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The difference between autodialers and predictive dialers

Some people don't know that a predictive dialer is a type of autodialer. There are, in fact, five broad categories of autodialers contact centers need to know about.

Long gone are the days of the rotary telephone. Today, call centers employ a wide range of modern technology to make customer support as user-friendly as possible.

Autodialers, first introduced in the 1980s, have proven to be a mainstay in the industry. But many people are still asking, what is the difference between autodialers and predictive dialers?

The difference between autodialers and predictive dialers isn't as big as one might think. In fact, a predictive dialer is really just a type of autodialer.

"Autodialer is a funky phrase," said Scott Sachs, a contact center consultant with SJS Solutions. "There are actually many kinds of dialers, which automate the process of pushing buttons on the phone. Predictive dialers are better used in larger contact centers."

The types of dialers can be broken down into five different categories.

Preview dialer. Perhaps the simplest version of an autodialer, a preview dialer enables agents to draw a recipient's profile from a database and preview the information on their computer before making a call. Since a call may be made at the touch of a button, it saves the agent time by eliminating the need to find and input numbers directly.

Autodialer is a funky phrase. There are actually many kinds of dialers, which automate the process of pushing buttons on the phone.
Scott SachsContact center consultant, SJS Solutions

Predictive dialer. A predictive dialer automatically dials multiple phone numbers and connects an agent to the first one that answers. An algorithm schedules calls at predetermined intervals, based on the average time an agent spends on a call. This filters out pointless calls, as agents may only connect to a handful of calls when a blast is sent out to a hundred or more.

Progressive dialer. Like a predictive dialer, this one, too, automatically dials multiple numbers and connects an agent to the first one that answers. However, rather than sending out blasts at predetermined periods, this dialer sends out a phone blast as soon as an agent ends the previous call.

Power dialer. Like predictive dialers, this dials multiple numbers and connects an agent to the first one that answers. Unlike a predictive dialer, which sends out calls based on a timed algorithm, a power dialer is configured to send out calls according to a schedule submitted by the call center. This means the company, not the dialer's algorithm, decides how often calls go out and how many agents it routes calls to.

"True" autodialers. There are also autodialers that don't require an agent at all. Some send prerecorded messages to all the numbers on a call center's list, waiting for recipients to contact them for further information. Robocalls can often do with phone trees what chatbots do on the internet: solve problems without the intervention of an agent.

Autodialers chart

But whatever you end up choosing, predictive dialers and other autodialers can drastically improve call center efficiency. That is, if they are handled well.

"The key to dialers is pacing," Sachs said. "People get calls at home with 'hello, hello, hello' before someone picks up. Those are not paced well. Good ones have the math down well enough that within two seconds of you saying hello an agent will be on the other end."

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