What’s a Hybrid Call Center?

We’ve already discussed that a call center is “a centralized location where calls are answered or made.” The distinction of answering calls and making calls is significant. Consider these designations for three types of call centers. Inbound: When a call center answers calls, it is referred to as an inbound call center. Agents in an inbound call center are scheduled around the clock to be available to answer calls when they are expected to arrive. This requires a thorough analysis of past call traffic and an educated consideration of any current marketing projects, such as a mailing, media buy, or online campaign. Agents at an inbound call center are reactive. The call comes in and they react to it by answering it and addressing the callers’ need or concern. This could include taking a message, placing an order, transferring the caller, answering questions, or providing information. Outbound: When a call center makes calls, it is known as an outbound call center. Agents at outbound call centers are scheduled to work at the times when the people they are calling are most likely to answer their phones and be available to talk. If the calls are placed to businesses, then the agents work during normal business hours. If the calls are to consumers, then the agents will typically work in the evenings and on weekends. Agents in an outbound call center are proactive. They take initiative to place phone calls. Though a computer generally does this for them, they must be ready to engage with the caller as soon as a connection is made. There are three basic types of activity that outbound agents can handle: sales, qualifying leads, and setting appointments for salespeople. Note that there are extensive regulations that govern outbound calling, also known as telemarketing. The fines for noncompliance can be significant, so wise outbound call centers have a compliance officer to ensure they conduct business in a fair, ethical, and legal manner. Hybrid: Some call centers do both inbound and outbound work. They are referred to as hybrid call centers, meaning they are a hybrid, or mixture, of inbound and outbound work, of answering calls and making calls. For companies that do both inbound work and outbound calling, the impulse of C-level management is to combine both activities into one consolidated call center. After all, they reason that since both groups work on the telephone, talk to people, and sit in cubicles, why not just merge them into one operation to achieve greater economies of scale. This is not a wise choice. Often this type of call center consolidation doesn’t work and causes more problems than it solves. This is because the actual, practical differences between inbound work and outbound calling are so great. In addition to vastly different scheduling needs and polar opposite agent profiles, is the corresponding fact that these two groups require dissimilar management, compensation, and motivation. Last consider the reality that the equipment and software needed for these respective rolls are completely different. While hybrid call centers can work in a corporate environment, they shouldn’t be pursued without extensive consideration and diligent preparation. Despite how attractive the prospect a forming a hybrid call center, the reality is they are usually better left as separate inbound and outbound operations.   Janet Livingston is the president of Call Center Sales Pro, a premier consultancy for corporate call centers, whose team possesses decades of relevant business and call center experience. Contact Janet at contactus@callcenter-salespro.com or 800-901-7706. Peter Lyle DeHaan  is a freelance writer from Southwest Michigan.