Taking action to improve call center operations can be difficult if you aren’t sure where to start. Try starting with a predictive dialing system. Predictive dialers make any call center more efficient by automatically calling a list of numbers so that agents don’t have to.

Here’s what you should know about how exactly predictive dialer systems work.

Predictive dialers use algorithms

The heart of a predictive dialer lies in its algorithm. We hear a lot about algorithms, but that doesn’t mean we know precisely what we’re talking about when we say that word. Some people think of them as math problems, and while they can involve math, but they’re not quite math problems.

To drill down to the basics, look at this definition: “An algorithm is a set of guidelines that describe how to perform a task.” Words like “and”, “or”, and  “not” are key to helping algorithms function properly. Think of those connecting words as like exits to the next stop on the Algorithm Highway.

Predictive dialing systems use an algorithm that decides when and how telephone calls are placed. In a traditional call center, an agent will have a list of accounts and numbers on their screen. After making one call, they’ll pull up the next entry and dial the number by hand.

But predictive dialing systems remove most of that human element. Sure, they’ll still be a human on the line to answer the phone if and when someone picks up. But they won’t have to dial numbers on their own.

Predictive dialers save time

Predictive dialers are designed specifically for outbound call centers, or call centers where most of the calls are going out. By contrast, an inbound call center is one where the customers are calling the agents instead of the other way around. For example, a call center that contacts customers to let them know an account is overdue would be primarily outbound. But a technical support hotline for smartphone customers would be mostly inbound.

Predictive dialers can dial multiple numbers at the same time. Why is that important? It’s important because we live in a world where fewer and fewer Americans are inclined to answer their phone if it’s a number they don’t recognize. One analysis found that a little more than half of all phone calls go unanswered.

That’s an obvious problem for call centers. If you have to call four people before one answers, then that’s several minutes wasted. An agent who’s sitting there and waiting for the phone to ring could be doing other things instead. So a predictive dialer tries to attack this modern problem with the modern solution of dialing more than one number at a time. If a human picks up, the call is instantly transferred to an available agent.

Predictive dialers lower the abandoned call rate

Abandoned calls are bad news for call centers. An abandoned call happens when a customer is waiting to speak with an agent but gives up. Maybe they’ve waited too long, or maybe they’re getting another call. Either way, neither side achieves what they wanted.

Predictive dialing can look at agents’ average call times and estimate when an agent will be available to answer a call. If for some reason, the agent can’t come to the phone when a live person responds, then the system should wait a few seconds before giving the caller a message. It might be something like, “Sorry, but no agent is available right now.”

It’s still not ideal, but predictive dialers are better than humans at getting the abandoned call rate as close to zero as possible.