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PCCC Staffers Think They've Discovered the Future of Phone-Banking

BY Miranda Neubauer | Friday, October 26 2012

The Progressive Change Campaign Committee is using a combination of a paid call center and a predictive dialing system for volunteers in order to meet a goal of at least one million calls on behalf of progressive candidates, the group's organizers say.

"What we wanted to do here is to set up a system where we can take the scale of the national volunteer program, and still operate it with the level of focus and volunteer cultivation that you would normally get with physical offices, face-to-face," said Michael Snook, the PCCC's chief information officer.

The PCCC has been using its e-mail list with about one million members to recruit volunteers for two-hour calling shifts, Snook explained. Using this platform, the PCCC made 395,720 phone calls in a ten-day period earlier this October. The PCCC isn't just backing Elizabeth Warren, the high-profile financial regulations crusader campaigning to beat Scott Brown in Massachusetts — they're also making calls for David Gill's House campaign in Illinois and Alan Grayson's in Florida.

The PCCC first did something similar in the 2010 primary cycle, and has been working on improving its approach since then while also taking advantage of updates to Hubdialer, the predictive call system that the group is using.

What outside groups can do for campaigns is limited by federal election rules. Snook said the system PCCC is using is efficient enough that they can make a lot of calls without spending a lot of money — so they can coordinate, which, for example, allows PCCC volunteers to use campaign scripts.

"I don't think anybody else out there has a national distributed dialer efficient enough to still coordinate with the campaigns without going over their contribution limits under the law," Snook said.

"It's volunteer-based and it's so efficient, we're able to do it as work without going over the federal limits on coordinated expenditures," he said later on in our conversation.

"We're more deeply integrated with these campaigns, working with them directly and targeting their people," Sroka added. "They might want help from other people but other organizations aren't allowed to talk to them."

Snook explained that the dialer is based on the concept that it will dial out to three voters, predicting that one of those three will pick up.

PCCC keeps a small paid call center staffed with about 15 people. As volunteers start their shifts, they join that minimum number of other callers, the idea being this way the odds work right for the predictive dialer and each volunteer is likely to complete more calls.

"Predictive dialers only work when you have a large number of dialers," he said.

The dialer also monitors the average duration of a call and starts making a new dial around 5 seconds before it thinks a caller will be done.

An addition this year is that organizers get information on caller performance back every night, helping the group directly observe their performance and filter out the best volunteers or "supervolunteers," Snook said. "We can send them e-mails saying thank you and have our best volunteers send e-mails to our other volunteers about their experience."

In addition to doing tests to see what motivates callers to show up for their shifts, the group is also able to monitor how many minutes callers spent on the system, look at other indicators to see which people might need extra training, or if they had technical problems and logged in and out multiple times.

"We are using the predictive dialer in conjunction with the paid call center to maximize efficiency," Snook said. "Usually you have to pick: have a predictive dialer or it's phoning from home."

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