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What is Predictive Dialing?

By J. Dellaporta
Updated May 16, 2024
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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.

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Discussion Comments

By tobycrane211 — On Nov 01, 2012

This is very helpful! Thanks for this information. It makes me reconsider ever getting a predictive dialer system. I have recognized that there are some major problems in efficiency with the predictive dialer.

By Penzance356 — On Jun 07, 2011

It's actually quite hard to get the predictive dialing algorithm right. There are all sorts of rules and regulations which must be followed to ensure the percentage of calls dropped, (not answered), stays within acceptable limits.

Companies are always working to increase the live hits the system can produce, without crossing the line that could lead to fines and restrictions from governing authorities.

By Valencia — On Jun 04, 2011

@MissMuffet - I know exactly what you mean! I work in sales and we used to have an automated dialer system in place. The managing director was fairly happy with that, despite the tendency for the technology to confuse answering machines with real people!

All was well until he fell for a sales pitch from a predictive dialing software salesman. The phrase '300% increase in staff productivity' was too much for him to resist. Pity he didn't know that burn out rates would increase alongside it!

I feel like a slave to a machine and really miss the old familiar auto dialer days.

By MissMuffet — On Jun 03, 2011

I'm kind of glad that predictive dialling wasn't used by the company I worked for briefly!

It was hard enough to make yourself cold call people and try to sell them home security systems, without having a machine queue them up so you never got a break.

To be honest most people quite enjoyed the sound of a call ringing out with no pick up. It may be the only chance you have in hours to not have to speak to anyone!

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