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Robocaller, Why Do You Not Speak?

Ring. Ring. Ring. Hello? Hello? ... Click.

You have just received an abandoned call. We all know this extraordinarily annoying script all too well. After the rage subsides, especially if you got out of bed for this, your next thought is probably questioning why anyone would bother to call and not say anything. Let's examine the sources of abandoned calls.

Agent Not Ready

High volume outbound callers such as surveyors, debt collectors, politicians, telemarketers, etc. all try to maximize their resources. Given the general unpredictability of answers, callers resort to using multiple lines per agent employing dialing strategies known as predictive dialing and power dialing. Predictive dialing utilizes a pacing algorithm that factors agent availability, average call times, and answer rates in an attempt to maximize agent talk time with the lowest possible abandonment rate. Despite clever pacing, agents are inevitably unavailable for all answers and abandonment occurs. Power dialing maximizes agent talk time by continuously dialing all available lines. This results in astronomical abandonment rates. Legend has it, back in the day before compliance, one enterprising storm damage repair company would power dial 25:1, that's 25 lines for every agent! They would engage in a carpet bombing campaign after a major storm and beat their competitors to the insurance claim feast.

Voicemail Fishing

Many robocalls aren't intended for a live person at all. If the message is targeted for playback from your answering machine or voicemail, then the call will likely be terminated if a live person answers. Dialing systems often incorporate a feature known as positive answering machine detection. While machine detection is an imperfect science, this generally provides callers the opportunity to play the message or end the call based on the answer type.

Psychological Warfare

Has your ringer ever pulsed a time or two and you picked up to find dead air or an open line? This is straight from the playbook of a debt collector. Unsurprisingly, a collector's sole mission is to motivate payment. A collector doesn't need to speak to you to directly to let you know that they are thinking about you, your debt, and your credit score. Simply seeing the collection agency's number in your missed call log is a reinforcing action.

The Probe

Modern business is no stranger to measurement and quantified optimization. The simple act of answering or not answering the phone tells quite a story. We live a life of patterns with tendencies to work, eat, and watch TV, etc. at roughly the same times each day. This includes availability to answer the phone. Probing calls are logged and analyzed to build an answer profile demonstrating probability to answer the phone. Targeted calling campaigns can be optimized by preemptively building an answer profile with probing. This allows for the best allocation of staff and lines. Probing isn't necessarily performed in isolation as it can be incorporated into any of the above mentioned practices.

Follow the Money

There's a saying that following the money will lead you to the truth. Abandoned calls walk this line. It's all about resource management with little or no regard for the recipient. Ever cheaper long distance and sophisticated dialing systems will likely fuel this bonanza for years to come.