What Is Inbound Customer Support?

What are inbound customer service and call centers? We break down definitions, benefits, & best practices of this important support channel.
Published on: Nov 30, 2023
Last updated: Dec 01, 2023

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Did you know, 58% of consumers are prepared to pay a higher price in exchange for better customer service experiences?

With inbound customer support at the forefront of the consumer experience, what does it involve, how can you get it right, and what’s the difference between inbound and outbound support?

You’ll find the answers to these questions, and more, in this blog.

What is inbound customer support?

As the most widely recognized form of support for consumers, inbound customer support is any form of communication between a business and its customer which is instigated by the customer themselves.

This could involve call centers which answer inbound customer support calls, agents responding to incoming social media enquiries, actioning technical support emails, or a host of other means of communication.

This is an important one to get right, as more often than not when your customers are calling you, they have a problem or a question they need a resolution for, and they’ll remember how you helped them.

What are the differences between inbound and outbound customer support?

On the other side of the customer support spectrum is outbound customer support, and there are a few distinct differences between the two.

The first difference, and perhaps the most significant, is that with inbound customer support your customers are contacting you, and with outbound you are contacting them.

Another difference, which links closely with the first, is the typical nature of these interactions. Whilst inbound calls often stem from customers experiencing an issue with their product, outbound calls are often motivated by the potential for securing new sales, conducting market research, or rectifying a problem the customer may have not even noticed yet.

Both forms can be useful tools in the customer experience arsenal, but not every business needs each one in equal measure.

What are the differences between inbound and outbound call centers?

When it comes to call centers, there are also some differences between how they operate based on whether they are inbound or outbound focused.

Here, we’ll break down the differences between the two types of call center.

Inbound call centers

First, we’ll cover inbound call centers and the types of activity they focus on day-to-day.

What does an inbound call center do?

An inbound call center covers four main focuses based around receiving incoming calls from customers.

These include:

  • Helpdesk services: this is often the first port of call for your inbound callers. Helpdesk services include troubleshooting minor bugs, fixing simple technical faults, or providing guidance on how best to use a product or service.
  • Product or technical support: one of the most common functions of an inbound call center is providing technical support for customers using your products. The product or technical support department will cover more complex technical issues which require an agent to dive a little deeper into the details.
  • Payment and order processing: taking orders and processing payment over the phone is a longstanding form of completing orders. In some instances, customers may be asked to call in to complete an order for verification purposes, allowing an agent to take them through the payment process as quickly and smoothly as possible.
  • Upgrades and renewals: as subscriptions come to an end and the product lifecycle starts anew, inbound call centers are equipped to share the options available to each customer and guide them through the process of upgrading their products or renewing their membership.

Inbound customer service examples

There are countless ways in which an inbound customer support call center might deliver their service on a day-to-day basis.

Here are some examples of real-world inbound customer support:

  • Technical support for SaaS companies: companies selling software regularly encounter technical issue reports from customers, often leading to inbound calls requesting guidance. In this scenario, agents will explore the issue in more detail before identifying and actioning a suitable solution to get the software back in full working order.
  • Product upgrades for physical technology companies: whether you’re selling smartphones, televisions, or smart home devices, regular product upgrades are part and parcel of the experience. When the time comes for a customer to upgrade their product to the latest model, inbound call centers will handle these requests and find suitable products or packages for their customers.
  • Helpdesk for technical products: with new customers comes a learning curve. Inbound call centers welcome contact from customers who are having trouble with operating their new product or are looking for ways to maximize the user experience.

Outbound call centers

To compare against inbound call centers, we will now cover what outbound call centers focus on and provide real world examples of their responsibilities in action.

What does an outbound call center do?

An outbound call center specializes in five main business activities.

These include:

  • Telemarketing: in a nutshell, telemarketing is the act of marketing your products or services via the phone. Some common examples of this include following up on newsletter or website sign ups to provide more information, or offering customers discounted rates if they sign up within a certain timeframe.
  • Market research: one of the most valuable functions of an outbound call center is conducting market research. By calling customers to collect information and opinions about a service or topic, companies can better inform their product development and marketing activities.
  • Lead generation: as one of the first steps in the sale process, outbound call centers conduct lead generation calls to generate interest in their products or services. An example of this would be calling businesses which are closely linked to your product’s function to make them aware of your offering and gauge their interest.
  • Sales: arguably the most important function of any successful business is sales, and that is no different for outbound call centers. From following up on active leads to conducting cold calls, the phone is a valuable sales tool for any business.
  • Appointment setting: outbound call centers regularly conduct follow up calls with prospective customers who have registered their interest via the website or other means, in order to set appointments. This not only provides sales potential but also offers a more seamless, pleasant experience for the customer.

Examples of outbound call centers

To show how these activities can look in practice, here are some examples of the ways outbound call centers can be used for different businesses:

  • Lead generation for corporate accounting software: in order to identify suitable clientele, a business selling corporate accounting software may regularly conduct lead generation calls to other businesses which could benefit from the software.
  • Appointment setting for an automotive dealership: many automotive dealers offer the ability to request a callback via their website, allowing customers to register their interest and await a call from an agent to set a date and time for their on-site visit.
  • Market research for a pharmaceutical company: new drugs, procedures, and treatments can often stem from feedback from the public, so outbound market research can inform the future of development here.

Should you choose an inbound or outbound call center?

So, with all this in mind, is an inbound or outbound call center the best choice for your business?

There are a number of factors at play here, from the size of your organization to the industry you specialize in. For example, if you are a SaaS company, you may experience greater benefits from an inbound call center which allows you to handle customer issues and resolve software bugs before they become a bigger problem.

If you are a large-scale professional service provider, an outbound call center may allow you greater flexibility with identifying potential clients and improving your services in response to feedback.

Consider the most important factors for your business and choose the call center which aligns best.

Benefits of an inbound call center?

If you’re not sure whether an inbound call center is the choice for you, consider some of these benefits for your business.

  • Better customer experience: if your customers know they can call in and receive support any time they run into an issue, they’ll feel much more comfortable and secure with you.
  • Improved productivity: by handling enquiries as they come through the door, you can stay focused on the actions that matter to your business and your customers.
  • Ability to handle more call volume: by setting up an inbound call center, you gain an extensive pool of trained agents ready to answer any call as it comes in.
  • Better average time-to-handle and average resolution-time rates: with no time wasted on unanswered calls or the introduction process, your agents can move through incoming calls at a faster rate and deliver more resolutions.

How to provide great inbound customer support

If you are planning to implement an inbound customer support center or are looking for ways to maximize your existing one, here are some tips for providing great inbound customer support:

  • Reward and recognize agents that provide great service: celebrating excellent service and customer success is a great way to champion high standards in your call center.
  • Provide multiple ways for customer to reach out: not everyone loves using the phone, so consider implementing a live chat or email support function.
  • Encourage a customer-centric culture: encourage your agents to focus on what your customers need and keep their eyes on the bigger picture.
  • Train agents well: without proper training, you can’t expect your agents to deliver great service, so give them everything they need to do their job well.
  • Make use of scripts and templates: utilizing call scripts and templates is a great way to ensure consistency between each call.
  • Set customer support protocols: with plans in place for every eventuality, your agents can confidently handle anything your customers might throw at them.
  • Make use of data and measure benchmarks: the data can tell you everything you need to know about how your call center is functioning, so listen to it and act upon it.
  • Minimize wait times: nobody likes to be kept waiting, so consider implementing a call-back function or increase agent numbers at peak times to minimize wait times.
  • Collect customer feedback: listen to what your customers are telling you and make the necessary changes to keep them coming back for more.
  • Make use of technology: by implementing technology such as cobrowsing, remote access, and session replays, you can easily solve problems and identify potential issues before your customers do


When managing an inbound call center, there are a lot of moving parts to keep track of. From training your staff and optimizing protocols to minimizing wait times and implementing new technologies, it’s no simple task.

However, the benefits of a successful inbound contact center are countless, so consider the information above and start delivering even higher levels of customer satisfaction today.

Sources used: 

Sources last checked: 30-Nov-2023


Shifa Rahaman

Content Marketing Manager


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