Diallers, are they worth it?

Diallers seen by some as THE solution yet they can be more trouble than help.  This article looks at diallers, their jargon and their associated pros & cons.

This article is for managers and call centre managers who might be new to the technology.

  • What is a dialler?
  • The lexicon of diallers
  • Types of dialler
  • Final thoughts

For experienced conctact centre readers you can skip to the “Final thoughts” for the answer to the question as it assumes you understand the terms involved.

[read more=”Read more” less=”Read less”]

What is a dialler?

The business process

All n One - Ballymount
All n One – Ballymount

Most businesses start with contacting a list of people. These calls are sales / marketing calls, debt collection or customer service calls usually.

For years these businesses used the humble sheet of paper and the team just ringing the next person in the list.  It worked.

Companies used metrics and reports to analyse and improve performance consequently finding that people can introduce inefficiencies to the processes.

A person has to find their motivation to pick up the phone and ring the next customer who you know really doesn’t want to talk to them.

Human mistakes like dialling the wrong number not only waste time but also money.

Where a team has a big list to contact splitting the list and then gathering the results and doing reports on the contacts is time consuming and if done by people can often lead to many errors.

How can technology remove the mistakes?

 

The technology

 

The key technology to the process is the phone call, not a computer surprisingly.  The process is a call to the customer.  Businesses optimised the processes using the phone system.

A Public Branch eXchange or PBX is the phone system which allows you make the phone calls.  In the 1970s PBXs were not cheap and at the time saw many companies such as Nortel and Avaya grow into global companies.  A business could buy an add on to their PBX which saved a ton of time and effort.  This is the dialler.

The dialler performed a number of actions which greatly cut down on human errors

  1. The system dials numbers automatically for the team resulting in the number of mistakes in typing in numbers disappearing
  2. Logs report how many phone calls made by the team
  3. The system can dial the next number as soon as the first call finishes reducing the waste time between calls

 

The lexicon of diallers

A lexicon is the words that make up a language.

Some jargon

A business may have lots of lists to call which usually requires more than one person.  A “call centre” is the simple way to refer to a team who do the calling.  The call centre will have a PBX.

In modern terms the team might send emails to the customer as well as call them, so “call centre” is less used and “contact centre” is more common to hear.

Agents make the calls in a call centre.  The title agent differentiates them from managers or administrative staff.

Diallers manage their work in different ways with different options, with these options collectively called dialler types.  We look at dialler types below.

You call a company and hear an automatic message.  “Press 1 for Sales.  Press 2 for Care.”.   Interactive Voice Response or IVR is the name of this technology.

 

Phone system technology evolution

Philip Lacey in Gateway Technical support June 1999
Me in Gateway in June 1999. Senior Technican and New Product Introduction Trainer at the time.  Gateway used a Nortel Option 81c.  I’m using a Plantronics hands free kit in this image.

In the 1970s PBX technology used POTS, the Plain Old Telephone System.

As the Internet became more and more available through the 1990s a new technology emerged called VOIP or Voice Over Internet Protocol.

Skype has become synonymous with making internet phone calls.

Through this period computers became more and more cost effective for businesses to add in.

So where a desk was once a phone and piece of paper it became a phone and a computer.

Over time as the internet and technology enabled more and more, the phone moved into the computer.

Modern call centres only have a computer which can do the role of the paper and the phone and a lot more besides.

Some people still like a phone to hold instead of using a hands free headset.  When you deal with a lot of phone calls a hands free kit saves a lot of pain in Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSI)

A hard phone on the desk became replaced by a software phone or soft phone which runs on the computer instead.

As the Internet is free globally it becomes almost free to use the Internet for phone calls instead of the POTS system.

A SIP Trunk (Session Initiation Protocol) is the point where the POTS connects to the Internet.

 

Cloud phone systems

Asterix Virtual PBX System
Asterix Virtual PBX System image from http://blog.asterixsolutions.in/virtual-pbx/

Buying a phone system in the 70s through the early 2000’s was expensive.  Using VOIP on computers instead of PBXs is far more cost effective for businesses.

Companies who didn’t update to VOIP, such as Northern Telecom (Nortel) who had previously dominated the industry quickly fell behind.  Nortel was an enormous global company.  Companies who adapted quickly such as Avaya grew.  Avaya bought the whole of Nortel in 2009 ending a legacy players reign.

Primarily for cost reasons having computing power to rent rather than buy is an effective model for many businesses.  When you access a service via the Internet rather than the service physically being in your business infrastructure the term used is “in the cloud”.

A phone system in the cloud is a Virtual PBX system.  You could rent your phone system by the user instead of having to invest tens of thousands in infrastructure to build your own PBX solution.

Cloud diallers connect your virtual dialler to your virtual PBX.  Avaya, Cisco, Genesys and others offer cloud based solutions.

If you don’t have good internet connectivity where you are don’t worry as of 2018 you can still buy and build your own PBX in your comms room.

 

Open Source

Asterisk
Logo from https://www.asterisk.org

Some computer programmers are very altruistic.  They will develop code and put it on the Internet for other programmers to use for free.  They will contribute to community projects for the benefit of all.

Oracle Databases as of July 2018 cost around Enterprise Edition – $47,500 per unit (sockets * cores per socket * core factor) Standard Edition – $17,500 per unit (sockets) Standard Edition.  Yet the MySQL database engine which they bought which drives YouTube is free.  MySQL is open source meaning the world contributed to it to ensure the licence remained free where Oracle is proprietary and protected.

Microsoft Windows costs €259 yet Ubuntu is free.

In the same way phone systems can be very expensive famously in phone system solution terms, Asterisk is free.

There are also free dialler solutions such as ViciDial which work with Asterisk phone systems.  If you have a proprietary phone solution such as Avaya or Genesys you will probably use their recommended dialler solutions.  Some PBXs don’t support having a dialler add on.

 

Types of diallers

As mentioned diallers can work in different ways

Preview diallers

An agent logs into their phone system.  They tell the phone system they are ready for a call.  A screen pops up on the computer with information about the call.  The agent previews the customer details. The dialler automatically dials the number after a pre-defined period or when the agent flags they are ready.

Preview dialling is used most often in campaigns where each customer case is complex.  For example in cases where collection of late debt is the calling reason, the agent needs to be aware of the case history before making the call.

 

Progressive diallers

Progressive dialling is similar to predictive dialling whilst removing the risk of abandoned/silent calls.

The agent indicates they are ready for a call.  The information presents to the agent and the dialler dials the number immediately.

The dialler monitors call progress.

Calls that do not result in ‘ringing’ are automatically and immediately disconnected, whilst ‘no answers’ are disconnected after a pre-defined number of seconds.

Software call control minimises agent involvement in the dialling process and improves call-handling efficiency.

Campaigns targeting current customers generally use progressive dialing where the objective is to renew or up-sell a product or service.

Predictive diallers

For most scenarios, predictive dialing is the most productive form of dialing automation.

""

FCS Global
FCS Global logo from http://www.fcs-global.com
Eleven Consulting
From https://makeiteleven.com

Dialler solutions are targeted to maximise efficiency but you will already be spending a lot of money in terms of salary staff and the equipment to support those staff.  None of this is instantly cheap so expecting it to be cheap is wrong.

If you’re testing the water in terms of improving the efficiency of your operation chat to someone who can advise on would work best in your scenario.  I would be happy to help or there are teams such as Eleven Consulting or FCS Global who specialise in providing enterprise solutions such as these.

In my personal experience there are ways of improving small to medium sized solutions without a dialler and just improved data solutions such as bxp software which has phone integration available in it.

https://www.bxpsoftware.com/wixi/index.php/Scenario_-_bxp_Integration_with_a_Phone_System

 

Power diallers

Power dialing (or power dialler) is probably the dialing term that causes most confusion. Depending on who you talk to, power dialler can be used as an innocent catch-all term to cover all forms of automated dialing however it can also apply to specific technology originally introduced in the late 1980s that simply makes large numbers of calls with little or no control.

 

Power IVR and Voice Drop

When using Power IVR you have a recorded message that you need to deliver to a large list.

    1. A recorded message plays
    2. The customer is presented with options, 1 chat to an agent 2 remove the caller from the list

Like predictive dialing the pace needs to be set properly to ensure that agents are available to take the call.

Voice drop is the same as Power IVR but at the end of the message playing the call just hangs up. This can be useful for payment reminders or other standard messages where an email or text message is not appropriate or possible.

 

Final Thoughts

Which one works best?

This question depends on a number of key questions? As diallers are optimisation of your process the answer is which ever one makes your solution work best.

    1. How many numbers do you have to call through? Running out of data as the system is too efficient is a common mistake. Sometimes making the staff more efficient is a better approach.
    2. Are there going to be repeats of this exercise? One off programs might be more cost effectively outsourced to companies who have already invested
    3. Will this involve more than 6 people to do the work? Predictive needs a minimum 6
    4. What kind of budget are you currently spending to deliver this work? As the cost currently needs to be > new cost + consultancy + dialler technology
FCS Global
FCS Global logo from http://www.fcs-global.com
Eleven Consulting
From https://makeiteleven.com

Dialler solutions are targeted to maximise efficiency but you will already be spending a lot of money in terms of salary staff and the equipment to support those staff.

None of this is instantly cheap so expecting it to be cheap is wrong.

If you’re testing the water in terms of improving the efficiency of your operation chat to someone who can advise on would work best in your scenario. I would be happy to help or there are teams such as Eleven Consulting or FCS Global who specialise in providing enterprise solutions such as these.

In my personal experience there are ways of improving small to medium sized solutions without a dialler and just improved data solutions such as bxp software which has phone integration available in it. In my personal experience there are ways of improving small to medium sized solutions without a dialler and just improved data solutions such as bxp software which has phone integration available in it.
https://www.bxpsoftware.com/wixi/index.php/Scenario_-_bxp_Integration_with_a_Phone_System https://www.bxpsoftware.com/wixi/index.php/Scenario_-_bxp_Integration_with_a_Phone_System

Go free is better, right?

Commission for Communications Regulation
Commission for Communications Regulation https://www.comreg.ie/

Using Asterix and ViciDial and a server either on premises or in the cloud will get you a phone system.  A few networked pcs, a good internet connection and some headsets with a SIP trunk and you have a call centre.  Configuring it and keeping it running smoothly requires experience and it is very easy to get it wrong.  If you get it wrong you can have a large team of people sitting around doing nothing which can be very costly.

Specifically understanding the setting of the pacing is vital to not getting in trouble with government departments such as Comreg, the communications regulator of Ireland.  Nuisance calls because you have no agents available will get you in trouble.

https://www.rte.ie/lifestyle/living/2017/1108/918396-3-apps-to-block-scam-phone-calls/

 

Enough clean data

GDPR the General Data Protection Regulations law means that whomever you’re lining up to call you should the legal right to call them.  Different scenarios in different industries have different laws regarding who and who you cannot contact.  In general if the person is already a customer and they have consented to be called you will be safe.  If however they are a prospect or lapsed customer you need to be very careful as to how long it has been before you contact them EVEN IF they have given permission to be contacted.

When you get a list that is not guaranteed to be customers you may need to clean it against the National Directory Database (NDD) to see if sales / marketing calls are allowed.

http://www.citizensinformation.ie/en/consumer_affairs/telecommunications_and_postal_services/dealing_with_unwanted_telephone_sales_calls.html

A dialler is efficient so you must keep it fed with data and staff.  Generally a predictive dialler requires a minimum of 6 agents available at all times for the algorithms to work efficiently.  Please remember that diallers are about efficiency in scale of operation.  If your operation is small to medium ( 1 to 5 agents ) you might be better chatting to teams like bxp software which have work management engines which can integrate with most phone systems.

https://www.bxpsoftware.com/wixi/index.php/Outbound_-_Queue_Management

 

 

If I can help you or your operation in any way, please do get in touch by clicking here or on social media.

[/read]

Leave a Reply

Your e-mail address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.