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Manually Dialled Calls Can Now Also Fall Under TCPA Regulations

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act was enacted to regulate the use of auto and predictive dialers. Its reach has been further extended by a federal court in the Western District of Wisconsin.

The recent judgment in the case of Nelson v. Santander Consumer USA extends the TCPA to apply to calls even in cases where an auto or predictive dialer is not used.

Plaintiff Heather Nelson alleged that the defendant, an automobile finance company, had repeatedly called her cellular telephone number which was listed under her husband’s name. Nelson received over 1,026 calls, of which the company left 116 prerecorded messages over the course of a year.

The calls were made by the company to collect a debt on two vehicles the plaintiff had financed. The plaintiff also claimed damages in view of violations of the TCPA. The district court heard the arguments and granted the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment with respect to the TCPA claim. It awarded $571,000 in statutory damages.

The defendant had actually used the Aspect (News - Alert) telephony system, a computer telephone software system that is capable of routing inbound calls and places outbound calls. The system performs both predictive dialing and preview dialing.

When in predictive dialing mode, the telephony system leverages an algorithm for dialing numbers which helps the system predict when an agent will become available to take the next outbound call.

In preview dialing mode the telephone number to be dialed is selected by the agent from a display on the computer screen and the system will dial that number. This eliminates the need to dial ten digits. In this case the defendant had created a list of telephone numbers and used both predictive and preview dialing to call the numbers.

Santander argued that the plaintiff had not categorized the calls made using either of the dialer systems, and the court acknowledged that preview dialing may indeed be outside the scope of the TCPA. It came to the conclusion that, irrespective of whether preview dialing falls within the scope of the TCPA or not, the issue was if the system used by the defendant had the capacity to make automated calls.  

This case highlights the fact that companies that manually dial cellular numbers via preview dialing or through any other method will be subject to TCPA liability in case their calling system can generate automated calls. Even if human intervention is involved it may not provide a defense.

As covered by TMCnet, failure to adhere to rules and regulations can prove very expensive to call centers; thus, it is critical that companies invest sufficient time and money to train your agents. Whether it’s the TCPA, state and local licensing, FDCPA or the new CFPB, call centers and collection departments face an ever-increasing daily compliance challenge as rules and regulations pile up. 

Edited by Blaise McNamee
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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.

    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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