Customer Service Representatives – Outbound or Inbound? Sales vs. Customer Service

Blurred call center phone operators on computers

The types of people who are drawn to inbound customer service support versus those who thrive on outbound call center sales are often very different. Yet, with increasing frequency, Aerotek clients are seeking customer service representatives (CSRs) that are good at both providing customer service and driving sales. We delve into which type of personality thrives in each environment, and what skills an individual can strengthen as a CSR to thrive in the dual-purpose customer service environment we are increasingly seeing emerge.

Two different roles

Inbound and outbound customer service reps provide various forms of support for customers by telephone. Inbound customer service is the traditional approach to telephone-based customer service. It occurs when a customer calls a company with a service request or an inquiry. The agents handling the incoming calls must have the product and technical knowledge to deal with the call or, if necessary, transfer the call to the correct specialist.

Outbound customer service representatives take a more proactive approach. As call center agents, they contact customers to follow up on a service issue or to notify customers of new products or policy changes. Outbound customer service allows managers to make greater use of agents during quiet periods, increasing overall productivity.

This dual-function results in having two very different types of call center professionals — those who like to sell and those who like to provide customer service. Aerotek recruiter Kaitlin Morkel sums these traits up nicely, “Inbound reps tend to be great listeners, empathetic and problem solvers; while outbound reps tend to be assertive, competitive and direct yet understanding.” Our recruiters have gotten very good over the years placing both types of customer service representatives.

Our recruiters have found that there are seven key qualities to being a successful customer service rep:

  1. Someone who enjoys human interaction
  2. Friendly, yet professional
  3. A strong communicator, whether via telephone, online or in person
  4. A good listener who can also understand and interpret what the customer means
  5. A problem solver
  6. Thorough and detail oriented
  7. Patient and empathetic

People who are direct communicators and goal-oriented typically gravitate to the outbound roles because they involve more of an emphasis on sales paired with customer satisfaction. While people that are very empathetic and solution-oriented are drawn to the inbound type of call center because they are “people pleasers” and want to help however they can. “And there are some call center environments that involve both inbound and outbound calls — and these types of people are what I like to call “more consultative” to the customer,” adds Morkel.

Some good advice

“You really need to find out what motivates you when deciding which type of CSR role you will enjoy. Are you goal oriented or driven by a competitive spirit, or are you energized by helping people or by being an empathetic listener? Ask yourself what your personality is best suited to and which job you think you might thrive in. Whether you choose inbound or outbound — if you like helping people and care about what you’re doing, you will succeed,” Morkel concludes.

If you’re looking for a rewarding career in customer service, we invite you to create a free Aerotek career account. If you are interested in inbound or outbound call center positions, explore current customer representative opportunities here.