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March 3, 2023


Winning elections with efficiency: the role of predictive dialers in political campaigns

Jono Kupferberg

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Whether you know them as “hosted predictive dialers,” “cloud predictive dialers,” “virtual predictive dialers,” or “web-based dialers,”; predictive dialers are the most efficient way for political campaigns to communicate with voters, bar none. As Shakespeare said, “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

Campaigns are all about connecting with voters. And establishing a private audience with each voter is the best way to cultivate a connection. Sure, you could go door-to-door and speak with each voter face-to-face; but the fundamental laws of physics make that challenging at scale. 

Calling voters becomes the apparent means of one-on-one conversations with many voters. And having a tool to do this efficiently, like a predictive dialer, means campaigns can talk to more voters more often over a shorter period. 

In this article, we will introduce you to predictive dialers and show why they are a powerful tool every political campaign needs.

What is a predictive dialer?

A predictive dialer is an automated system that dials phone numbers and connects the answered calls to a live agent. In political campaigns, predictive dialers efficiently reach many potential voters.

Predictive dialers use sophisticated algorithms to predict the optimal time to dial the following number based on the availability of agents and the probability of a call being answered. The algorithm maximizes the agents’ productivity and reduces the time spent waiting for a call to be answered.

In terms of cost savings, predictive dialers save resources by screening out busy signals, voicemails, and answering machines. That way, calling agents (such as volunteers) can focus only on live conversations with potential voters.

How does a predictive dialer work?

A predictive dialer uses algorithms to determine the optimal time to dial the following number. Calling agents can reach out to more people efficiently, in less time, and reduce time spent on non-returning calls.

The best way to understand how a predictive dialer works is first to understand what process it is designed to supplement: traditional phone banking. 

Political phone banking used to consist of volunteers sitting together in someone’s living room or kitchen, holding paper (another relic of a foregone time you may need to ask your parents about), printouts of calling lists, manually dialing phones and taking physical notes. One volunteer with one list of numbers would do everything – making one call at a time on one phone. 

And that’s where predictive dialers come in. All the manual steps mentioned above are automated and consolidated in one program. Campaign volunteers no longer need to meet in person to phone bank. Each can log in to the predictive dialer software from the comfort of their own home. This creates a virtual call center that can be equally effective at any location.

And there’s no need to print out calling lists or scripts as those are uploaded into the predictive dialer software. Volunteers then can sit back and relax as the predictive dialer calls the numbers on the calling list automatically. 

The calling sequence will speed up when more volunteers are logged into the system. If fewer volunteers log in, the calling tempo will slow down. So not only does the predictive dialer automate the previously manual dialing process, but it will dial at the most efficient speed relative to the number of volunteers calling. 

And as for the actual calling conversations, volunteers have a calling script, just as they did in the old days. This digital script instantly auto-populates the name and information of the person they’re speaking to. Volunteers don’t need to dial a number or wonder who they’re calling manually. It’s all automated for them. 

Any call notes and results are logged into the same shared database as all the other volunteers. At the end of the night, all the calling efforts made by your campaign are recorded in one centralized database.

Dialing and call operations in practice

The main reason why political managers and campaign officers use predictive dialers is to automate outbound calls. The more potential voters you can reach in less time, the higher the chance of getting more people to vote for your candidate.

The calling process is usually simplified and allows volunteers to learn how to use predictive dialing quickly. Volunteers typically follow the steps such as:

  • Data import – names, phone numbers, and other relevant information about voters
  • Call parameters setting – number of calls per agent, calling times, etc.
  • Dialing phone numbers – once a call is connected, the system automatically routes the call to the next available agent or volunteer
  • Interaction – each calling agent can access voter information and call purpose and record the responses in the system
  • Follow-up – any notes and future call scheduling can also be inserted in the predictive dialer system.

Overall benefits from using predictive dialing 

Political campaigns benefit from predictive dialer usage, just like any other industry. Besides focusing on specific political goals and voter outreach objectives, there are some operational benefits such as:

  • CRM integration – Predictive dialers often integrate with customer relationship management (CRM) software. The integration provides agents with real-time information about voters. Thanks to that, the agents can personalize the conversation based on the voter’s interests, concerns, and demographics.
  • Automatic call distribution – this technology routes calls to the most appropriate agent based on their skills, expertise, and availability. As a result, each call is answered by the most qualified agent, which improves the voter’s experience and leaves a good impression.
  • Call recording – calls can be recorded for quality assurance, training, and compliance. Agents usually follow the script and maintain a professional tone, so if there are more dropout rates than planned, the recordings can be used to analyze previous conversations.
  • Real-time analytics and reporting allow campaign managers to track campaign performance, monitor agent productivity, and identify areas for improvement, such as voter engagement during the calls. 

Predictive dialer benefits for political campaigns

When it comes to campaign efficiency, predictive dialers are not only the most efficient way to call voters; they’re also the easiest way to organize volunteers, execute phone canvassing campaigns, and strategize additional political outreach based on the results.

The specific benefits of using predictive dialers for political campaigns are 

  • Increased efficiency. By reaching more voters in less time and focusing on more critical tasks, such as engaging with voters and persuading them to vote for a particular candidate or issue.
  • Better data management. For example, predictive dialers allow the recording of voter responses automatically.
  • Improved voter engagement. This is achieved using automated follow-up and tailored messages based on the voters’ interests, concerns, and demographics. 

Let’s say you’re a campaign manager looking to do some initial voter targeting in your state. You have a team of 100 volunteers spread out across the state, and you need to conduct voter identification and political data analytics for a list of over 1 million voters. 

This would require immense organization and volunteer executive discipline in the old days. Each would be entrusted with a voter segmentation; they would physically call each number, take appropriate notes, and relay all that information back to the campaign director. 

The campaign director would then need to aggregate the data they receive from however many volunteers lived close enough to the campaign headquarters to participate. All that data comes together to help inform the campaign strategy going forward, and this old-school approach’s disjointed nature could deflate campaign efficiency very quickly. 

A predictive dialer, on the other hand, makes this stage of a political campaign a breeze. Volunteers would all be working off the same calling list, eliminating any chance of redundancies. All 100 volunteers could participate, regardless of where they live. And they would all take similar notes with identical call log dispositions, instantly aggregating the call results and producing easy-to-understand reports.

Political campaign staff and volunteers at work

Predictive dialer use cases in political campaigns

Predictive dialers such as HubDialer go hand-in-hand with different types of scripts, depending on what your campaign needs to accomplish. For instance, you can add your persuasion, GOTV, Issue ID, vote-by-mail, or volunteer recruitment scripts.

Here are some of the objectives and political campaign use cases we often see on the HubDialer platform. 

Voter Identification

Need to find some likely voters or do some party building? Campaigns will often start by loading massive call lists into HubDialer to identify who on the list is a registered member of their party and a likely supporter of their candidate. 

Voter segmentation and voter targeting

Campaign success depends on careful planning and creating different calling activities targeting different voter segments. Campaigns can segment reports by zip code, precinct, voting history, etc.

So let’s say you have a different messaging strategy for voters living in the city and those in rural areas. After identifying all the likely voters in the state, you can segment the results by zip code to isolate the city and rural areas to create two distinct groups of voters.

Fundraising campaigns

Using predictive dialers, calling agents can reach out to potential campaign donors and ask them for donations.

While you can talk to donors using a regular phone line, predictive dialers make this process faster and more convenient. Not only can volunteers reach out to more people effectively, but they can also prepare custom calling scripts explicitly written for political and grassroots fundraising efforts.

Voter persuasion

Voter persuasion is an essential stage of every campaign. If you have completed voter identification and voter segmentation/targeting, your next job is to correctly identify all likely voters and prepare for an effective persuasion campaign. 

Are you campaigning in an area that solidly supports your candidate’s party? Or are you campaigning in a more hostile environment? Answering these questions will dictate all strategic decisions the rest of the way. 

Regardless of the message strategy, voter persuasion efforts are typically more extended conversations dealing with substantial back and forth. Volunteers have graduated from simple survey calls and are now engaging in powerful conversations getting to the heart of the political debate. 

Voter tracking

After identifying voters, segmenting and targeting them, and persuading them to vote in your favor, all that matters is that they vote! 

Tracking voters and calling those still needing to vote is the focus of every campaign in the closing days of an election. This period is known as get-out-the-vote (GOTV) and typically spans a campaign’s last five days (including election day). 

Nothing else matters if your supporters don’t actually vote, so it is critically important to have a reliable predictive dialer to close out a winning campaign.

Yes, predictive dialers are legal if you stick to the rules defined by law and regulations.

Political campaigns must comply with regulations such as the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), which sets rules for telemarketing calls. Predictive dialers are designed to comply with these regulations as well.

On April 1, 2021, the Supreme Court issued its decision in Facebook, Inc. v. Duguid, 141 S. Ct. 1163 (2021). Under the ruling in Facebook, calls made with any system that dials calls or sends texts automatically (but not with a prerecorded voice) do not require express prior consent unless the system uses, or can use, a “random or sequential number generator” to produce the list of numbers to be called. 

Few systems can actually dial randomly or sequentially. If a platform lacks that capacity, it no longer matters how automatic it is or whether there is any degree of “human intervention.” Thus, if a list of specific numbers is inputted into the platform – a “curated” list, as opposed to one produced by a random or sequential number generator – use of that platform is permissible to call or text cell phones without consent, for either text messages or live calls.

For example, a list that doesn’t break TCPA can include

  • An organization’s own list of supporters that have provided their cell phone numbers on the organization’s website
  • A list of all Democrats on the voter file in a particular state (subject to voter file use restrictions)
  • A list created using modeling or screening

How much do predictive dialers cost?

Predictive dialer prices vary across the industry, but the most common pricing models are per dial or minute. 

Cost per dial

Cost per dial makes sense for the dialer providers, but it often isn’t the most cost-efficient option for those hiring the dialer. 

Predictive dialers can call 4-5 calls per minute, making the tool potentially expensive for campaign staff. If your campaign includes calling 10.000 people and more, the costs can eat a good part of your total campaign budget.

Furthermore, most people don’t answer numbers they don’t recognize, and it takes a few tries before your volunteers connect with someone. So if people don’t answer each of your agents’ calls, the total calling cost goes even higher.

Cost per minute

The other pricing model includes cost per minute. This model is more affordable for campaign planners since it doesn’t matter if volunteers talk to just 1 person or 10 people each minute.

The per-minute pricing model has proven to be the most straightforward and cost-effective approach for real-world applications. Predictive dialers average 4-5 calls per minute, resulting in 1.6 – 2.2x more costs for the per-dial model than the cost-per-minute model.

At HubDialer, we use a cost-per-minute model, which is especially convenient when you want to avoid subscribing to monthly fees and stick to minimum purchase requirements that can break your calling budget. You pay as you go and buy only the minutes you need.

Choosing the Right Predictive Dialer for Your Political Campaign

Choosing a predictive dialer is quite simple after you identify campaign goals and how phone banking and calling fits your campaign.

Besides cost, the predictive dialer you choose has to offer standard features that calling agents and volunteers can easily use. Ensure your dialer provides real-time analytics, reporting, call recordings, analysis, and database storage.

For instance, HubDialer is a reliable and reputable provider with extensive experience in the political campaign industry. Calling agents and volunteers can learn to use HubDialer quickly and start with effective calling in minutes.

Things to remember

Campaigns need to connect with voters to win elections, and phone banking is the most effective way to talk to the most significant number of voters over the shortest time.

And while there are multiple ways to organize and execute phone canvassing campaigns, predictive dialers with call automation are the most efficient and cost-effective way to identify, target, persuade and track the voters your campaign needs to win! 

Be it before, during, or after political phone banking campaigns, predictive dialers are a necessary utility of all political organizations. With this in mind, we encourage you to take HubDialer’s predictive dialer software for a test drive with 500 free minutes.

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