What is an Inbound Call Center? (And 3 Skills the Best Ones Have!)

What is an Inbound Call Center? (3 Skills the Best Ones Have!)

In this post:

What is an inbound call center?

Inbound call centers receive calls, often from existing customers but also from leads or anyone seeking information.

This is an alternative to an outbound call center which only places calls. 

There is also a third kind of call center called a blended’ contact center. These make and receive calls as required. (Which is often the most successful strategy.)

Common uses for inbound call centers include:

  • Providing general customer service
  • Appointment setting
  • Taking messages
  • Processing orders
  • Handling complaints
  • Technical support
  • Working on customer loyalty

inbound call center goals


Key metrics for inbound call centers

In order to answer the question ‘What are inbound call center services?‘ We have to dig deeper into this matter.

Metrics for inbound call centers generally focus on the cost to the business. 

Quality metrics and customer satisfaction metrics are also very important!  

Average Handling Time (AHT)

The average duration of a customer interaction. AHT is usually measured from the point a customer reaches an agent to the point an agent concludes after-call work. 

This calculation includes hold time, which can be a very significant factor for customers.  

First Contact Resolution (FCR)

FCR is a measure of how often customers had to call more than once about a single issue.

Low FCR is generally seen as a failing because it suggests customers aren’t getting reliable service first time.

(Need to improve your FCR? Read: ‘Better FCR – 5 Call Center Solutions to Help Callers, First Time!’)

first contact resolution


Abandon Rate  

Abandon rate is simply the proportion of customers who give up while waiting to reach the right resource (generally an agent.)

When a lot of customers abandon, it signals an over-long wait time or negative queuing experience. 

(Learn how to improve your contact center abandon rate here.)

Average Time in Queue

Average time in queue is just what it sounds like – the amount of time customers spend waiting for service (‘queuing’).

This links very closely to abandon rate. There are plenty of novel approaches to reducing abandon rate which we’ll look at below. 

Three skills for the very *best* inbound call center

Conversational IVR

Conversational IVR is shaping up to be one of the biggest customer service developments of the decade. 

In a nutshell, conversational IVR brings Alexa-style voice interaction to IVR systems

That’s useful for several reasons: 

  • It can gather data far more effectively than traditional IVR (which uses DTMF) 
  • Customers are far more likely to use a conversational IVR
  • Call routing becomes a lot smarter

conversational IVR


The comparison with tools like Alexa is useful; thanks to Alexa, Siri, Cortana and others, consumers are now very comfortable with voice command tech. 

But will they accept it in the contact center? 

Yes! In fact, they already are. Delta Airlines became an early adopter for conversational IVR in 2013. Since then they’ve saved around $5million per year. 

Those savings are made up of higher quality data and increased capture of caller intent. Most importantly, they saw a 5% increase in call containment almost immediately. 

(Read ‘How Delta saves $5million per year with conversational IVR service.’)

Virtual Queuing

Here’s the idea: what if, instead of sticking customers on hold, you could ask them to hang up… and then automatically call them back? 

A great virtual queuing system has these key features:

  • Callers don’t lose their place in the call queue
  • The outbound call is scheduled and placed automatically
  • There’s flexibility in when you choose to call back customers

waiting on hold


Virtual queuing has been possible for a long time – but it’s only been available to businesses willing to spend a lot of money on it. 

The cloud has changed that. The barriers to entry have all but disappeared; all you need to do is connect up a few tools. 

That usually means linking an outbound dialer with your ACD. Then, as the call moves towards the front of the ACD’s call queue, it can automatically signal your auto dialer to place an outbound call. 

Is that the only way to set up virtual queuing?

There are a lot of ways you can run virtual queuing. Sure, one option is to move customers through the queue, just as if they were on hold. 

A popular alternative is to offer specific time slots. That lets you move a proportion of your traffic out of peak periods and into less busy times of day. So let’s add ‘amazing peak management’ to the list of benefits!

Personalized call routing

A lot of inbound call centers seem pretty convinced that they use intelligent routing. 

But when you take a closer look at those routing strategies, they’re not so… well, intelligent

wasted call time


So what can you do to make your routing more intelligent? So intelligent that your inbound call routing is actually personalized? 

It’s simple really; you need to draw on more data sources. Deep data integration usually means using APIs to share information easily (and instantly and automatically) across any systems. 

(Learn more about API integration in ‘How do APIs enhance contact center services?’)

In call routing, you may want to draw data from:

…and more besides. 

All that becomes possible – in fact, it becomes simple – when you’ve used APIs to integrate those systems. 

Does a caller have an open Helpdesk ticket? Is there a VIP flag set in their CRM profile? 

Then that data should not only inform how they are routed – that data should be delivered automatically to the agent. 

At least that’s what I think. (And our clients seem pretty happy with it too!)

But how do you make any of that happen?

You get the right tools. That means API integration – which we’ve covered. It also means automation, via simple No-Code tools. 

These three essential skills are the kinds of things babelforce helps inbound call centers to create, every day. 

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