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how to start a call center

Published in Callcentres

When your telephone department mainly handles incoming calls, we also call it an inbound call center - as opposed to an outbound call center. But how do you set up such an inbound call center?

In this article we will show you what is involved and give you valuable tips.

Examples of inbound call centers

A telephone department that handles incoming calls from a centralized location is called an inbound call center. In this case, customers and interested parties contact a company themselves. This is in contrast to an outbound call center, where the employees themselves take the initiative to speak to customers. Telemarketing is a well-known (and sometimes infamous) example of such an outbound call center.

Inbound call centers come in many forms, which are certainly not mutually exclusive; a combination of multiple functions is common. Below we show you some examples of inbound call centers and their specialties. You may immediately see application possibilities for your own organization.

Customer service

A customer service is a general number that customers with questions can call. In many cases, a customer service is an umbrella number that connects callers, based on their questions, to, for example, the help desk, an installer, the administration, or another department.

Example: A-furniture uses a national phone number to answer questions from existing and prospective customers. For its telephone customer service, the furniture store uses a choice menu, a calendar and zip code routing to quickly connect customers to the right branch and employee.


Existing customers who have questions about how a product or service they use works ask a help desk staff. For technical topics, there are often different levels: first-line employees with broad knowledge and second-line or even third-line employees with specialized technical knowledge.

Example: PC Dokter Friesland uses a premium rate number to provide remote assistance. Customers requiring help at the desk can call a local number to make an appointment. Callers can choose to speak to a specific employee or the first available one.

Order line or reservation line

Ordering a cab or pizza, buying a ticket or booking a vacation: a telephone reservation service makes this possible. Because a call almost always results in a sale, companies choose to make this number free for callers. An 0800 number completely removes the barrier.

Example: is available on a 0900 number with a low rate per call, on which customers can place orders. A holiday calendar and a postal code menu ensure that callers end up at the right hamburger restaurant. Each branch operates its own opening hours.

Telephone consultation

For consumers, it is very nice when a telephone consultation can answer a difficult question. Especially if it concerns subjects for which you normally have to make an (expensive) appointment with a professional. Telephone consultations exist in the form of tax advice, legal help and medical 'second opinions'.

Example: Zorgbelang Nederland uses two premium rate numbers for telephone support. Both numbers use, among other things, calendars and postal codes to connect callers to the regional consultants on duty.

Requirements for an inbound call center

If you want to set up an inbound call center, you will obviously need a physical location, comfortable workstations, physical or IP phones with headsets, computers with software to process orders and log customer contact, and so on.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Indeed, a first step is to take stock of the question: how many customers do you have? What percentage of them do you expect to contact? How many potential customers are going to call you per day? How long are calls going to take? How much revenue are the calls going to generate?

On this basis you can determine the staffing of your telephone department, set the opening hours and choose a particular type of telephone number. We will tell you more about all these points below.

Who picks up the phone?

The logical choice is to answer your customers' calls yourself. After all, you know your products or service better than anyone. In addition to training in telephone etiquette, an introduction to the software with which you log calls is necessary. You can prepare current employees for this, or choose to hire new ones. Again, this depends on the expected workload that the incoming calls will create.

Of course, you may not expect an unsustainable amount of calls in the early days, and your inbound call center may take shape bit by bit. But if you think you are going to have a busy call center all at once, you can opt for call center outsourcing.

Call center outsourcing, for example, is very common among Internet and telephone providers, banks and insurance companies. The employees of these call center giants are deployed after a period of training as if they were employees in your own office. You decide what issues the employees solve on your behalf and what permissions they are given.

An intermediate solution is an overflow: you and your employees answer incoming calls, but callers are transferred to an external call center when you are absent or busy. In this way, you can grow flexibly and easily respond to a growing need.

Which phone number?

One detail you should pay attention to is the phone number of your call center. There are all kinds of types of numbers available, but which phone number is best for your business? Of course, a standard choice is the local phone number that you most likely already have. But for companies that operate nationwide, a geographic number doesn't have the look you want.

One of your options is to register a national phone number. This is a phone number that is not tied to a location or region and therefore will appeal to a nationwide audience. Because the number holder and the caller share the cost, these numbers are approachable to your target audience. Belfabriek offers national phone numbers for most European countries. For example 032 phone numbers in Germany, 030 in the UK, 010 in Sweden, 09 in France, and many more.

Then there are premium telephone numbers. This type of service number is generally more expensive for callers than a local landline number or a national number. It all depends on the calling rate you set. Indeed, you read it correctly: as a number holder you may set the minute rate or the call charge for an 0900 number. The uniqueness of the 0900 number is that part of the costs that callers incur is transferred to you. This allows you to run your inbound call center cost-effectively or even profitably. Do note that if you use the number to provide customer service to existing customers, special rules apply about the rate. As of this moment Belfabriek only offers premium phone numbers in Netherlands: 0900.

In direct contrast are the numbers that are free for callers: the 0800 numbers. For these, you as the number holder bear the costs. With such a free number it is extra inviting to call you. Just like the premium number, this number has a nationwide appeal. Belfabriek offers 0800 phone numbers for most European countries.

What kind of devices?

Then there is the question of what kind of phones you will use. The time of stiff necks caused by phones clamped between ears and shoulders is thankfully behind us. The most pleasant for employees is a wireless headset, which are connected to an IP telephone or softphone, for example. Our article on the differences between hardphones and softphones can help you make the right choice.

But even if you use a traditional landline phone -or even a mobile phone- you can work flawlessly with the Belfabriek. We'll make sure your incoming calls are transferred to your phones in no time.

Anyone can set up a call center

You can go big if you want to start a call center, but you can just as easily start small. In fact, a landline or cell phone is all you need. With a virtual number from Belfabriek you can then redirect callers to that phone.

Thanks to the convenient options we provide you with, you can set up your virtual number just like a large call center would. For example, add a welcome text, a selection menu, the possibility to leave a voicemail message, and possibly a call waiting queue. All of these features you can enable, disable and change to your heart's content. You can also change the number to which you direct callers in the blink of an eye.

All this with the support of an online dashboard where you can see call statistics in real time. Based on that, you make decisions that positively affect the growth of your inbound call center.

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