Outbound dialling is a critical part of business processes such as debt collection, outbound selling, proactive support and completing certain transactions.

It is an integral part of any contact centre's business; however, it can be complex and expensive without the right platform and tools in place.
Given the already highly competitive contact centre environment in South Africa where the industry is expecting a new government incentive scheme to boost business – and further heighten competition – getting the right solutions in place to simplify management, maximise productivity and improve operational efficiency will be vital.
"The new incentive scheme developed by the Department of Trade & Industry (DTI), Business Process enabling South Africa (BPeSA) and the private sector, offers R112,000 for every new offshore full-time job created and maintained," says Paul Fick, MD of Spescom DataFusion.
"It's almost double what the previous Government Assistance and Support (GAS) incentive programme offered and makes South Africa far more competitive from a global cost perspective.
"However, contact centres looking to compete for and win new business will need to have the right technologies and platforms in place to offer prospective local and foreign clients good rates and reliable outcomes."
Automating outbound dialling can improve success rates considerably. For example, the RCS Group, a provider of private label retail credit cards to more than 400,000 customers through partnerships with 13,000 merchants in various industries, has improved its collection contact rates by 30% with the implementation of a Presence Technology dialler solution from Spescom DataFusion.
The solution, implemented approximately 24 months ago, has not only improved customer service but has driven down risk and improved collection rates.
The dialler leverages RCS's existing infrastructure to gather data for outbound calling.  It ensures only live contacts are delivered to the agents by using technology that automatically detects busy tones, no answers, pagers, answering machines and faxes and deals with these, based on user-defined re-dialling rules.
"The Presence Dialler offers tight integration with the Avaya platform used by the call centre, as well as the Spescom DataVoice recorders that are deployed. It is a software-based 'bolt-on' solution, requiring no additional or dedicated hardware platform," explains Fick.
"This allows the group to harness its investment in its existing infrastructure, complementing and enhancing its present functionality."
RCS makes use of preview and progressive dialling functionality. Preview mode puts the client contact details in front of the agent and enables click-to-dial functionality.
This improves productivity compared to manual dialling but is primarily used by the collections tracing team to find hard-to-contact customers. The progressive dialling mode sees the Presence dialler do all the dialling, only presenting the agent with a live contact.
A "screen pop" containing relevant client information simultaneously appears on the PC screen before the agent.
Says Fick: "Selecting the right dialling mode for outbound campaigns is important and depends on the requirements of the task at hand. But here are also other tools and approaches that can assist to optimise contact centre processes to enhance productivity, efficiency and outcomes.
"These include call blending (in- and outbound calls), or blending of all contact channels (SMS, email); dynamic agent scripting; and better, simplified management and reporting."
Predictive dialling mode is most productive for agents doing repetitive and high volume outbound work. Predictive diallers use historical statistics and sophisticated algorithms to calculate agent availability.
Thus, based on past trends, the solution will accurately predict how many dialling attempts and how much time are required to reach a live contact, as well as exactly when an agent will become available to take the next outbound call.
Properly used, predictive dialling can increase the busy rate for agents previously using manual processes by 30% to 60%.
In addition, many diallers now allow contact centre administrators to set an acceptable abandoned call rate – government requirements and Direct Marketing Association (DMA) recommendations are usually less than 5%.
With progressive dialling, dialling only begins once an agent becomes available, which will almost completely eliminate abandoned calls, which happens when customers hang up before the dialler can transfer the call to an agent once a live answer is detected. Busy rate for agents should increase by 15% to 30% using this mode.
Preview dialling is important for certain sales strategies where an agent must study the details of the customer profile before making the call. This mode is mainly used for business-to-business sales, where contacts are limited, but the value of each is great, and where opportunity, preparation, and strategy are key elements.
In this mode, the agent has control of the dialler and if a live contact cannot be reached, the agent can still add notes to the client file, decide whether to re-schedule this call, and move on.
Says Fick: "The functionality contained in contact centre communication platforms today is considerable.
"Key features of the Presence Technology dialler, for example, includes not just the option of predictive, progressive, preview and power dialling modes but flexible list management with the ability to add, remove and amend leads while a campaign is active; scheduled call-back capability, either to a single agent or group of agents; call blending of inbound and outbound calls to the same agent group; complete administration of the solution by the business user, allowing real-time adaptation to changing trends and requirements in a campaign; and a full range of monitoring and reporting tools.
"These are just some of the capabilities contact centres can leverage to increase their competitiveness."
Scripting is another area that has previously been considered a bugbear but also a key means to improve outcomes and customer satisfaction.
"Again, easy-to-use solutions exist," says Fick. "Presence Scripting, for example, allows quick and easy creation and publication of scripts with decision trees, with no programming skills required.
"It offers an interactive workflow with fields and conditions, with scripts guiding the agent through the call flow in accordance with the selections made or information filled in. This makes it simple to embed business logic without depending on technical staff to create the scripts.
"A Presence based blended contact centre solution with scripting gives an outsourced contact centre operator advantages at three levels:
*It provides a bundled solution allowing one team to handle in- and outbound calls with seamless switchover depending on call volumes. This allows for multi-tasking and creates maximum efficiency.
*It delivers ease of reporting. In traditional environments three reports – a dialler report, call centre report and telephony report – had to be collated and manipulated to identify the key performance indicators necessary to managing performance. Presence combines this data in a single report.
*It ensures ease of use. With the Presence solution one can audit and manipulate data as required while contact centre campaigns continue to run.
This is a considerable advantage over traditional approaches which required the campaign to be stopped if changes in data were required, especially when the SLAs specify minimum down time."
"Putting the right technology in place will not just make contact centres more competitive, it will facilitate the provision of value add services to customers, enabling contact centres to expand their offerings within their client base," remarks Araceli Aranda, Presence Technology's CEO.  
"The platforms, tools and technologies are quickly maturing and are available for mid as well as large size organisations. Hosted options are also accessible for smaller organisations that require flexible solutions on a budget."