outbound call

What is an outbound call?

An outbound call is one initiated by a call center agent to a customer on behalf of a call center or client. Outbound calls are typically made to prospective customers and focus on sales, lead generation, telemarketing and fundraising.

Calls can also be made to existing customers for renewal services, contact list updates, debt collection, market research or preemptive customer service.

Inbound vs. outbound calls

Unlike an outbound call, an inbound call is one that a customer initiates to the call center. Some contact centers handle either outbound or inbound calls exclusively. Others, referred to as blended call centers, deal with a combination of the two.

Inbound and outbound calls require different types of technology and different agent strategies. For example, inbound call centers typically use interactive voice response systems, which route customers based on their responses to the IVR's menu to a different support agent. Outbound contact centers may reach out for satisfaction surveys or market research.

A diagram of different types of call centers, including inbound, blended and outbound
Inbound vs. blended vs. outbound call centers

Strategies for successful outbound calls

Outbound calls can be time- and resource-intensive for sales and marketing campaigns. To justify the investment, team leaders can employ one or more of the following strategies:

  • Predictive dialing. Predictive dialing systems automatically make outgoing calls, dial phone numbers and screen out busy signals, voicemail, non-answers and disconnected numbers so agents are only on the phone when a person answers. By making the most efficient use of an agent's time, call centers that use this technology can complete a high volume of outbound calls in a short period of time.
  • Scripting to overcome annoyance. Consumers generally consider outbound calls intrusive. Prospective customers often begin the conversation wary or annoyed. Leaving flexibility in agent scripts to personalize calls is one way to counter this initial negativity.
  • Blended agents. Making outbound calls can be draining for call center agents. Managers can keep morale high by assigning call center agents to make outbound and answer inbound calls depending on call volume. Such blended agents may have more success.
  • Do not call lists. Many countries have enacted legislation limiting the number of cold calls businesses and contact centers can make. For example, in the United States, the Federal Trade Commission maintains a Do Not Call Registry, a list of phone numbers that telemarketers are prohibited from calling in most circumstances. This list was created in 2003 and fundamentally changed the way marketers in call centers do business. Many other countries maintain similar lists.

Editor's note: This article was written by Rowena Lindsay in 2018. TechTarget editors revised it in 2023 to improve the reader experience.

This was last updated in April 2023

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