What is a predictive dialer?

Drive efficiency and help your call center agents keep outbound calls productive with increased connection rates and minimized manual processing

Any contact center that deals with outbound campaigns needs systems and technologies that help them manage their processes efficiently. One of the most common solutions available is the predictive dialer.

But what exactly is it and how can it help call centers? We’ll try to answer these questions and more.

Any contact center that deals with outbound campaigns needs systems and technologies that help them manage their processes efficiently. One of the most common solutions available is the predictive dialer.

But what exactly is it and how can it help call centers? We’ll try to answer these questions and more.

Any contact center that deals with outbound campaigns needs systems and technologies that help them manage their processes efficiently. One of the most common solutions available is the predictive dialer.

But what exactly is it and how can it help call centers? We’ll try to answer these questions and more.

Any contact center that deals with outbound campaigns needs systems and technologies that help them manage their processes efficiently. One of the most common solutions available is the predictive dialer.

But what exactly is it and how can it help call centers? We’ll try to answer these questions and more.

What is a predictive dialer?

A predictive dialer is an automatic dialing system for outbound calling that's designed to increase agent efficiency. It does this by calling contacts before agents are available for another interaction. It’s typically used in call centers or contact centers to improve productivity and reduce idle time.

Originally designed by Douglas Samuelson as a hardware-based solution to make debt collection for overdue payments and telemarketing workflow more efficient in the late 1980s, the technology has since evolved into cloud contact center software—known as a hosted predictive dialer—with the ability to serve businesses outside of collection agencies at an affordable cost.

What is the difference between a predictive dialer and an auto dialer?

An auto dialer or automated dialer is an outbound dialing system that contact centers use to help their sales representatives avoid manually dialing hundreds (if not thousands) of phone numbers in their contact list. This technology makes outbound phone calls to customers on behalf of the call center and immediately connects it to an available agent. Auto dialing, unsurprisingly, outperforms old-school manual dialing modes in terms of contact rates - giving agents time to focus on developing a better approach to sales.

The predictive dialer is only one of the multiple dialing modes of auto dialers. It’s generally considered to be the smartest of the dialer types because it “thinks” about how many calls it can connect to live agents at any given time.

8x8’s Auto Dialer solution supports the predictive dialing mode as well as the progressive dialer and preview dialer modes.

What does a predictive dialer do?

A predictive dialer places multiple phone calls from a list of contacts at once, dropping calls that don’t get answered, and routing calls answered by actual people to the next agent available. This helps minimize downtime and idle time.

When it does this, each agent is given lots of time to actually connect with a customer rather than having their time and energy be used up by tasks like manual dialing, waiting for calls to be picked up, and the like. This improves agent productivity and customer satisfaction—connecting them to more live calls means better results for outbound sales teams, customer experience departments, and more.

How does predictive dialing work?

Predictive dialing works by using complex algorithms and formulas to determine when sales representatives are ready for a new call and how quickly calls to agents are answered.

But what exactly are these mathematical formulas? Well, they’re calculations that look for answers to questions that affect the efficiency of agents such as:

  • How long is average talk time, or what are each team's call handle times—that is to say, how long does each successful phone call usually take?
  • How many times will the system need to make outbound phone calls to a number before a human being picks it up?
  • What’s the customer abandon rate for outbound calls that aren’t immediately addressed by agents? **
  • What’s outbound agent availability like for this organization—how many are ready to engage with the next call, and how many are not?
  • Does the interaction require the agent to call back?

** Note: While “abandon rate” is more commonly associated with inbound calls from customers that are dropped by the callers from lack of or late responses, it can also refer to outbound calls customers hang up on when a live agent doesn’t immediately engage with them, leading to awkward pauses.

From there, it starts dialing multiple numbers at once and connects answered calls to available agents.

In calculating when the contact center is busiest, the pacing algorithm ensures that busy agents won’t need to deal with being overloaded with work or being saddled with unanswered calls or busy signals. It does this by stopping or slowing down its progress through a calling queue when few reps are available and dropping contacts that aren’t viable (calls that are not picked up, lines that are busy, calls that reach fax machines, or calls are sent to voicemail).

Predictive dialer features for outbound call centers

What are the most common or key features of a good predictive dialer system? Here are a few of them:

  • Answering machine detection (AMD) - the dialer needs to be able to distinguish between a call that’s been picked up by a human being and a call that was picked up by an automatic system
  • Do Not Call (DNC) management - the dialer needs to restrict itself from contacting customers without their consent, meaning it needs to have features that comply with regulations like the TCPA (Telephone Consumer Protection Act) for the US and the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) / Corporate Telephone Preference Service (CTPS) for the UK
  • Real-time list management functionality - the dialer needs to be able to manage lists of contacts quickly to help administrators optimize campaigns for better chances of success through contact status, call outcomes, and the like
  • Localization - the dialer needs to have localization features such as local caller ID and time zone customization to improve chances of getting a prospect to pick up the call for international phone campaigns
  • Omnichannel support - the dialer needs to be able to handle data from channels of communication outside of telephony such as SMS and email to help reps connect with customers when they’re most likely to respond
  • Contact center management software integration - the dialer's pacing algorithm needs to work seamlessly with the organization’s workforce management and workflow optimization solutions, creating efficient workflow automation and enhanced employee performance
  • Call metrics and analytics alignment - the dialer needs to be able to take call and behavior data into account and adjust its dialing rate accordingly
  • CRM integration - the dialer needs to be able to integrate with the CRM (customer relationship management) software like Salesforce to provide reps with the information they need to effectively engage with customers
  • Scripts for call center agents - the dialer needs to be able to support custom call scripts, which the service and sales teams can use to personalize their outbound interactions and enhance employee performance

Of course, there are other, more advanced features that you can look for in cloud-based call center solutions. To get an idea of what these might be, check out 8x8's all-in-one cloud contact center solution.

How effective are predictive dialers?

Much like any tool, how effective a dialer will be in terms of campaign list penetration depends on how big a part it needs to play in your strategy. In cases where voice calls are an important part of your campaign, predictive dialing can absolutely make a difference.

Predictive dialer benefits

There are several benefits to using this dialing mode for your contact center, the most obvious ones being:

Increased productivity

Let’s start with something we’ve already touched upon: making more productive use of agents' time. If managing the list of telephone numbers is left up to a reliable dialing system, the 15 minutes of calls per hour that would have been left for actual conversation could be stretched to 45 minutes per hour of call time. This means sales reps and agents are at least 3x as productive as they would have been without it. Imagine how many deals you can close on a daily basis when you drive efficiency through call handle times like this.

Cost efficiencies

Along with increasing productivity comes cost savings. When lots of time is spent towards closing a deal instead of dialing numbers and hoping for a caller to pick up, they give companies higher returns for the basic investment of employing them. With answering machine detection, time won't be wasted on unavailable customers. And if you happen to invest in a cloud-based dialer solution, you also get to scale up or scale back according to campaign budgets - maximizing operating costs. The optimal number of calls per day = effective personalized customer experience.

Intelligent multi-campaign management

Letting a good system manage the dialing lists helps ensure calls to potential customers are paced in a way that doesn’t come off as disruptive. For example, if a person happens to be identified as a lead for two campaigns, the dialer can ensure that they won’t be contacted more than once in one day or for any given amount of time.

Proactive customer service

While predictive dialing is more commonly associated with outbound contact center activities like sales, it can also be incredibly useful in customer service. This includes campaigns that provide information on service upgrades and follow-up on inbound calls or customer tickets.

Predictive dialer challenges

As beneficial as it could be, there are some details you’ll want to pay attention to so you can avoid major issues. These include:

Algorithmic and user learning curves

No matter how intelligent your predictive dialer solution is, it may still take time before it fully adapts to the contact center’s needs. On top of this, some call center managers may not be used to the new system and won’t be able to get optimal results right away. Make sure you talk to your vendor about this so you can mitigate these challenges.

Timing issues

Occasionally, the dialer may mistime a call and connect to a customer before the agent is ready to pick it up. The delay in response can cause disengagement, which can get in the way of a successful campaign. Again, talk to your system provider to see if their solution includes ways of minimizing unsuccessful calls in light of this.

Agent burnout

Because predictive dialing entails reaching out to contacts even before a rep is ready to take on more sales calls, there’s less time to take a breath between calls. This could lead to agents burning out quickly, as well as high agent turnover rates. To avoid this, ask your vendors questions about customizing the algorithm.

Predictive Dialer FAQs

What’s the difference between a predictive dialer and a progressive dialer?

While predictive dialers and progressive dialers are both automatic dialing modes commonly incorporated into contact center solutions, they work differently and serve different scenarios. Below is a quick overview of their unique features.

Predictive dialers vs progressive dialers - a quick summary chart

Predictive DialerProgressive Dialer
When does it start outbound dialing?It begins to call contacts even before an agent is free to take a call, based on an aggressive pacing algorithmIt begins to call contacts only when an agent is free to take a call
How many calls does it place based on outbound agent availability?It calls many numbers at once for every agent that becomes availableIt calls one number for every agent that becomes available
Does it use an algorithm to work?YesNo
What is it most useful for?It’s most useful for increasing talk time in campaigns that have large contact lists, balancing efficiency with a good sales processIt’s most useful for improving connection rates and ensuring successful customer interactions in B2B (business to business) campaigns for outbound sales and the like

For campaigns focused on personalized customer experience, explore the preview dialing mode.

Are predictive dialers illegal?

No, predictive dialing software isn’t illegal as long as it adheres to regulatory restrictions established to protect consumers. The most commonly recognized of these are the TCPA and the TPS / CTPS.

The TCPA is a regulatory authority that places limits on the use of automation for contacting United States consumers who have not given their documented consent to receive calls, pre-recorded messages, and faxes from companies. It had set up the National Do-Not-Call list for the country, which allows people to register their numbers so they can minimize receiving solicitation-type phone calls and fax communications.

The TPS / CTPS are registries in the United Kingdom that allow businesses and consumers to avoid receiving unsolicited sales or marketing calls. Organizations that breach the regulations covering the protection of these numbers face fines from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

Automatic dialers only become illegal if they don’t take regulations like these into account, and most advanced software for outbound dialing already do.

H,ow muc,h does a predictive dialer cost?

While it’s easy to conclude that this will cost businesses a lot of money, this is only true if they fail to find the right provider.

The pricier options are often in-house or on-premises. This is when a company chooses to have the additional hardware and software in their offices, often managed by specialized IT personnel. In these situations, the costs can be anywhere from $5,000 to $25,000, depending on how large the contact center is—and that’s not even counting maintenance spending and operating costs.

Cloud-based or hosted options have a far more affordable cost than hardware solutions. A predictive dialer plan can go as low as $14 per month for each agent, depending on the provider and specific business needs. More often than not, they include advanced features on top of key features at reasonable prices.

To get real value for money, consider investing in a cloud-based call center solution that goes beyond outbound capabilities and incorporates inbound features like interactive voice response (IVR) and automatic call distribution (ACD).

What is the best predictive dialer software?

The best software for predictive dialing would be the one that actually helps your agents engage customers through process automation and truly intelligent outbound dialer functionality. A really good automated dialer seamlessly works with a company’s call center solution to prioritize leads and ultimately boost sales and conversions.

And that’s why it’s always good to consider dialing systems that are already part of your contact center’s outbound phone system. One good example of this would be the 8x8 CCaaS (contact center as a service) solution, which includes predictive, progressive, and preview dialing modes as well as speech recognition and email integration in its omnichannel call center software.

How do I choose the right dialer for my business?

Before you commit to this investment, you need to consider the following questions:

  1. What’s your standard operating procedure for each interaction? Workflow informs pacing, and the more tasks agents need to perform in between or during calls (research, customer profile updates, etc), the slower the dialing cadence needs to be.
  2. How big is your team? The smaller your team is, the fewer people you’ll have to pick up automatically connected calls.
  3. How many contacts need to be called, and for how long? If the list of leads is large, and a campaign will only run for a limited time, you’ll need a dialer that accommodates this.
  4. What support will you get out of the vendor? Will your provider help set up the system and provide training resources for users?
  5. How much customization can be applied to this system? Every situation is different, so you may want a solution you can tweak based on individual campaign needs.

Why get hosted call center software?

As mentioned above, there are many benefits to choosing a cloud-hosted solution—chief among them being value for money. But the bigger advantages come from intelligent solutions that constantly (and often automatically) roll out improvements as soon as they’re available.

An all-in-one cloud contact center solution like the one offered by 8x8 includes call recording, SMS marketing capabilities through APIs, and agent performance monitoring features. Even better? They roll out improvements regularly.

Want to learn more about how 8x8 CCaaS can help manage your outbound campaigns for enhanced contact center performance? Chat with sales or talk to an expert.

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