A predictive dialer is an outbound calling system that automatically dials from a list of telephone numbers, much like autodialers or robodialers. A predictive dialer automatically calls numbers until it detects a connection, then passes the call to a live agent. dialers screen out busy signals, voicemails, no-answers, disconnected numbers, and so on.
So what sets predictive dialers apart from other automatic dialers? Their ability to utilize call metrics to predict the moment when human agents will be available to make the next call. Meaning they time their auto-dialing to run in parallel with the availability of agents. If a call center is busy, and lots of agents are having conversations, the predictive dialer will slow or stop its outreach until it knows that agents are nearing the end of calls.
Another distinguishing feature of predictive dialers is that they dial multiple numbers at the same time. The goal is to call the right number of leads at the right time to ensure maximum agent utilization.
Predictive dialers have been around for around 30 years. They got their start in the banking industry and were used primarily for debt collection purposes. And while predictive dialers began as hardware solutions, many companies now offer predictive dialer software that is often based in the cloud. Hosted dialers are preferred by many companies due to the fact that they minimize up-front capital expenses and reduce IT costs. Some dialers can even integrate with CRMs like Salesforce.com in order to give visibility into call metrics.
As the name implies, predictive dialers predict when agents will be free to take the next call and then dial numbers on the agent’s behalf. The dialer uses algorithms to surmise the exact time that an agent should be finishing up with a call and then dials another number. When working properly, predictive dialers supply agents with a steady stream of calls with little-to-no downtime.
This can save agents and telemarketers a lot of time. For example, manually dialing a number can take 30 seconds. And only one out of every three or four calls might get answered. But predictive dialers can calculate the average length of a call and the average number of dials it takes to make a connection and then optimizes dialing to enable agents to seamlessly move from one call to the next.
Predictive dialers are routinely used in telemarketing, market research, debt collection, and customer service follow-up. In addition, some lead qualification agents use predictive dialers to maximize the amount of time they can spend on the phone with leads during outbound sales prospecting.
Since predictive dialers focus on putting reps on the phone as much as possible, they may not be effective for organizations selling high-value items, or those who want to create an excellent customer experience, as they don’t leave any time for research between dials. For these companies, a lead’s context is key to having a productive conversation, and therefore a predictive dialer may not be the right solution.
There are various reports on the effectiveness of predictive dialers. When phone utilization is a primary concern, predictive dialers have been shown to deliver dramatic results. One study showed that predictive dialers can improve agent productivity by 200 to 300 percent.
Another concern is that some predictive dialers dial multiple leads at once without giving inside sales reps any insight into the dialing process. While they can increase call volume, predictive dialers don’t give inside sales reps as much power to prioritize leads. There has also been backlash against predictive dialer use, including the FCC banning the use of all auto-dialers (including predictive dialers), that dial numbers that do not have pre-established consent.