their agents react, waiting for the phone to ring or for the next call in queue. Inbound call centers are equipped with ACDs (Automatic Call Distributors) to efficiently send calls to the “next available agent.” Many inbound operations are staffed 24 x 7, with their agents scheduled in anticipation of projected calls based on historical data and marketing initiatives.

Outbound Call Centers make calls to customers and sales prospects; it is proactive. Even if agents’ work is not “sales” per se, they still need a sales mentality. They must engage the called party, lead them towards an objective, and deal with rejection. Outbound centers rely on predictive dialers to place calls. Agents are scheduled as needed to complete a desired number of calls within a certain time, as limited by law.

In-house Call Centers are an internal department of an organization; they provide services exclusively for their own company. An in-house call center can be a cost-center or a profit-center. Cost-centers are subsidized by corporate, whereas profit-centers charge other departments for the work they do.

Outsourcing Call Centers do work for other organizations; their business is making and receiving calls. They often enjoy an economy-of-scale that is not feasible with in-house operations. Therefore, their margins allow clients to save money, while they make money. Agents at an outsource centers work for their clients, but work with their client’ customers or prospects. Outsource call centers are increasingly desirable as more organizations consider outsourcing to increase service levels and options, return to their core competencies, save money, or all three.

Offshore Call Centers are simply any call center that is located in a different country, or”offshore.” Off shoring is often erroneously considered synonymous with outsourcing, but they are not the same.

Whatever type of call center work you do, do it well — that is the critical lesson of Call Center Basics.

(For more call center basics, go to StartACall.com or StartAnAnsweringService.com.)

[Posted by Peter DeHaan for AnswerStat magazine, a medical healthcare publication from Peter DeHaan Publishing Inc.]