Predictive dialers work through a list of phone numbers for customers or prospective customers, automatically dialing each one and sending calls that reach a live person to a sales agent.
ALGORITHM FOR PREDICTING IN PREDICTIVE DIALERS
A form of automated dialing, predictive dialers work through a list of phone numbers for customers or prospective customers, automatically dialing each one, screening out no answers, busy signals, standard information tones (SITs) and answering machines, onlysending calls that reach a live person to a sales agent.
Using intelligent algorithms, these devices can detect when an agent is wrapping up a call; they’ll then begin dialing the next number and send the call to that agent as soon as it reaches a live voice on the other end. These algorithms are also capable of detecting the number of available telephone lines, available operators and average length of each call.
Obviously, the last thing you want is for the dialer to reach a live voice before an agent is available. You’ve probably hung up on poorly timed systems (wherein there was a long pause between the time you picked up the phone and when an agent was switched through); then again, you might of hung up on well-timed systems too. C’est la CT!
It’s also important to note two very popular trends in predictive dialers: call blending and multimedia queueing.
Most of the better predictive dialers today offer the important function of call blending. This means that if agents that typically handle inbound calls are idle for x amount of time, you can link the dialer with the ACD and start feeding outbound calls to these agents. But as soon as incoming call volume is back up to where more inbound agents are required, it will put them back on inbound calls.
This process works the same way for agents that typically handle outbound calls. If inbound call volume increases beyond pre-determined levels, the dialer will send incoming calls to agents that handle primarily outbound calls.
A much newer trend is the ability to incorporate predictive dialing in “multimedia” call centers. Such call centers can handle customer transactions regardless of contact medium: by traditional phone call, e-mail, Web-chat request or fax.
Here’s a great example: Someone visits your Web site. He fills out an on-line form indicating that he would like to receive a phone call to discuss opening a checking account. The predictive dialer gets this information, dials the customer at the time he wants to be called and connects him to the agent best equipped to help him with his request.
As for system architecture, it should also be stressed that predictive dialers used to consist of proprietary “mainframe-like” hardware. Now, pushed by such open telephony solutions as those provided by Buffalo International, almost all systems are client/server Windows-based.
Predictive dialing can now also run across a Wide Area Network, allowing you to conduct real-time campaigns across multiple sites. For example, if the dialer launches a call from one office— yet all agents are still wrapping up calls— the dialer does not have to drop the call; it can instead search another office to find an appropriate agent to send the call to, creating a “virtual” call center in the process.
The benefit of predictive dialers is that they can make many, many more calls in a much, much shorter period of time than if an agent had to manually dial each phone number. If the device should encounter a busy signal or no answer, it will schedule to dial the number again later, without human intervention. The system can also keep track of an entire campaign’s progress in real time— which would be nearly impossible if attempted manually.
In short, agent outbound calling productivity and efficiency is greatly improved.
Some important features to look for:
You should be able to get real-time and detailed statistics about your campaigns in progress. You should also be able to get a variety of reports that help track specifics about particular accounts and campaign outcomes.
Flexible agent control.
You should be able to specify if you want some agents to be able to switch in-between campaigns. For example, if a particular sales campaign has reached its overall sales target, you may wish to set rules that tell the dialer to switch agents John and Jennifer to a collections campaign. Etc.
Integration with your ACD.
If you want to perform call blending, the system will have to tightly integrate with your inbound switch. You may also check with your IVR manufacturer, since automated CT systems often front-end and work closely with a call center’s switch.
Many vendors offer a single platform that lets you run a variety of call center functions, i.e. call monitoring, IVR, ACD and predictive dialing. Considering the intense integration, they likely offer advantages over piece-meal vendors.
You should be able to feed your dialer “do not call” lists. These are lists of people that do not wish to be “cold called”; these lists are available from the American Telemarketing Association. Federal legislation requires that you leave these people alone, as well as certain other rules (such as no phone calls after 9 PM).
You should have some control over the precise timing issues surrounding predictive dialing, including how long agents have to wrap up after calls, maximum time between the time a human is found and an agent is switched through, how long a system should wait before redialing numbers that didn’t previously answer, all timing parameters surrounding call blending, etc.
Although you can now pick up some used systems fairly inexpensively (at least a lot cheaper than their original— and considerable— cost), mainframe iron will get you in the long run. It simply won’t be able to adapt to the new multimedia and increasingly “packet-based” call-center environment. So unless your needs are very rudimentary, pass.
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