Contact Center Trends

What kind of outbound dialer is right for you?

By Steve Bell

0 min read

Automated dialing in its various forms is a tremendous productivity tool for companies making outbound calls. However, some of the more aggressive types of dialing modes have forced a slew of regulatory restrictions. The type of outbound automation that is right for you depends on your business and your goals.

Many companies are focused on differentiating their brand through superior customer experience (CX). If you are in this camp, the last thing you want to do is bombard your customers with aggressive dialing campaigns that result in call abandonment. That kind of behavior will drive them away in a heartbeat. On the other hand, if you are a collections agency, CX might not be a top priority.

While industry definitions vary, there are four primary dialing “modes:” Preview, Power, Progressive and Predictive. The following is a summary of how they work and their ideal use cases.

Preview Dialing

The preview dialer is the slowest option among dialing modes. It operates using a one-to-one calling ratio, which allows your agent to preview the case or lead. The agent can look through the information and decide if they want to dial. If the preview time expires, the system will automatically dial or skip the record. If the call is made and connects to an answering machine, a fax machine or a voicemail system, the agent can disconnect the call manually or leave a message.

Best Use Case:
Preview Dialing is ideal when record information can enhance the interaction quality and outcome. The agent hears the phone ring and is available to guide the process from start to finish. Preview Dialing provides agents with enough context to complete the interaction, instead of gathering context during the call. These technologies have become increasingly popular by avoiding the pause upon answer and the subsequent abandoned calls of a Predictive Dialer. Good use cases for Preview Dialing include luxury sales, complex clinical calls or any interaction that may take some time or require a higher level of service.

Power and Progressive Dialing

Power Dialing is the next step up in efficiency. Power Dialing also uses a one-to-one call ratio, meaning it will place a call only when an agent is available to handle the call. The main difference is that the system is initiating the call, not the agent. This removes the wait time between calls, thus improving productivity over Preview Dialing. In addition, since the agent does not have an option to select which number is being dialed, they cannot cherry-pick their leads or contacts. However, with Power Dialing the agent is still listening to the dialing process and is able to bypass non-productive connections such as voicemails.

Progressive Dialing is very similar to Power Dialing. They both operate on a 1:1 call ratio with dialer-initiated calls. The difference is that Progressive Dialing uses call progress detection software to screen out non-productive calls and only connect agents to live “hellos.” As a result, Progressive Dialing is typically more productive than Power Dialing.

Best Use Case:
Power and Progressive Dialing are ideal for Business to Business (B2B) applications where more engagement from the agent is required to navigate receptionists, auto attendants and voicemail systems.

Power and Progressive Dialing are most often used in B2B campaigns addressed to current customers where the objective is to renew or up-sell a product or service, and utilized by a sales team with a scripted sales process. Power and Progressive Dialing are also applicable to longer or highly variable collections calls, which do not work well for predictive algorithms.

These systems are also well-suited in Business to Consumer (B2C) scenarios where sensitivity to call abandons is more important than high call volume. Since the system rather than the agent is initiating the dialing, they are less conducive to the high-touch or complex scenarios which require an agent-controlled preview time.

Predictive Dialing

Predictive Dialing is the most productive and most aggressive dialing mode. Due to its tendency for abuse, it is also responsible for the bulk of dialer regulatory scrutiny and restriction. Predictive Dialing optimizes agent talk time by using a computer to dial several lines ahead of when an agent is ready to answer them. The goal is to have a phone answer at the split second when an agent is ready. Predictive Dialing is able to keep agents talking on the phone 50 minutes of an hour or more. That translates to 200-400% more contacts per agent per hour.

Predictive Dialing uses voicemail/answering machine detection, so that when it gets a “non-live” response it will automatically schedule a later callback. Only when the dialer reaches a live “hello” does it pass the call through to the agent, along with any associated customer data and/or call script. As consumers, most of us have experienced the delay between when the call is answered and the agent is connected. This has historically led to customer discontent as it is a tell-tale sign of a telemarketing or “robo” call.

Best Use Case:
Predictive Dialing is specifically optimized for B2C scenarios because it requires short and consistent lengths of calls and direct-dial phone numbers. These systems are best when used in a one-call-close type of telemarketing, short surveys, pre-qualification of consumers, or early-stage collections calls with short, consistent talk times. Predictive Dialing often provides four to five times the number of live contacts per agent per hour over manual dialing. Multiply that by the revenue per contact and you can see the massive financial upside.

Predictive Dialing is not effective for calling valuable leads or complex sales that require multiple call attempts and/or long talk times. It is not designed to navigate the phone systems, auto attendants or receptionists of a B2B environment, where all of the leverage gained with a predictive algorithm is lost while waiting to be connected.

If you are a company focused on CX, using Predictive Dialing to call your existing customers is something to weigh carefully. By the very nature of Predictive “dialing ahead”, it is impossible to eliminate call abandons. Even at the most conservative Concurrent Call Ratio, anything more than 1:1 dialing leaves open the chance of abandonment and customer frustration.

Lastly, companies must have a large enough pool of agents to adopt Predictive Dialing. For a predictive algorithm to work effectively, the minimal group of agents concurrently dialing should be in the 10 to 12 range, and that effectiveness improves as the agent pool increases.

Now that we have explored the power of three new outbound dialer enhancements and how predictive dialers work, I hope that this closing installment, describing and giving you the best use cases for each form of automated dialer, can help you to make an informed decision when choosing a dialer to boost the productivity of your contact center.

Talkdesk’s Outbound Dialer


Outbound Dialer

Talkdesk’s Outbound Dialer improves agent connect rates and drives more proactive customer engagement.


Steve Bell

Steve is Senior Director of Product Marketing at Talkdesk. Steve is a Seattle transplant with a passion for music, wine, food, and travel.