A predictive dialer is a system that allows outbound calls to be made automatically. The number of outbound calls made is based on a predictive algorithm that throttles (or “paces”) the calls so that when a call is connected to a customer a call center agent will be available to handle the call. As a result, a predictive dialer typically makes two or three times as many concurrent outbound calls as there are agents.
Example Outbound Dial
Let’s take a step back to understand why predictive dialers can be helpful to certain types of calling campaigns. Imagine that a call center agent needs to make a call to a customer, and uses a dialing system that allows the user to click to call a number (also known as a preview dialer). The timing of that call goes something like this in an example where the called party doesn’t answer the phone:
|Click number to dial||0 sec|
|ACD dials number||2 sec|
|Answering Machine message||50 sec|
|Leave message||90 sec|
|Disposition Call||120 sec|
|Total Time Elapsed:||2 minutes|
In this simple example, the agent wasted 2 minutes or more and didn’t speak to the customer. In a typical call center where agents are paid $15 / hour (and have a fully burdened labor cost of around $25 / hour), that two minute call cost the call center around a dollar, and more importantly, wasted precious time that the agent could have been productively speaking to a live person.
How predictive dialers improve efficiency
Now, imagine that the same call sequence shown above was handled using a predictive dialer. With a predictive dialer, the call activities that happen before the called party actually answers are all handled by the autodialer — not by a human agent. The example call sequence shown above would not have involved an agent because no human ever picked up the phone — the predictive dialer would initiate the call (“click the number”), wait while the ACD dials, wait during the ringing, and automatically detect that an answering machine answered. Predictive dialers often can be programmed to automatically leave a voicemail message. All without human intervention.
While this is happening, the predictive dialer is making other outbound dials in an attempt to find a human who answers the call. Once a human answers, the predictive dialer automatically connects the call with an available call center agent.
When dialers are operating efficiently, the call center agents never waste their time as shown above. Instead, agents are presented with live humans on the line. An agent working without a predictive dialer may make 20-40 calls an hour (with a connect rate of less than 50%). A predictive dialer can make hundreds of dials per hour and improve each agent’s connect rate to near 100%. Agents can conduct 20-30 connected calls an hour.
How predictive dialers work
Predictive dialers use a number of features and data points to achieve this improved efficiency. Let’s imagine a call campaign that is being handled by a call center with 10 agents on shift. Each call in the campaign lasts an average of 5 minutes. The connect rate for the leads in the list that is being dialed is 50% (so every second call actually gets answered by a human).
In this scenario, the predictive dialer may be configured to operate at a pace of making 2 outbound calls for every available agent or every agent that is predicted to become available. If all 10 agents were not available (maybe some are on a call and others are on a break), the predictive algorithm may throttle the pace back to make fewer calls.
In general, the predictive dialer is set up to make calls so that every available agent is busy, while also making sure that outbound calls are not “abandoned”. An outbound call is abandoned when a called party answers the call but no agent is available to be bridged into the call. This results in a very unsatisfactory experience for the called party (and can give rise to some regulatory violations — see the Telemarketing Sales Rule Safe Harbor in the glossary).
Important features of a good predictive dialer system include a good answering machine detection module and a good predictive module to configure the “pacing” of the outbound calls.