The History of Call Center Predictive Dialing for the Debt Settlement Industry
In the Beginning…
Towards the end of the 1980s, InfoLogix Incorporated’s Douglas A. Samuelson claims he utilized queuing and simulating techniques to become the very first to use call center predictive dialing. The debt settlement industry would never be the same.
In a nutshell, call center predictive dialers figure out precisely when the best time to call prospective debt collection clients in order to generate the highest rate of collection success. In addition, the technology also implemented the necessary software instructions to direct outgoing telephonic computer dialing systems to dial calls only at those optimal times.
Samuelson’s software also featured real-time estimation updates while being modular and allowing for easy updates.
His patented call center predictive dialing software:
• Reduced the number of abandoned operator calls
• Anticipated when reps would finish calls
• Timed new calls to coincide with call center rep availability
The Debt Settlement Industry: A History
For folks working in outbound call centers who are charged with the IT and operational management aspects of keeping a room full of computer servers humming to perfection, this technology was invaluable. Third-party debt collectors were in search of new technologies that would enable them to maximize payroll efficiency and increase the performance of their debt recovery efforts.
As Samuelson’s call center predictive dialing became a virtual industry standard, it made the work of debt settlement professionals easier to manage while presenting opportunities to improve workflows.
So much easier that there was a Renaissance of sorts in terms of increased call center productivity. However, new technology also meant dealing with an ever-changing landscape as new technologies came under the scrutiny of regulatory bodies and government restrictions. And not everyone was thrilled with the fruits of Samuelson’s efforts to improve the debt settlements industry’s efficiency.
With the success of call center predictive dialing technology also came controversy. Consumers, privacy advocates and voters worked to enlist Senators and Congressmen to get behind the Telephone Consumer Protection Act that was passed into law in 2003.
Under these new TCPA regulations, outbound call centers (debt collectors) could not use predictive dialing systems that randomly generate and/or autodial cell phone numbers for any telemarketing purposes.
TCPA Regulations Today
These automatic telephone dialing systems (ATDS) have been under scrutiny for quite some time, so while this in and of itself might not seem particularly jarring, the case of Satterfield vs. Simon & Schuster (2009) demonstrated that the new TCPA rules redefine an ATDS as any software that has the capacity to both of the following:
- store or produce telephone numbers to be called, using a random or sequential number generator, and
- dial these numbers without human intervention, even if the system is not being, or has never been, used in this particular manner.
That means that any call center that is using a system which has the capacity for predictive dialing, even if it’s being used in a click-to-call or preview dialing mode only, is violating the TCPA regulations. In other words, the restriction is on the system itself, not on how you use it.
So, is there a way to use preview mode in a way that the government would consider manual?
Yes, so long as the system used to call is completely separate, only capable of dialing numbers one-to-one, and cannot under any modification be capable of things like predictive dialing. In any other scenario, you run the risk of being found in violation of TCPA rules and subject to enormous fines.
To ensure that your call center stays TCPA compliant, it’s important to use a solution that is incapable of predictive dialing and only dials numbers with human intervention while also recording 100% of all calls.
The Road Ahead
The trends in the debt settlement industry are clearly seeing call centers making the move from on-premise, hardware-based solutions to hosted solutions in the cloud. The popularity of these solutions is due in part because cloud-based solutions:
- Allow call centers to scale down their on-site IT hardware and team personnel
- Save the energy costs (and reduce the utility bills) associated with operating dedicated data centers
- Ensure that software and equipment will always be up to date with updates pushed live via the network
The organizations that embrace cloud-based solutions will continue to prosper while those that insist on maintaining on-premise solutions with dedicated on-site IT teams will find it increasingly difficult to keep up.
To read more about the new TCPA rules that were put into place this year, check out our latest ebook that provides a TCPA checklist and easy explanations of new regulations.