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Predictive dialing aids Frost-Arnett: collection agency acts fast to insure future.

PREDICTIVE DIALING AIDS FROST-ARNETT

Predictive or power dialing systems have been used in early-stage collections by banks, retailers and other credit grantors for several years. But the age and quality of accounts collected by agencies was thought to make the use of predictive dialers less applicable to our tasks.

Frost-Arnett Co., based in Nashville, Tenn., has always been a leader in using technology to improve productivity. We developed our own collections software, which runs on dual Prime host computers. All nine of our remote offices are connected via communications links to the Nashville center.

In October 1988, Charley Martin, president of Frost-Arnett, asked me to head a team to investigate the validity of using predictive dialing hardware in our collection operation, and to recommend a vendor if we decided it was appropriate for our business.

We installed a "CAS 1000" predictive dialer from Davox Corp., Billerica, Mass., in March 1989. The system dials phone numbers, detects busy and no-answer calls and processes the various call results all automatically, with no collector involvement. when a call is answered, the system passes the call and a corresponding customer data display instantly to an available collector at a Davox voice/data workstation. The results is that collectors spend more time collecting and less dialing phone numbers and listening to rings and busy signals.

With the CAS 1000, our collectors each average about 25-30 contacts per hour--an improvement of 250-300% over manual dialing. That efficiency has paid off in more money collected faster for our clients, which means we can accept more business.

Fine Tuning

In the months following installation, we adjusted and tuned the way we use the system as well as the way we prepare data on our mainframe. Our CAS 1000 system supports 16 telephone lines and eight Davox collection workstations. A ninth workstation is used as a supervisory console to manage system operation. In a typical day, we download about 5000 files from the Prime systems into the dialer.

Although it normally takes us two days to contact all of these accounts, we take two days' worth of files to collectors can work through the CAS 1000 in its off-line mode in case of a host or communications problem, which otherwise would ground us for a day. We upload the results of each day's calling from the CAS 1000 to the Prime hosts every night.

Most of our lists comprise accounts who are 90 days delinquent or longer. These are the most difficult accounts to collect, which is why they are referred to Frost-Arnett.

Clients are varied and include hospitals and other health care providers, utilities and retailers along with florists, veterinarians, credit card and wholesale business accounts.

Auto Busy-Redial

The CAS 1000 allows us to redial busies automatically at whatever time increments we choose. Normally, we'll set the dialer to keep dialing busy numbers every five minutes. The on-line supervisor screen shows us exactly what is happening in all calling lists and lets us change parameters to maximize efficiency. THe changes can be made instantly, at any time, without affecting the dialing process.

In fact, we can cause an entirely new calling list to be downloaded from the Prime hosts and started on the dialer at any time without affecting the current operation. This type of flexibility was one of the key reasons for selecting the CAS 1000.

The system has the best pacing technology and concurrency of operations available. Pacing, or the frequency of call placement, can be controlled automatically by the system or manually by the system supervisor.

Either way, there is always an answered call waiting to be passed on.

The CAS 1000 can perform numerous tasks at the same time without affecting dialing activity. We can run multiple client lists simultaneously, start and stop them as desired and adjust phone line/agent configurations on the fly to respond quickly to each list's contact rate.

Much of our work involves skip tracing.

The client's file often will contain names and phone numbers of friends, past employers and neighbors. What's more, we may already have information on these individuals from work done for previous clients. The dialer allows us to call all available numbers much faster, and we're able to verify the accuracy of phone numbers at the same time. Collectors only get involved when someone says "Hello," so we're using our staff resources better.

I have talked frequently with other collection agencies about the use of predictive dialers.

One of the questions they ask most often is, "Don't you lose the personal touch of having one collector handle an account cradle to grave?"

With the flexibility of our computer software, and the CAS 1000, we can have the best of both philosophies. In some cases, pooling accounts on the dialer gives us productivity improvements of 300%. Other accounts, especially those involving insurance claims or other reasons for long talk times, are assigned to individual collectors.

One of the biggest advantages of predictive dialing is in making the first call to new files. As a result of this first call, accounts are transferred to assigned collectors, left in the dialer pool or sent to skip tracing. In fact, sometimes it's better to introduce a new collector to a debtor.
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Author:Duke, J.W.
Publication:Communications News
Date:May 1, 1990
Words:872
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