Predictive dialing uses a computer-based system that automatically dials groups of telephone numbers, and then passes calls to available operators or agents in a calling center once the calls are connected. The most common use of predictive dialing is in call centers which make large amounts of calls, such as those run by telemarketing companies. Predictive dialing was introduced for the purpose of increasing efficiency within calling centers. Prior to its development, most call centers used devices known as autodialers, which were merely computers equipped with telephony boards that could dial a number without a caller having to manually enter it on a keypad.
Predictive dialing is far more advanced than using an autodialer because it monitors calls made to see how they are answered. If the call goes unanswered, is met with a busy signal or answering machine, or reaches a fax machine, the predictive dialer immediately ends the call. Only calls that are answered by a live person are put through to an operator. Therefore, productivity is increased because callers do not have to listen to unanswered calls or wait for someone to pick up.
Predictive dialing is so named because it predicts when callers will become available to take a new call, and dials calls in advance. When a person answers the phone, predictive dialing puts the call through to an agent, although there is sometimes a brief delay as the predictive dialer attempts to determine whether the person's voice is a recording, in which case the call is ended. The system essentially predicts how many of the dialed calls will be answered and how many callers will be free to take them. The goal in using predictive dialing is to avoid having agents in a calling center sitting idle.
These predictions are based on statistics collected by the predictive dialer as it monitors calls, such as what percentages of calls are answered. The predictive dialer then places a number of calls based on a predetermined parameter, such as the ratio of available phone lines to available operators. Because these numbers are constantly changing, computer algorithms incorporated into the predictive dialer will increase or decrease the number of calls dialed as this ratio shifts. Predictive dialing systems are judged on how well they keep callers from sitting inactive and how well they avoid silent calls -- calls in which a live person answers the call but there is no agent to take it, and so the predictive dialer ends the call.