What is a Predictive Dialer?

Mary McMahon

A predictive dialer is a telemarketing tool which is used to manage phone calls made to contacts on a telemarketing list. The goal of a predictive dialer is to increase talk time for agents, ensuring that they make as many connections with potential customers as possible. There are several different types of predictive dialing systems available, at varying costs.

Whenever a live person answers a call, the predictive dialer transfers the call to an agent.
Whenever a live person answers a call, the predictive dialer transfers the call to an agent.

When a predictive dialer is used, it starts with a list of contacts which have been loaded into the dialer. The dialer is also fed information about the number of agents available to handle calls, and the average length of calls. Using this information, the dialer starts to dial numbers, and whenever a live person answers, the predictive dialer transfers the call to an agent.

Calls which end in fax tones, busy signals, disconnection messages, and answering machines are dropped, with some predictive dialers flagging these calls so that bad numbers can be scrubbed from the list. Using constant updates about the number of agents available, the predictive dialer keeps dialing numbers and connecting people, keeping agents constantly on the phone with customers.

For telemarketing firms, using a predictive dialer is vastly preferable to having agents manually dial numbers, because it ensures that agents only make contact with numbers which have a real person on the other end of the line. Many consumers find predictive dialers annoying, however, because there is often a pause between the time the phone is answered and the time the call is connected, and if the system becomes overloaded, the dialer may start to drop calls, resulting in a “silent call,” where the phone is picked up by a consumer, but no one is on the other end.

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Some predictive dialers utilize software, while others are hardware based. It is also possible to use hosted systems, which require a computer with an Internet connection and a handset. Hosted systems can be very convenient for people who want increased flexibility, and for people who do not want to invest in the expensive setup for a predictive dialing phone system.

Depending on the nation which a call center is calling, there may be specific rules about using predictive dialers. In some nations, for example, companies are only allowed a certain number of dropped calls, due to consumer complaints about silent calls. Other countries may bar the use of recorded messages, requiring a live agent to handle the call, and some nations have do not call registries, which consumers can join to request exclusion from unsolicited telephone calls.

Discussion Comments


Besides being annoying, the pause when you answer the phone is also the biggest reason for missed sales opportunities.

You would be surprised how many people just hang up when they hear a pause and/or a person being connected to the call after they answer.

Since most people know about how this works, they opt to hang up rather than listen to the sales pitch.

Of course, if it were a real call and you hung up, the caller would probably call back right away, but the predictive dialer simply moves on to the next number, and in many instances, the agent doesn't even know what number was dialed.

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