Before the introduction of Power Dialer software, many agents spent a lot of time manually dialing long lists of phone numbers to reach out to customers. This was a big issue in traditionally outbound focused call centers (such as collections or telemarketing), but also for call centers supporting inbound and outbound service (for example outbound service calls, cross-sell and upsell). Automating the actual dialing of thousands of phone numbers, freeing up agent time for more advanced tasks and reducing human error seemed like a splendid idea.
Introduced in the 1970s to resolve the issue, a Power Dialer made outbound calls based on a list of phone numbers provided using a fixed, but usually configurable, call-to-agent ratio. The advantage was that the agent did not have to waste time dialing, and the dialer took care of the call when it detected that no one was picking up, or the line is busy, simply moving on to the next number on the list.
However, it soon turned out that there were a number of disadvantages. Power Dialers made for a bad customer experience – with a manual calls-to-agent ratio it was all but impossible to “get it right”. Centers may end up with a ratio that is too low – and agents twiddling their thumbs waiting for the next call. Or – much worse – when dialing ratios were too aggressive, customers got “stranded” without ever being connected to an agent. Most of them eventually hung up (or: “abandoned”) the call. A horrible customer experience resulting in irritated customers, and negatively impacting both customer and agent satisfaction.
Eventually legislation called Telephone Consumer Protection Act (or TCPA) was enacted by the US Federal Communication Commission (FCC) starting in 1991, to put a stop to the practice. The legislation restricted telemarketing calls and limited the use of automatic dialing systems. After many amendments over the years, the law is still in effect today, and most call centers – even if they are not in telemarketing – will comply with the regulations (or at least try to).
It also quickly turned out that very aggressive dialing ratios were also detrimental to agents. In centers with high calls to agent ratio, they barely even had the time to draw a breath before they were routed the next call; features such as “minimum rest time” were introduced to alleviate the issue, but in the end, in most modern contact centers, the Power Dialer was eventually abandoned in favor of a more sophisticated solution, usually referred to as Predictive Dialer. To find out more about how a Predictive Dialer works, refer to the Predictive Dialer glossary entry.