Predictive dialers make call centers more productive by letter call center agents spend more time talking to customers or prospects, rather than dialing or dealing with busy signals, disconnected lines or answering machines. Predictive dialers automatically dial numbers from the list you input. They can adjust the number of calls based on the number of agents available, distinguish answering machines from live people, redial after busy signals, and in general help call centers run more smoothly.

Several kinds of predictive dialers are available. Some require the purchase of hardware, some require new software, and some use the internet so agents can work from anywhere that they have an internet connection. Predictive dialers are useful for phone surveys, telemarketing, political campaigns, or reminding customers of deliveries or appointments.

The following steps will help you decide which predictive dialer is right for your call center.

  1. First, find out telemarketing laws concerning predictive dialers for the areas you’ll be calling, and make sure any predictive dialer has the features you need to minimize complaints and keep your call center legal. For example, you’ll probably need a do-not-call option for customers to opt out. There should be a way to prevent too many silent calls that have a delay between the times the customer answers and the time the call is directed to an agent. Otherwise, the person may hang up, or the predictive dialer may disconnect, and the number of such calls may be regulated by law. For more information about FTC regulations in the US, see the link in the “Resources” section below.

  2. Decide whether you want to invest in new hardware, or only new software, or want a hosted system that works online. Predictive dialers that require installation of new hardware (“hard dialers”) are generally more expensive, but may have more advanced features and be able to handle more calls. Predictive dialers that are based on software (“soft dialers”) may be less expensive, but may not be as useful recognizing answering machines or fax lines. Hosted predictive dialers have the lowest initial cost and only require each agent to have a phone line and an internet connection, so agents can work at home or from remote locations, but hosted predictive dialers may have more limited features.

  3. Make sure the predictive dialer you choose is compatible with the current phone system and software that your call center is using, whether it’s a PBX system, VoIP, or agents with individual phone lines and internet services. The predictive dialer should have the capacity to handle the number of agents you employ now, with extra capacity if you plan to expand. If the system is dependent on your internet connection, you’ll need the connection to be reliable.

  4. Consider how easy the predictive dialer is to use, and include the cost of training employees when comparing prices.

  5. Once you’ve chosen and installed a predictive dialer, test it before beginning to use it on a large scale. Make sure it connects each live person to an agent in a reasonable amount of time, and has a minimal number of mistakes.