A predictive dialer is an outbound calling system that calls numbers from a pre-existing list and passes answered calls to human agents. Predictive dialing differs from other types of auto dialing through its use of intelligent algorithms to select numbers to dial, its ability to simultaneously dial multiple numbers, and its use of data to predict when agents will be available.

Predictive dialers exist both as hardware and cloud-based software, though hosted predictive dialers are increasingly preferred. Predictive dialers are commonly used in businesses that do telemarketing, debt collection, research, sales, and customer service follow-up.

How Do Predictive Dialers Work?

Foregoing an overwhelmingly technical explanation of predictive dialer technology, here are the basic principles of how predictive dialing works.

Predictive dialers use algorithms to both predict the availability of call center agents and then to dial numbers from a list. These algorithms may be fed with data gathered either through external tools or through a holistic software suite that the predictive dialer may be a part of.

Predictive dialers can tell when agents will be available based on comparing the state of their current calls with data gathered from the agents’ history of calls. In this way, predictive dialers work to maximize the time agents spend talking to customers, while minimizing time that customers spend waiting.

This saved time becomes more emphatic when considering the time cost of manual dialing, and the fact that, without predictive algorithms, only one out of every few calls may actually be answered.

Effectiveness of Predictive Dialers

Studies have shown a significant impact of predictive dialers on agent productivity.

Predictive Dialer vs. Auto Dialer vs. Manual Dialer

Predictive dialing is one of three primary types of modes of dialing in call centers. The other two are:

1. Manual Dialing

Manual dialing is the old-fashioned way that call centers did outbound dialing. A human, often the agent themselves, dials the next number on their list as soon as they finish a call. This is the slowest dialing option, but can be useful in specific situations in which delicate selectivity is required for choosing numbers to dial, and removing any possibility of having to put that number on hold.

2. Auto Dialing

Auto dialing is a solution to the slowness of manual dialing that conducts outbound dialing from a pre-fed list of numbers. Non-predictive auto dialers call at a pre-set pace, call one number at a time, and their settings must be manually changed. This means that auto dialers typically set the pace for agent calls, as the human agents must adapt to the auto dialing, rather than vice versa.

Predictive Dialing Can Be the Best of Both Worlds

Predictive dialing combines the best of both worlds of rapid-fire but inflexible auto dialing and intelligent but slow human dialing. Predictive dialing’s abilities to adapt to agents’ behavior based on data and to always have available callers ready for agents while minimizing downtime means that it creates the least “dead space” of all the dialing options.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Predictive Dialers

Greater agent productivity as a result of less downtime from no-answer calls and from manually typing numbersThe absence of time between calls may disallow or impede the ability of agents to do research on customers with high-ticket items.
Increased sales through efficiently connecting with a greater amount of customers than other dialing methods Some backlash against use of auto dialers, with the FCC banning auto dialers that dial numbers that did not consent to be on a list. However, predictive dialing today only dials from a pre-established list.
Better customer experience from less hold time than auto dialing, leading to a reduction in call abandon ratesAgents may lack insight into the predictive dialing process, causing them to have a difficult time prioritizing leads. However, it is possible to educate agents to be able to switch to manual dialing for sensitive situations.
Cloud hosting allows for convenient set-up and modification of settings, as well as integration with data gathered from external tools Lack of agent insight may also cause agents to go into calls blind, without knowing who they are talking to and why until the conversation has already started.

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