Predictive Dialer Featured Article

Predictive Dialer Technology Didn't Violate TCPA in Wells Fargo Case



While ASA International, the Association of Credit and Collections Professionals, is seeking to loosen laws that limit the methods collections agency can use to pursue debtors, others are finding loopholes in the law that work to their advantage. Case in point is the ruling last week in Chicago where a federal court dismissed a claim that call center agents working on behalf of Wells Fargo (News - Alert) used predictive dialer technology to contact the granddaughter of plaintiff Dolores Hart via her cell phone,  in an effort to collect on a car loan.


According to an article last week in the Courthouse News Service, Delores Hart entered into a retail installment contract with Wells Fargo in 1996 when she purchased a car for her granddaughter. 

When payments apparently got behind, the article says, "Wells Fargo call center agents contacted plaintiffs in an attempt to recover the overdue payments" and hired other defendants "to collect the debt and repossess the car." The claim says not only that “Wells Fargo uses a predictive dialer called the 'Conversations System' to communicate with customers," but also that a “predictive dialer is a type of automatic telephone dialing system that uses generated, stored, or otherwise entered phone numbers to automatically make outgoing telephone calls." At that point, the article explained, the predictive dialer system will forward calls where contact has been achieved to live call center agents.

Because the calls in this case were to cellphones, the position of the plaintiff was that Wells Fargo was in violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) which bans "any call (other than a call made for emergency purposes or made with the prior express consent of the called party) [by] using any automatic telephone dialing system."

However, after an expert for the plaintiffs conceded that while the desktop telephones the agents used to call the plaintiffs are integrated with the predictive dialer system, they can also be used to dial manually when the agents aren’t logged into the universal server.

Wells Fargo countered that the calls made to the cellphones of the plaintiffs were not dialed using the predictive dialer system, and produced computer records that proved that they were instead manually dialed.

Although the plaintiffs said the computer printout records Wells Fargo produced were the equivalent of hearsay, U.S. District Judge Matthew F. Kennelly admitted the use of the computer records "under the 'business records' exception to the hearsay rule."  The Courthouse News Service report explained, “Under evidentiary law a printout is admissible, even if not kept in the ordinary course of business, so long as the underlying data was so kept.”

Consequently the judgment in this case was for the defendant, finding that there was no evidence that Wells Fargo’s predictive dialer technology was used to make contact via cell phone. The Courthouse News Service reported that the summary judgment concluded, "no jury reasonably could find... that Wells Fargo employees called plaintiffs' cell phones using equipment which has the capacity to auto dial."


Linda Dobel is a TMCnet Contributor. She has been an editor in the contact center space for more than 25 years, and has the distinction of being the founding editor of Customer Inter@ction Solutions (CIS) magazine. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Jamie Epstein
 

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What Are Related Definitions You Should Know?

Related definitions that you should know as you increase your understanding of predictive dialers include:

Dialer: generic term for any computer-driven device that places outbound calls and connects the answered calls to an agent or operator.

Agent: telephone professional to whom a predictive dialer sends the ready call.

Predictive Dialer: Predictive dialing was introduced for the purpose of increasing efficiency within calling centers. They are computer based system that automatically dial groups of telephone numbers, and then passes live calls to available agents. The SpitFire Enterprise dialer utilizes sophisticated algorithms to speed up and slow down the call rate based on, number of available agents, number of available lines, the campaign’s average call time and other statistical information.

Quick Connect: Quick Connect allows your agents to log in one-to-one with a phone line. This option is great for B2B purposes, especially when your agent needs to be on the phone line through the entire call.

Fixed Dialing: Fixed Dialing gives your call center manager the power to manually set the volume of calls. The software will then automatically dial a predetermined number of lines per agent. Fixed dialing is ideal for political campaigns, charity campaigns, and other situations drop call ratios are not a factor.

Auto dialer: makes thousands of calls screening for busy signals, no answers, fax machines while detecting answering machines/voicemail and delivers pre-recorded messages. SpitFireX Auto Dialer is a low cost solution for voice broadcasting.

How Do Predictive Dialers Work?

Predictive dialers use complex mathematical algorithms that calculate, in real time:

  1. the number of available agents
  2. the number of phone lines available
  3. the probability of reaching a human being at a specific number
  4. the time between calls required for optimum agent efficiency
  5. the length of typical agent/customer or
    debtor conversations
  6. the average length of time agents require to wrap up after a call

SpitFire Enterprise Predictive SEP is a fully blended call center solution that supports unlimited lines, agents, and campaigns. Its greatest strength is in its flexibility: multiple campaigns can be set up, viewed, and changed with the click of a button. With easy options for customization, data and dispositions can be catered to each campaign. In addition to our user-friendly interface, SEPhighlights full customer data and combines multiple campaigns on one screen. All the information your agents need is accessible at a glance, freeing their energy to focus on what matters: the calls.

Keep It Simple with SpitFire Fully Integrated Call Center Software

Our greatest priority is making your call center run smoothly, and we do that by developing software that is intuitive and easily integrated with your current systems. SEP works seamlessly with most CRM applications and long distance carriers, making it the simplest and most cost-effective solution for your call center.

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Benefits of Using a Predictive Dialer

  1. Manages the process of dialing tens of thousands of calls or tens of millions of calls in its lifetime.
  2. Detects the result of the call, as an example: no answer, busy, fax, bad number, answering machine without any presence of human expertise. Consequently saving time by only transferring calls which are voice connects to the agents locally or remotely.
  3. Using predictive dialer increases the productivity of the company by drastically increasing the time agents spend on the phone talking to actual customers or prospective clients.
  4. Predictive dialer users get the ability to organize and better manage the client information, no lost notes scribbled on pieces of paper. The database used by the dialer organizes the calling structure.
  5. The most significant task done by the predictive dialer is to predict, which means always making an effort to get a live call to the available agent with the shortest amount of wait time. This is achieved by self learning algorithms within the predictive dialer to increase or decrease the dial ratio per agent, logged into the system.
  6. Inbound call can be better dealt with by allowing the customers to wait on hold in an IVR system, or a way to leave a message they'd like a callback while the agent is busy talking with other customers.
  7. Most important benefit of a predictive dialer is it reduces expenses for your company over a period of time since you do not need to buy and deploy a complex and sometimes extremely expensive PBX system. Your company will experience return of investment (ROI) in a period of six to twelve months.
  8. A predictive dialing system can effortlessly fit into your companies existing infrastructure since it is software controlled.
  9. The call routing logic and the contact management is all included in one software package. Your call routing logic implemented as per your specifications. Since it is a software package it can easily be upgraded even if you are located remotely with the help of internet.
  10. Provides an added cost effective method of managing the client database by giving the user of the predictive system ability to rework your database on previous call results.

    Example:
    1. only redial records which were busy, no answers and answering machines
    2. Delete records which are bad numbers, disconnected numbers or operator intercepts
  11. Do a real time look up against the do not call database saving the predictive dialer user from accidentally calling people who have enrolled in the do National not call registry. This saves the company from lawsuits and others risks conforming to all legal statutes and FCC complaints.
  12. Provides progressive dialing capabilities like call blending which means handling inbound and outbound call at the same time.
  13. Provides ability to integrate call recording devices and call monitoring interfaces which helps call center supervisors to train agents and users and improve their customer support skills.
  14. Easy to setup and learn the predictive dialer logic and software tools.

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