A call centre may be a centralized department to which phone calls from current and potential customers are directed. Call centers can handle inbound and/or outbound calls, and be located either within a corporation or outsourced to a different company that focuses on handling calls.

It is traditional for companies of a bigger size to possess call centres for the needs of:

Offering customers support

Handling their queries

Carrying out telemarketing

Conducting market research

However, each of those functions has developed greatly within the past few years, which has led to the emergence of the contact centre.

Call centers are utilized by online merchants, telemarketing companies, computer product help desks, mail-order organizations, polling services, charities and any large organization that uses the phonephone to sell and supply products or services or enhance the customer experience.

Typically, an inbound call centre handles a substantial volume of calls at a similar time, screens and forwards calls to someone qualified to handle them and logs calls. An interactive voice response (IVR) system will answer calls and utilize speech recognition technology to either address customer queries with an automatic message or route calls to the acceptable call centre agents or recipients via an automatic call distributor.

Agents in an inbound call centre may handle calls from current or potential customers regarding accounts management, scheduling, technical support, complaints, queries about products or services, or intent to get from the corporate. In an outbound call centre, an agent makes calls on behalf of the corporate or client for tasks, including lead generation, telemarketing, customer retention, fundraising, surveying, collecting debts or scheduling appointments.

To maximise efficiencies, calls are usually made with an automatic dialer then transferred to an available agent via an IVR system once a reference to an individual has been made. Outbound call centers must ensure compliance with the National don't Call Registry, an inventory to which citizens can add their phone numbers to avoid receiving unwanted solicitation calls.