What are Inbound Calls? The Ultimate Guide to Inbound Calling in 2021

Nicole Davies
March 2, 2021
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Nicole Davies

Customer service and contact centres are constantly evolving, but phone calls remain a prominent feature of both. In fact, nearly 75% of customers still prefer voice channels over other contact channels! 

So, as inbound calls are here to stay, let’s clarify what exactly inbound calls are. How can you make the most of them by building a successful inbound calling strategy? 

What are inbound calls?

Inbound calls are phone calls that are initiated by existing or potential customers. They are typically directed to an inbound contact centre, where they are answered and handled by agents. 

There are two main types of inbound calls: customer service calls and sales calls. Let’s take a look at each of them in turn.

Customer service inbound calls

Customer service inbound calls are normally made by existing customers in regards to a complaint or query about the product or service they’ve purchased. 

In these cases, the aim of the agent handling the call is to resolve the customer’s issue as quickly as possible, in order to maintain a high level of customer satisfaction and further brand loyalty

Sales inbound calls

Inbound calls can sometimes be classed as sales calls, or ‘warm calls’. These are typically calls initiated by interested, potential customers with a question about a company’s product or service. In these cases, it is the agent’s job to answer the questions quickly and prompt a sale.

Encouraging inbound calls from potential customers can be a key part of any company’s sales strategy. 

What’s the difference between inbound and outbound calls? 

The difference between inbound and outbound calling is who initiates the call: while inbound calls are initiated by customers, outbound calls are initiated by a company. 

In other words, for an inbound call, a customer contacts a company first. For an outbound call, a company representative contacts a customer first.  

Much like inbound calls, outbound calls can be divided into customer service and sales calls.

Outbound sales calls are often known as ‘cold calls’. You know, those annoying calls you receive from unknown numbers with someone trying to sell you something! While these might seem frustrating for many customers, they can be effective in gathering leads, identifying sales opportunities, spreading brand awareness, and closing sales. 

Customer service outbound calls are all about market research, which can help improve a brand’s service/product and customer experience. These often take the form of phone surveys - agents contact existing customers to ask about their experience and identify ways in which it can be improved. 

Evolution of inbound calls: from phones to web calling

Inbound calling has seen a lot of change over the years. Traditionally, inbound calls were conducted over the phone, where a customer found a company’s contact number and picked up the phone to ring. 

Today, it has become common for inbound calls to take place online. Using click to call technology, companies place their phone number in strategic places on their website. Customers can then click the number to initiate a call over the internet. 

There are many benefits of web calling in this way. For example, it makes it a lot easier for customers to contact you through your website. Most significantly, it helps inbound calling become part of a company’s larger omnichannel customer experience strategy. 

Web calls can be handled through the same system as other contact channels, meaning callers can be seamlessly transferred between agents and channels to offer a superior level of customer service. 

Building an inbound calling strategy

Like any other strategy and contact channel you introduce to your business and contact centre, an inbound calling strategy needs to add to the customer experience. Below are four tips to help you build an inbound calling strategy that works. 

  1. Do your research

First things first, do you need to offer your customers inbound calling capabilities? There are many benefits to inbound calls, but this doesn’t change the fact that it is the most expensive contact channel available. As a result, it’s important to weigh up whether you need it. 

Different types of customers prefer different types of channels, so conduct market research to see if your target audience would utilise the service. Chances are, if your ideal customers are Generation Z, inbound calling might be a waste of money and effort. 

  1. Invest in the right tech

There’s a lot of inbound calling technology on the market and it’s important you find the best one for your agents and existing contact centre systems. When reviewing different options, keep the following capabilities in mind:

  • CRM integration - inbound calling technology that can integrate with your CRM will give agents easy access to any recorded customer history, making it easier for them to provide a personalised service and resolve issues quickly. 
  • Queuing and call routing - any good inbound calling technology will have queuing and call routing capabilities, which help to manage and direct callers to the right department or individual agent. Advanced systems will also include the ability to offer customer callbacks in order to reduce queues. 
  • Click to call - offering web calling is now a key part of any inbound calling strategy, so it’s essential your system supports click to call technology.
  • Call tracking - the ability to track where calls are coming from in real time can really help agents as they handle a call, and can also provide valuable data for monitoring your overall inbound calling strategy. 
  1. Track metrics and use the data

There is no point implementing an inbound calling strategy if you don’t keep track of how it is going! Keeping tabs on certain metrics are key to making sure your strategy is working. They are also the best way to identify areas of improvement. Here’s the top 5 metrics you should track:

  • First contact resolution rate
  • Average wait/queue time
  • Abandonment rate
  • Common queries
  • Customer satisfaction

For a breakdown of what these metrics mean and how to track them, plus other metrics you should consider keeping an eye on, read our full guide to Contact Centre Performance Metrics.

  1. Introduce more contact channels

Any good inbound calling strategy will look at how the demand on this contact channel can be reduced. This may sound strange, but let us explain...

As we mentioned, inbound calling is the most expensive customer service channel to run and maintain. It is also one of the least productive channels as agents can only handle one call at a time. It is therefore in any businesses’ interest to diversify their customer support by offering other contact channels alongside inbound calling.

Live chat, for example, is a great option. Cheaper to run and more efficient, live chat is an easy way to reduce the demand on phone lines, while still serving customers and maintaining customer satisfaction levels.

With other contact channels introduced, calls can be reserved for when they are most effective - such as towards the end of the sales funnel, as well as to handle urgent or complex customer queries. Limiting inbound calls to specific circumstances like this can help to reduce the cost they entail. 

Overall, inbound calls are an age old aspect of customer service and sales that still have a prominent place in today’s contact centres. Let us know how you use inbound calls in your business!

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