Only about 25% of outbound agent time is spent talking with customers or prospects. The remainder of their time is spent dialing numbers and listening to engaged tones, unanswered calls or even answering machines. Automated outbound dialing is generally more appropriate for high volume outbound calls, improving efficiency and productivity levels significantly.

According to Gartner, an independent research company, automated dialing can lead to agents spending up to 70% of their time speaking with customers. This is dependent on the technology used, the number of agents in the contact centre as well as the quality and accuracy of the customer database. Agents no longer perform manual dialing and the chance of dialing wrong numbers is greatly minimized.
Dawn Wood, business unit executive at ATIO, outlines three types of automated outbound dialing, namely preview, progressive and predictive.
Preview dialing is the transition from manual to automated outbound dialing and the most basic form of automated outbound dialing. In preview dialing a customer’s information is loaded onto the software application and the agent has the opportunity to preview the information before placing a call. Preview dialing will increase efficiency by approximately 10% as agents do not have to manually make calls, says Wood.
Progressive dialing is similar to preview dialing but calls are not initiated until an agent is actually free. In progressive dialing the agent doesn’t have the ability to decide which calls to make as the system automatically makes the calls in a predetermined order.
Predictive dialing, a more specialized form of outbound dialing, is a computerized system that automatically dials telephone numbers fed into the database for connection to agents dealing with sales and other campaigns.
This outbound dialing system recognizes and filters out any unanswered calls, answering machines, engaged tones and unobtainable numbers.
One of the main benefits of predictive dialing is that the only calls agents make are valid connections with actual human voices and time is not wasted on unanswered calls, answering machines, engaged tones and unobtainable numbers. For pacing and making of calls, predictive dialing calculates the average length of an outbound call against the number of available agents.
The next stage in automated outbound dialing is driven by the agent who establishes, among other things, if the person on the line is the targeted customer or prospect. The solution can record the stages at which the interaction was unsuccessful, for example, some customers may indicate immediately that they are not interested, while others may be interested but cannot afford the offering, and some may even be prepared to consider various options. T
his information enables companies to know if they are contacting the right target market. Wood says it is very important for a company to know the behaviour of people within their target markets including buying patterns and their lifestyles. By tracking the results of interactions an automated outbound dialing solution allows companies to review and improve their sales approach.
According to Wood it is important to ensure that the database from which numbers are dialed is clean, i.e. contact numbers should be verified as correct and belong to the targeted persons. The contact numbers must also be in a valid format to ensure more calls result in the right connections and interactions. Numbers taken from the Web and not for a specific campaign or target market, lead to poor productivity and inefficiencies.
Wood advises that when implementing automated dialing for the first time, companies need to begin with preview dialing and gradually move towards predictive dialing. This ensures that by the time your agents are using predictive dialing they will have a cleaner database and are better prepared in terms of experience and training.
If used correctly, automated outbound dialing can be a valuable tool for acquiring new customers, after-sales follow-up, satisfaction surveys, cross-selling and up-selling opportunities, she says.