Customer service is a critical component of success for many small businesses. Inbound and outbound customer service are the two general types of call center services offered by companies. Inbound services are performed by reps who field calls from customers. Outbound reps make calls to customers to follow up on or inquire about account issues.

Inbound Basics

Inbound customer service is the process of receiving incoming calls from prospects and customers. Some calls come from people wanting to learn more about your business, products and services. Other calls come from people inquiring about their accounts, product issues or billing concerns. Inbound reps typically have access to contact management software solutions that allow them to open customer accounts, when applicable, to answer account-specific questions.

Service Examples

A prospect might call to get information on various products and services. The rep would ask some questions and go through options based on the answers provided by the customer. In some companies, the service rep passes the customer onto a salesperson. An existing customer may call to ask technical product questions when he has issues. For instance, someone who just purchased a laptop computer might call the inbound service department to get help with setup. The rep normally goes through basic troubleshooting steps to help resolve the issue. When unsuccessful, the rep may pass the customer on to a more advanced technical support worker.

Outbound Basics

Outbound customer service involves phone calls made from your business to customers. It is also an integral part to service and account management. Verifying account details, confirming profile changes, updating customers on account terms or product recalls, and following up on recent purchases are among the common duties of an outbound rep. Some companies make routine follow-up calls a certain number of days after purchase. A rep might call, for instance, to ask how the product has worked for the customer and whether there are any issues.


One aspect of outbound service that is distinct is an emphasis on add-on sales. While inbound reps can also attempt to sell extra products and services, this is a common role in outbound centers. A mobile phone company might call a customer after a purchase to recommend additional services such as ring tones, digital plans and texting. Suggestion selling drives more business with established customers when done right.