In some markets around the world there are genuine concerns about privacy and dialing technologies when contacting consumers by phone. Issues of privacy are to do with which numbers should be called and under what circumstances. These issues are outside the scope of companies such as Sytel, except insofar as we may be asked by our users to implement relevant local legislation.
But once a decision has been made to dial a number, or group of numbers, then Sytel’s interest lies in finding the appropriate technology to do this. For example in the 1990s we campaigned, often vociferously and very much as a lone voice, for limits on silent and abandoned calls. And we played an active part in helping national marketing associations and regulators (Ofcom in the UK and the FTC in the US) to formulate regulations to control outbound dialing.
Even today, some 13 years after the FTC first introduced controls for dialers, there is still very real concern in the US (and other countries) about consumer abuse. Given this concern, the issue we want to consider in this note, is how mobile numbers should be dialed, once a decision has been taken that such action is valid under local law. So for example the number is not on a Do Not call list and permission to dial has been given, as required.
Regulators are clearly concerned that even when it is legitimate to dial mobile numbers, that dialing technologies can be used to dial lots of numbers in a short space of time, and that this, in itself constitutes abuse.
A simple solution to this concern is to just dial manually. For example this could be done using a rotary phone or push button phone. There is another solution, also manual, which brings in a number of consumer safeguards, which neither of these methods has.
A solution: software support for manual dialing
Effective immediately Sytel is providing a manual solution called Software Support for Manual Dialing (SSMD). It has a number of key features which are especially targeted at preventing consumer abuse and improving call quality. These are:-
- SSMD can record all calls from launch. This allows supervisors to review calls and ensure proper standards – for example stopping any abuse. There is also a text audit trail confirming length and time of call, agent ID and phone number called.
- Without software control, agents can make errors in entering digits to dial and hence dial wrong numbers. SSMD prevents such misdials.
- SSMD sets a uniform ring time and ensures that people who don’t want to answer the phone at that moment in time don’t have to endure continuous ringing.
SSMD is a new product from Sytel and not an adaption from other products. Operational details are as follows.
- A third party application can log agents on or off SSMD.
- When an agent is logged on to SSMD, he indicates when is free to initiate dialing of a number. This could be following logon, after a break period, or immediately after having completed his previous call.
- As soon as the agent indicates his free state, SSMD sends a message to the third party application that is connected to it, asking for a number to dial.
- The third party application sends a number to SSMD. It also displays the number on the agent’s screen. The agent chooses when to initiate dialing.
- He can do this by either clicking on a radio button that is linked to the number, or clicking on the number itself, as displayed on the screen.
The product also requires a connection to the Carrier network using SIP or ISDN trunks.
Summary features of SSMD are
- It is effectively a black box that allows communications in just three ways. Passing of numbers as described, logon and logoff of agents and connections with SIP/ISDN trunks for managing the dialing process with the Carrier network.
- Apart from these specific interfaces which cannot be used in any other way, it is a closed system and cannot be adapted, modified, accessed or programed in any way to change either the way in which a number is passed to it, or the method , i.e. manual, by which a number is dialed.
Compliance and best practice
SSMD not only avoids the concerns about dialing solutions that dial too quickly, but crucially, it takes advantage of technological advances which provide a much more secure solution for consumers than simple manual dialing using either rotary or push button phones.