Waking Up To Silent Calls

July, 2011

As Turkey considers the impact of silent calls produced by predictive dialers, we point out some lessons that can be learned from the US and the UK where this path has been trodden before.

Time for us to sound the warning bells again. Another country (Turkey) has had to consider the impact of silent calls produced by predictive dialers, and the best way to manage the marketplace in a way that is good for both consumers and the companies trying to talk to them. But they don’t have to reinvent the wheel. This path has been trodden before in both the US and UK, and there are lessons to be learned from these experiences.

Here’s something we wrote for Call Center Life, a Turkish call center magazine. Yes, we have said it before and yes, we will say it again wherever these issues crop up.

The Turkish market for outbound calls is serviced by around 40,000 agents at the moment, spread across a range of activities, with some commentators seeing a threefold growth in these numbers over the next five years. Much of the outbound activity is being driven by predictive dialers, using both live as well as virtual agents.

Predictive dialers (auto dialers, automatic dialing systems) can bring huge benefits to outbound campaigns, with improvements in agent talk time per hour up to 15 minutes or more. But as experience as shown elsewhere, especially in the UK and the US, such improvements sometimes come at a cost, as dialers are pushed too hard and result in high levels of nuisance calls to consumers.

There is already clear evidence of this in Turkey and this is almost certainly one reason why the regulator, BTK, is looking at bringing in a national Do Not Call List. This of course, in itself, doesn’t solve the problem of lots of nuisance calls. But as experience has shown elsewhere, if the problem of nuisance calls is not addressed directly, then consumers will be encouraged to join such a List in large numbers, until the numbers of people that can be freely called is quite small.

So what is the answer? It means that predictive dialers have to work under strict compliance rules. Telemarketing communities in the US and the UK spent a number of years trying to get a voluntary code of practice accepted. It never worked and was widely flouted. The lesson for Turkey is very clear. By all means adopt a National Do Not Call List, but if you do, also bring in regulations for dialers, which can be enforced. If you don’t, then bad dialer behaviour is likely to be a major factor in causing your Do Not Call list to grow – and will severely restrict your business opportunities. If you are not sure about this, have a closer look at what happened in the UK and the US. As the Do Not Call Lists grew there, the local marketing associations actually called for government regulation as a way of protecting consumers from high levels of nuisance calls so that consumers would not feel the need to sign up.

Sytel has a long history of engagement with dialing regulations and compliance issues. In 2011, Sytel CEO Michael McKinlay received the Contact Center World UK Industry Champion award for his work in this area.

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