It’s no secret that inbound and outbound phone calls play a huge role in customer service. In fact, many people consider call center services to be the backbone of good customer service. So, what’s the difference between inbound and outbound calls? And which one is better for your business? Keep reading to find out.

Inbound vs outbound calls: What are inbound calls?

Inbound calls are phone calls that come into a call center from customers or potential customers. Most inbound calls are related to customer service, but they can also be sales or marketing calls. Inbound call centers typically have a team of customer service representatives who answer inbound calls and help customers with their needs. The inbound call center agents work with customers to resolve their issues as efficiently as possible.

Types of inbound calls

Technical support

Inbound technical support calls are when a customer contacts a company for help with a product or service. 

Inbound sales

In inbound sales, calls are generated when a potential customer expresses interest in your product or services- typically through an online form or advertisement.

Customer service

These inbound calls are when an existing customer needs assistance with billing, product issues, or has questions about their account.

Inbound vs outbound calls: What are outbound calls?

Outbound call centers, on the other hand, are where company representatives contact customers, typically when they’re not expecting it. This is usually done to sell a product or service, but it can also be for customer follow-up or surveys. In most cases, outbound call center agents are given a script to follow to make the pitch as smooth as possible.

Types of outbound calls

Besides political organizations and a few other outliers, most outbound calls focus on sales as the main goal. There are two main types of outbound calls: cold calls and warm calls.

Cold calls are when the customer has had no prior interaction with the company. Whereas warm calls are when the customer has had some interaction with the company, such as signing up for a newsletter or requesting more information.

Cold calls are most common for contact centers. Here are a few types of outbound cold calls.

Appointment setting

The goal of this type of call is to set up an in-person meeting or phone call between the customer and a sales representative. 

Lead generation

The goal of lead generation calls is to get potential customers interested in your product or service. 


This is when businesses make calls to promote their product or service, usually to make a sale.

Market research

Companies will often make outbound calls to collect customer feedback or learn more about a market.

Types of businesses that use outbound calling

There is a wide range of businesses that utilize outbound calling as a core component of their operations and marketing strategies to engage with their target audience. One such sector that relies heavily on outbound calls is telemarketing. Telemarketing companies play a critical role in promoting various goods and services, gathering market research data, and soliciting donations for charitable causes. These businesses require extensive infrastructure, often operating in large call centers that leverage advanced technology to route calls efficiently and employ predictive dialers to increase agent productivity. The core foundation of these organizations is to establish a connection with potential customers that may otherwise not have been made, through persuasive communication techniques and converting leads into sales.

Similarly, the financial services industry is another strong proponent of outbound calling. In this domain, the calls serve multiple purposes such as lead generation or nurturing, customer service, and debt collection. Banks, credit card providers, insurance companies, and loan agencies all use outbound calling to offer customized financial products based on client requirements. For example, customers may receive calls on pre-approved loans, mortgage packages, or special credit card promotions. On the other hand, collection agencies majorly rely on outbound calling in their efforts to notify defaulters and negotiate repayment terms. Furthermore, outbound calling can be crucial for businesses operating in the service sector, such as utilities, maintenance services, or even appointment-centered industries like healthcare and wellness. These companies frequently practice outbound calling to schedule appointments, follow-up on services rendered, provide timely reminders, and receive customer feedback for improvement.

Types of businesses that use inbound calling

Inbound calling is an essential service for several types of businesses that rely on customer communication and feedback. Businesses in various industries, such as healthcare, e-commerce, finance, and telecommunications, are adopting inbound calling services to handle customer inquiries, support issues, and ensure seamless communication. Moreover, businesses in the hospitality and travel industry, such as hotels, airlines, and tourism agencies, utilize inbound calling to manage reservations, cancellations, and provide real-time information to travelers. Government agencies also use inbound calling services to handle citizens’ inquiries and grievances effectively.

Some businesses, such as market research firms, use inbound calling to collect customer feedback and insights to improve their clients’ products and services. Similarly, many B2B companies rely on inbound calling to engage potential clients, schedule demos, and provide product consultations. Retail businesses also employ inbound calling services to manage returns, order status, and product inquiries. Furthermore, service-oriented industries, such as insurance companies and utilities providers, use inbound calling to provide support to their customers, handling claims, and offering detailed information on their services. By using inbound calling centers or automated voice response systems, businesses in various sectors can build strong relationships with their customers, leading to increased customer satisfaction, loyalty, and ultimately, business growth.

So, which is better?

The answer may surprise you. While inbound calls have been on the decline in recent years, they are still important for businesses that rely heavily on customer service. In fact, inbound calls are typically more complex and time-consuming than outbound calls, so they require more experienced call center agents.

Outbound call centers, on the other hand, have been growing in popularity. This is because they’re usually less expensive to set up and run, and they can be very effective at generating leads and making sales.

Inbound calls are generally considered to be better for business because they provide an opportunity for the company to build a relationship with the customer. Outbound calls, while they can be effective, are often seen as intrusive and can damage relationships with customers. 

Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. In some cases, outbound calls may be necessary to reach a wider audience or follow up with customers who have already shown an interest in your product or service.

Ultimately, the decision of whether to have an inbound or outbound call center (or a blended one) will come down to your specific business needs. If you’re not sure which is right for you, we recommend doing some additional research based on your specific business type. NICE offers an entire suite of both inbound call center solutions as well as outbound call center solutions to fit multiple business use-cases. 

One of the most important factors in selecting call center software is integration with your current systems and operations compliance. At NICE, we believe businesses should have the option to supplement rather than replace their existing systems with a simplified API approach, so agents get up and running quickly. 

We also simplify risk management with embedded compliance controls spanning CTIA, CAN-SPAM, CFPB, PCI, and other compliance-related considerations. Read more about our cloud-based contact center solutions today.