Innovation in the outbound dialer market
This white paper shows how and why the market is growing once again, and how smart companies are using dialers.
TransNexus is headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia—a city that made the news in 2014 for an epic traffic jam caused by mid-day snow and ice. The snow hit the city unexpectedly, causing everyone to leave their offices for home at about the same time. This Atlantan can tell you that it was not pretty.
When snow threatened the city again a few weeks later, however, we managed to get by without any major problems. Why was that? Well, one of the reasons can be traced back to a recently revived telephony trend—the outbound dialer system.
For the second snowstorm, the state and local governments of Georgia used outbound dialers to send robocalls to employees on their cell phones, releasing those who lived outside of the Atlanta perimeter early, proactively preventing the traffic problems from the first storm.1 This type of innovative use of dialer systems is helping to give the industry a major reputation rehabilitation. After years of problems with legislation and public dislike, the dialer market is in the midst of resurgence.
What are dialers?
Outbound dialer systems are defined as software-only or a combination of software and hardware solutions that facilitate the automated placement of outbound telephone calls from contact centers. Outbound dialing systems can support of a variety of dialing modes to cater to differing requirements, including predictive, power, and preview.
The most commonly used in larger contact centers is the predictive dialer. A predictive dialer statistically predicts the availability of agents to answer outbound initiated calls and launches enough outbound calls to keep the agents busy. It does this by analyzing a number of contact center and called-party parameters, including number and availability of agents, call durations, and the percentage of outbound calls which are answered by live people. Preview dialers initiate outbound calls when instructed to do so by contact center agents. Power dialers are basic automated dialer system where the system automatically dials numbers from a list and passes answered calls to available agents.2 Outbound dialer systems frequently make use of pre-recorded messages, known as robocalls. They earned this nickname because they originally used computerized voices that sounded robotic. However, advances in technology today have created robocalling software that not only sounds human, but can respond to voice, and in some cases even hold a conversation.
One of the main issues holding back the dialer market in the past few years was government regulation. This regulation was put in place to deal with a tremendous public backlash against “spammy” robocalls. Though regulation has certainly slowed the dialer market, it has also forced organizations to re-evaluate their use of dialer technology. Today, dialer systems are not only created to comply with regulations, they are being used differently and more effectively. Here, we will go over some of the history of dialer regulation.
In the US, in 1991, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act was passed. The TCPA regulations concern commercial solicitation calls made to residences. Those making calls were required to comply with rules including calling between 8 A.M. and 9 P.M.; maintaining and honoring a Do Not Call list; and training personnel on compliance. Callers could rely on an established business relationship (such as a previous purchase) exception to the TCPA.
In 2003, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) opened the National Do Not Call Registry in order to comply with the Do-Not-Call Implementation Act. Placing one’s number on the National Do Not Call Registry will stop most, but not all, unsolicited calls. Political and not-for profit organizations are exempt from the Do Not Call legislation, as are those conducting surveys, bill collectors, and again, those with an established business relationship.
For an organization to comply with the Do Not Call Registry, they must pay for subscription access. In 2013, businesses paid $58 for access to a single area code, up to a maximum of $25,962 for all area codes nationwide.
Finally, beginning October 16, 2013, prior express written consent was added as a requirement for all autodialed and/or pre-recorded calls made to cell phones, and pre-recorded calls made to residential land lines for marketing purposes. This rule also eliminated the exception for established business relationships. Though, strictly informational calls (school closings, notifications of potentially fraudulent banking activity, etc.) are still OK.3
For a company that makes prerecorded marketing calls to consumers without explicit permission, the statutory damages are now $500 to $1,500 per call. Noncompliant marketing campaigns could rack up millions in fines. 4 These pieces of legislation slowly but surely brought the outbound dialing technology industry
to a decade-long rest. Vendors stopped investing and many enterprises stopped calling. But, despite the regulation, the industry did not die out entirely, and has rather changed its focus. According to Donna Fluss, president of DMG Consulting, “The new era of dialing brings with it opportunities for enterprises to build dialing strategies that help them achieve a competitive advantage through proactive customer care, notification and early-stage collections.”5
With United States and global regulations limiting the type and quantity of outbound contacts to consumers, and the challenging economic environment, companies are undertaking innovative proactive customer care, notification and collections initiatives, breathing new life into their outbound dialing solutions.
Why dialers are still here
Why didn’t the dialer market die out? Here's why:
- Automated dialing is an extremely cost-effective way to reach a lot of people.
- Dialer campaigns are relatively easy to launch. The emergence and growing strength of clouds-based contact center infrastructure solutions has improved the flexibility and scaling for many organizations.
- Auto dialing is effective. According to research by Spencer Kimball, a scholarin-residence at Emerson, 75 percent of people listen to more than 19 seconds of a prerecorded robocall, or auto-call message, which means they hear about 40 words. About 97 percent listen to a minimum of six seconds, according to his study. “People aren’t just hanging up when they get these calls; they’re actually listening,” said Kimball.
Kimball used statistics gathered from call-completion monitoring systems, similar to TransNexus’s NexOSS, to erase the biased of self-reported data. “The data we looked at gave us the opposite results of all self-reported data given prior to this research,” he said.6
Growth of the dialer market
Although the outbound dialing sector continues to be under great pressure to meet demanding regulatory requirements from governments around the world, vendors and end users are working together to enhance solutions in order to ensure compliance without disrupting business. Changes to the regulations are driving a new round of investment in these mission critical solutions and will breathe life back into this market.
DMG Consulting LLC has found that as of mid-2013, there were 10,990 organizations using 2,635,756 outbound dialing seats around the world. DMG expects a vast majority of sales in the next few years to be replacements of outdated dialing solutions. There will also be a substantial increase in sales of cloud based outbound solutions to companies that require fewer than 10 seats. DMG expects the outbound dialing market to grow by 5% in 2013, and 6% in each year between 2014 and 2017.3
Dialer market innovation
“Despite regulations limiting outbound calling to unwelcoming prospects, dialing is not going away so long as consumers continue to invite companies to reach out to them with useful information,” said Donna Fluss, president of DMG Consulting.5 Robocalling can be a useful tool for certain types of operations. Pharmacies use it to notify customers that a prescription is ready. Service-based businesses use it to confirm appointment dates and times. Other companies use it to deliver preauthorized audio information like weather updates, flight times or driving conditions to customers who want this information.
One of the major uses for dialer technology today is simple notification. These types of calls are clearly allowed, even under recent legislation.
Local police departments
Local police departments are using dialer technology as a direct and quick way to reach residents in case of an emergency. Before Lower Allen Township in Pennsylvania got this system in 2008, they had gone door-to-door to residents in flood zones and collected numbers, so when it rained a clerk could call each one.
“It would take two to three hours,” police Chief Frank Williamson said. “With this I can get the message out to our flood plain residents from time I end the call. It can be done in about 10 minutes. From public safety standpoint, this is a great, great tool.” Now they can also send out alerts to the homes within target areas during snow emergencies, or to select neighborhoods where there have been recent crimes.7
Traditionally, when most stores learn that a product they sell has been recalled, they pull it off the shelves and post signs to alert customers. But some supermarkets and retailers are now also digging through their sales data, using loyalty card and membership information to pinpoint customers who may have purchased the recalled items. Then they use dialer technology to call them with the appropriate alerts.
In one example, Harris Teeter used their membership information to call customers who had recently purchased products covered by a peanut butter recall related to salmonella poisoning. One woman who received the call had purchased peanut butter cup ice cream for a friend in hospice care. She had heard about the recall, but didn’t pay much attention, because she had not bought any plain peanut butter recently. It never occurred to her that the recall involved other peanut butter products, including the peanut butter cup ice cream. Fortunately, the Harris Teeter call helped spare the possibility of what could have been a devastating illness.
“We realize all of our customers might not have plans to go the store or to visit our website on the day we receive the Class 1 recall notification,” said Catherine Reuhl, Harris Teeter communications manager. “We think it is important, therefore, that we reach out to them directly by way of the voice blast system.”8
Proactive customer care
Leading companies are discovering the strategic business value of comprehensive approaches to pro-active customer contact. They are leveraging customer and product information from across the enterprise to reach out to their customers with personalized service messages and sales offers to cement and grow profitable relationships. The recent economic slowdown is driving increased interest in proactivity for customer contact. Frost & Sullivan predicts proactive content will become a leading driver for outbound dialer system sales over the next few years.2
Let’s consider a few cases where companies have used dialer technology for proactive customer care.
In the past, the Geisinger Center for Health Research had tried to reduce re-admissions by hiring medical associates to telephone discharged patients and ask about any problems that could lead to readmission, and then refer to case managers any patients who appear to be at risk. This approach was extremely labor-intensive. The center had to hire about 50 medical associates, and many were not well enough trained to do the monitoring needed.
In 2009, Geisinger launched a new interactive voice-response (IVR) protocol using outbound dialer technology. Patients who enrolled in the IVR system got a call once per week for 30 days, for a total of 4 calls, at a cost of $25 per patient. Each call took 2 to 3 minutes. The IVR calls were tailored to the patients’ diagnoses, and included questions about symptoms, psychosocial support, falls, medication adherence, adverse effects, and complications. Answers indicating an elevated risk triggered notification of the case manager, who would call the patient directly to find out more.
A new study, conducted by Joann Sciandra, from the Geisinger Center for Health Research, found that patients monitored with an interactive voice-response (IVR) protocol were 44% less likely to be admitted in the 30 days after discharge than the same patients before and after being monitored.9
Kaiser’s smoking cessation internet program
Kaiser Permanente’s Mid-Atlantic group had high hopes for its Thrive Healthy Living, an online effort aimed at helping patients improve their health by kicking cigarettes. But participation was weak. “There is so much medical information available online, and our website just wasn’t standing out from the herd,” says Dr. Amy Compton-Phillips, physician director of Population Care Management at the Oakland, CA, health organization.
But since 2007, when Kaiser began using dialer technologies to reach out to potential participants, participation in Kaiser’s smoking-cessation Internet program has quadrupled. “Not everyone has access to the Internet,” says Compton-Phillips, “But everyone has a phone.” To help Kaiser increase participation in its Thrive Healthy Living programs, Kaiser created different phone calls for different at-risk groups. The calls used inclusive language to make the messages seem nonjudgmental, as well as a warm, empathetic voice, which the company has found is most effective for lifestyle-management topics
The result: 28% of the people reached either said they smoked or that someone close to them did, greatly exceeding Kaiser’s previous benchmark of self-reported smoking behavior; 45% of those respondents wanted information on smoking-cessation tools, and 79% of people who were offered a follow-up mailing said yes.
One of the advantages of the system is that clinicians have more time to spend on the phone answering patient questions because they aren’t spending time on the initial outreach. Another, according to research by Dr. Warner Slack of the Clinical Informatics Div. at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, is that people are more honest if they are conveying health-related habits to an automated system rather than a person.10
Dialers and TransNexus
One tough thing about dialer traffic is that it is highly demanding to any service provider’s network. Service providers should be aware of customers using dialer technology, and be sure that their networks can handle the increased traffic and demand. Service providers should have a Least Cost Routing (LCR) solution in place that is capable of handling a large amount of traffic. NexOSS from TransNexus supports up to 100,000 translations and can be scaled up to suit any network.
1 – Rehm, Todd. “A Good Use of Robocalls.” Georgia Pundit. N.p., 11 Feb. 2014. Web. 17 Apr. 2014.https://gapundit.com/2014/02/11/good-use-robocalls/.
2 – North American Outbound Dialer System Market. Issue brief no. #N75A-76. N.p.: Frost & Sullivan, n.d. Web. 17 Apr. 2014.
3 – 2013-2014 Outbound Dialer Market. Issue brief. N.p.: DMG Consulting, n.d. Web. 17 Apr. 2014.
4 – Perkins, Bart. “Pester No More: How to Handle the FCC’s New Rules on Robocalls.” Editorial. Computerworld. N.p., 24 Feb. 2014. Web. 17 Apr. 2014. https://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9246357/Bart_Perkins_Pester_no_more_How_to_handle_the_FCC_s_new_rules_on_robocalls.
5 – Read, Brendan B. “Outbound and Predictive Dialer Markets to Grow.” TMCnet. Spitfire Predictive Dialers, 4 Mar. 2010. Web. 17 Apr. 2014.
6 – Bartson, Christina. “Communications Professor Completes Robocall Research.” The Berkeley Beacon (17 Oct. 2013): n. pag. The Berkeley Beacon. University of California, Berkeley, 17 Oct. 2013. Web. 17 Apr. 2014.
7 – Ganim, Sara. “Robocall Systems Can Be ‘money Really Well Spent’ for Local Police Departments.” The Patriot News [Mechanicsburg, PA] 12 May 2011: n. pag. PennLive.com. Web. 17 Apr. 2014
8 – Mayer, Caroline. “The Robocalls That Just Might Save Your Life.” Web log post. Next Avenue. N.p., 4 Dec. 2012. Web. 17 Apr. 2014.
9 – Harrison, Laird. “Medscape Log In.” Medscape Multispecialty. N.p., 3 May 2012. Web. 17 Apr. 2014.
10 – Scanlon, Jessie. “Health Robocalls People Want to Receive.” Bloomberg Business Week. Bloomberg, 13 July 2009. Web. 17 Apr. 2014.