Predictive Dialing: The Old Days
Before there were any compliance rules for dialers, chaos reigned in outbound markets. You dialed multiple numbers for each agent available and managed to service all waiting agents with answered calls. Then, any remaining answered calls just got abandoned or put into hold queues. As a result, levels of nuisance calls were high in double figures.
In the late 90s and the early years of this century, the authorities in both the UK and the US got so fed up with this that they brought in tight controls. Market-wide in the UK, but telemarketing only in the US. For a description of these controls, as well as the more recent restrictions on dialing in the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) in the US, see Section 2 at Sytel White Paper – Predictive Dialing Strategy in the US v1.3.pdf (fcc.gov).
Were the Controls Effective?
As a way of limiting consumer abuse, they were exceedingly effective. The limits they set for nuisance calls meant that if followed, abuse would be minimal. But there was a problem. No one bothered to ask the predictive vendors whether they could cope with the new regulations. There was no real dialogue between predictive vendors and the regulators.
So How Did the Vendors React?
No one complained. In the US, dialers had been dialing out of control for many years and many vendors actually expected the regulators to ban them. Any kind of rules were going to be a reprieve, no matter how tough. The vendors got busy with their marcoms, telling the marketplace that their products were compliant with the new rules. Well, what else would you do?
But What About Performance?
In most cases there was/is simply not much in the way of performance under compliance. But most users don’t know this. If their dialers are working under compliance – then usually the assumption is that they are doing their best. Which is of course true!
Where is the Predictive Gain?
The acid test (the only one) of a predictive dialer is how much predictive gain it delivers under compliance, where this is expressed as the extra amount of talk time produced, per agent hour, as you move from progressive to predictive dialing. It is a term that vendors, generally, avoid because it is too judgemental of their products.
But How Widespread is Compliance?
Compliance is certainly talked about quite widely, especially in the US and the UK, less so in most other countries. Any vendor worth their salt likes to claim it, since it adds to the lustre of their product. So, on a recent enterprise Collections bid in the US, all the major vendors were paying lip-service to it. As soon as a major vendor plays the compliance card, others have no choice but to follow.
And How Do Vendors Cope with Poor Performance Under Compliance?
Most vendors simply allow their products to be used outside compliance limits. It’s not their problem! After all, if users want to work outside compliance, then it is down to them and not the vendor. If you refer back to Section 2 in the FCC paper mentioned above, you can see how this happens. Users won’t always be aware that what they do is non-compliant. For example, one vendor has allowed(!) their users to measure abandoned calls using the ‘all calls’ measure, which vastly overstates the level of nuisance calls you can have under compliance.
How Does All This Tie in With Sytel’s Proposals in its 2023 Paper to the FCC?
The proposals argue for the introduction of controlled predictive dialing in the US. The prize is an equitable balance between how consumers are treated (minimal nuisance calls) and the ability for industry to run profitable campaigns. But what if, as we suggest, the state of their development is such, that most dialers can’t deliver decent performance under these proposals?
Innovation is the Way Forward
As Sytel has shown over the years, dialers can produce considerable “predictive gain” under the rules envisaged in the paper. The fact that most other dialers can’t achieve this, is simply because it hasn’t been high on their list of investment priorities.
There is no reason in our view to ease the proposals made in our paper to the FCC, so that it is easier for vendors to be both compliant and productive. That could only be done by lessening the protection given to consumers, i.e. allowing more nuisance (both abandoned and silent) calls. We simply don’t see the regulators being prepared to do this.
If the TCPA gets reformed in the way envisaged in our proposals, other vendors will need to put more effort into dialer innovation, if they want to be competitive in markets such as the US.
See also …
Best-of-breed performance under compliance
The measurement that matters most