Annoy people at dinnertime with open source

Open-source to save money on dialling operations

Telemarketing calls: we hate them. But the business of calling people at inopportune moments is big business; the so-called outbound dialing market will reach over US$200 million by 2011, Frost & Sullivan predicts.

For businesses that want to conduct outbound dialing operations on the cheap, several open-source software packages are available for evaluation.

Outbound dialing, or predictive dialing systems use software and PBX interfaces to automate the massive amounts of phone calls made in a telemarketing campaign. The systems typically dial numbers from a database, and give call center agents the option of picking up the first call that answers. This maximizes time and allows more calls per hour. Such systems are traditionally offered as expensive add-on software for large automatic call distributor (ACD) systems, which are also expensive gear.

In the open-source world, most outbound calling packages are geared for the Linux-based Asterisk VoIP system - an open-source software platform that provides most of the functions of a large PBX or ACDs.

One system is VoiceRD, an add-on software package for managing Asterisk systems. This system has hooks which allow the software to access customer data from an open-source Surgar CRM or Alfresco content management system in order to conduct automated outbound dialing campaigns.

1BizCom is another package geared for Asterisk. This package is a Web-based package, which includes a predictive dialer feature, an interactive voice response module, and call distribution capabilities. Reporting tools on agent activities and system performance are also features in the package. The open-source software is currently in beta, and version 1.0 is expected to be released soon, the developers say.

It's daunting to know what you are up against technology-wise as you sit down for supper. But for some piece of mind, consider the Indosoft outbound dialer product for Asterisk. The software product (not open-source) includes a real-time "Do Not Call List" interface, allowing the system to match the numbers it dials instantly with local do-not-call-list registries.

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