6 Types of Call Centers and Their Purposes

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated June 8, 2022 | Published April 13, 2021

Updated June 8, 2022

Published April 13, 2021

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Looking for advice to ace your call center interview? This video explains what call center recruiters are looking for in a candidate, how to prepare for a call center interview, common questions and best answers, and how to follow-up.

Call centers are hubs that handle communication responsibilities for one or more companies. Call center operations can vary based on the communications they cover and their structures. Using a call center at your company may allow you to use other resources more efficiently by shifting customer-related responsibilities from staff whose time is better spent on other tasks. In this article, we discuss what a call center is and how businesses use different call centers.

What is a call center?

A call center is a company or centralized branch of a company that provides telecommunication and other services. Its primary responsibilities include fielding incoming calls, making outgoing calls or otherwise receiving and transmitting emails or web chats. Other services provided by a call center may include performing surveys for research, finding sales leads and helping to organize phone communications for a company.

Related: Everything You Need To Know About Working in a Call Center

What is the purpose of a call center?

The primary purpose of a call center is to help make your operation more efficient. By placing some of your company's duties on call center professionals, you can offer customers the best possible service while reducing the cost of investing in resources for your company. Call centers can improve both a company's ability to gain new customers and also to keep existing customers by streamlining and centralizing some processes and services. Some of the most common tasks carried out by call center employees include:

  • Call center employees often will make direct calls to existing or potential customers to increase sales for your company.

  • They may provide service to existing customers who are experiencing problems with your product or service, including scheduling repairs or ordering a replacement or reimbursement.

  • A call center can offer technical support to customers, including potentially teaching the customer how to complete a task or guiding them through troubleshooting to identify the source of a problem and then correcting it.

  • Call centers can respond to emergency calls when customers need immediate service, then delegate responses to assist the caller.

  • Call center employees may conduct market research, conduct surveys for a specific demographic or conduct broad surveys across all groups.

  • Call centers may offer dispatch support, such as taking and transferring calls to remote sales staff or delivery staff, to help coordinate outside workers and improve efficiency for outside staff.

Related: Best Practices for Speaking To Customers at a Call Center

Types of call centers

Call centers can offer a broad range of services, and different call centers work better for different responsibilities. There are six primary categories of call centers, and it's important to understand the strengths of each to pick the best call center option for your company:

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1. Inbound call centers

An inbound call center receives calls coming into the company. Most often this is a service provided to existing customers of your product or service or new customers looking to make a purchase, however, it can include providing service to staff from your company. Services provided at inbound call centers may include:

  • Processing orders: After receiving a call from a prospective client, a call center representative may carry out several tasks with the caller, including explaining their purchase options, recording order information and collecting payment information.

  • Providing dispatch services: A dispatch center may receive calls, transfer them as needed, and monitor the progress of any shipments and deliveries.

  • Offering help desk support: When customers experience problems, a call center representative in support may offer solutions when a customer knows what is wrong, help identify potential sources for the issue if they don't, and call in a service request if needed.

  • Answering and transferring calls: A call center can act as an answering service, with representatives working as an answering service that may receive calls from customers, ask about the reason for their call, and then transfer the caller.

2. Outbound call centers

An outbound call center specializes in contacting customers on your behalf and can be a way to expand the reach of your company at a minimal cost. Common responsibilities for representatives at outbound calling centers include:

  • Selling to potential customers: Telesales professionals commonly work with a list of provided leads, often gathered through market research to identify demographics most likely to be interested in a company's products, and make direct contact to pitch the company's goods.

  • Expanding your sales reach: A call center representative in a telemarketing role may perform customer outreach, conduct surveys of existing customers or reach potential customers to determine if there is interest in a product or service.

Related: Call Center Scripting: Definition, Tips and Examples

3. Automated call centers

An automated call center allows a company to reduce the cost of its call management by having computer-based systems handle some caller responsibilities. Automated systems often allow for a significantly smaller staff than live-operator call centers, as they only require staff to maintain the systems and handle select responsibilities the automation cannot complete. Common uses for an automated call center may include:

  • Managing voicemail: Automated voicemail systems are one of the most common call center services. An automated voicemail service for a company may reduce the need for staff to take messages.

  • Helping customers find locations: Many companies with multiple locations may use automated call centers to assist customers in need of finding a nearby store location.

  • Interactive voice responders: Interactive systems allow a caller to speak normally and uses technology to understand their words and navigate the caller through a menu, sometimes transferring callers to an employee at a call center.

4. Multichannel call centers

Although phone calls are still an important part of modern businesses, there are many other forms of communication and interaction with customers. Many modern call centers expand their offerings to clients to include other communication tasks, including sending and receiving faxes and emails and overseeing order fulfillment.

5. Omnichannel call centers

A call center offering an omnichannel service may build upon multichannel offerings and add enhanced coordination and customization. With an omnichannel call center, all departments assigned to a client are in communication, which can allow staff to learn from information gathered through phone calls and vice versa. This approach allows for enhanced customization of the approach call center representatives take when interacting with clients in order to generate better results.

6. Virtual call centers

Some call centers are now virtual, with staff working from their homes or other remote locations instead of all being together at the same facility. A virtual call center may also specialize in outbound marketing calls. Because a virtual call center does not have a single, physical facility it operates out of, it can reduce a company's operating costs. Lower overhead costs can help the company increase its profits and allow it to offer lower rates to its customers.

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