[Post updated in September 2023]
Outbound sales and lead gen aren’t getting any simpler. Between changing regulations and increases in blocked and flagged calls, it’s getting harder and harder to connect with customers.
As the industry evolves though, one thing remains clear: Your outbound call center is only as good as its dialer.
Cutting costs by using “free” call center software like VICIdial might seem like an economical decision. But the truth is it’s only likely to COST your contact center—in more ways than one. After all, there’s no such thing as a free lunch.
To shed some light on the true costs of VICIdial, we went straight to the source – we talked to current and past VICIdial customers about their experience (see the results below).
In this article we’ll cover:
- What is VICIdial?
- Is VICIdial really free?
- Where VICIdial falls short, according to its users
- What to look for in a VICIdial alternative
What is VICIdial?
VICIdial is an open-source contact center solution with predictive dialing capabilities. Initially developed in 2003, today VICIdial is used by inbound and outbound calling teams in over 100 countries.
A big reason behind VICIdial’s widespread usage? It’s “free” to use. Plus, since it’s built on open-source code, savvy users can use this foundation to build their own solution without any licensing costs.
In fact, back in 2006, Convoso (known then as SafeSoft Solutions) did exactly that. Over the next 11 years, we gained firsthand experience with the VICIdial code—including its various flaws and the user pain points it creates. Eventually, we concluded that some of these underlying issues in the code simply could not be addressed. So, we scrapped our product and built our own proprietary solution from scratch using those 11+ years of lessons from customers who switched away from the VICIdial platform.
Is VICIdial really free?
As an open-source solution, something you hear frequently about VICIdial is that it’s free to use. When it comes down to it though, that’s not really the case. If you use VICIdial as your dialing software you will have to account for these main costs:
Installation and Training
Unless you have a versatile developer on staff, you will need to bring in an outside company or freelancer to install VICIdial at your call center. Installation requires knowledge of Linux, Apache, MySQL, and Asterisk.
Alternatively, you can pay VICIdial to provide installation and training. Charged as a fee for an initial server provisioning, this will set you back $1,000 upfront for one server, with each server costing $500 each after that.
Maintenance and Development
You won’t just need a developer for the initial install, though. To make modifications, you will also need to hire a qualified web developer with experience in architecting and developing enterprise-class applications. Experienced professionals in this area often cost anywhere from $100-200 per hour. And this initial deployment isn’t quick: it often takes months.
Your need for an outside expert doesn’t end there either. Every time an issue arises or bug needs resolving, you will need to call on them. (As you’ll see below, downtime and outages are frequent issues for many teams.) And if they’re not a dedicated member of your staff, the cost of their work can also come with costly wait times that keep your team from making calls.
Pitched as a convenient solution to running their “free” software, VICIdial offers its own hosting service, VICIhost, which is responsible for the server provisioning mentioned above. Using this service, you’ll see that the costs quickly add up. To use VICIhost, the costs include:
- $400 per server per month for hosting, plus the cost of minutes, charged after the first month
- 1.5 centers per minute for outbound calls and inbound toll calls
- 2.8 cents per minute for inbound toll-free calls
- $2.50 per DID per month
Where VICIdial Falls Short, According to Its Users
So you can foot the costs of installing and maintaining VICIdial. It’s smooth sailing from there, right? Not quite. Convoso spoke to a number of call centers of varying sizes who have used or are using VICIdial as their primary outbound dialing solution to find out their top issues with the platform. Here’s what we found.
“VICIdial- it was dirt cheap, but it doesn’t compare. You can’t even put it in the same realm as Convoso.”-Ariel Ayalon, Operational Manager, Senior Healthcare Advisors
Outdated UI and Poor Reporting – 69% of Respondents
The most common issue facing VICIdial users? An interface that’s outdated and difficult to navigate. Nearly 7 in 10 call centers noted the VICIdial interface and manual reporting process as a significant pain point.
And the teams we talked to aren’t the only ones who experience this issue. Here’s what a reviewer had to say at Capterra: “Being free and open-source, I suppose I can’t complain too much. But the front-end/GUI could use an overhaul pretty badly. The interface looks like a mid-90s website.”
To maintain agent efficiency and productivity, an easy-to-use user interface is essential. The same goes for managers who need to keep tabs on performance through real-time reporting.
After all, payroll is the biggest cost at outbound call centers. Every second spent fumbling with a clunky UI represents payroll going out the window. And that inefficiency is only compounded when it’s reporting on your agents’ efficiency that you’re struggling to pull!
Low Contact and Connection Rates – 63% of Respondents
Call centers not connecting with leads will drive up their second biggest cost: data. That is, if you’re not reaching your prospects, you risk burning through costly leads and lists. The questions and frustrations only grow from there: How do you justify the high cost of quality leads if you’re unable to reach them?
A large majority of the teams we talked to reported this as one of their biggest challenges. But what’s behind VICIdial’s low contact rates? The answer actually lies in our respondents’ other pain points.
Poor Caller ID (DID) Reputation – 50% of Respondents
Another of the most common issues reported by VICIdial users: poor caller ID reputation. Half of the teams we talked to reported that maintaining clean caller IDs and avoiding call flagging and blocking were major issues.
Without the ability to monitor DID usage and to easily replace inefficient DIDs based on volume and geography, calls will be marked as “Spam Likely” or blocked entirely. This can have a domino effect, causing lower contact rates, lower conversion, and a higher cost per acquisition.
Limited Features and Integrations – 38% of Respondents
About 4 in 10 call centers named a lack of features and integrations as one of their biggest VICIdial challenges. The most common missing feature is also a key ingredient in low contact rates: a lack of omnichannel solutions.
As it becomes more difficult to reach leads by phone, being able to employ automated omnichannel outreach through SMS and email becomes more and more important.
Inaccurate Answering Machine Detection (AMD) – 25% of Respondents
Depending on your call strategy, reaching leads’ voicemails can be a real momentum-killer for your agents. That’s why having quick, highly accurate answering machine detection is critical to call center efficiency.
VICIdial features answering machine detection settings, but many customers report a low degree of accuracy. Jesse Daniels, VP of Sales at One Health Direct, a call center carrying over a million calls per day, is one of those customers. Daniels estimates that at one point, his agents were spending as much as 70% of their time coding for voicemails, which is time that would be much better spent talking to customers.
Yet again, that’s all time that would be much better spent talking to customers. For Daniels and One Health Direct, the results of a switch from VICIdial to Convoso speak for themselves: Not only did they see 70% fewer voicemails, but they increased sales by more than 30%.
System Downtime and Outages – 25% of Respondents
Last but certainly not least, a quarter of the call centers we talked to reported issues with downtime and service outages.
To make matters worse, it’s not always easy to get ahold of someone at VICIdial support. NextGen Leads and other call centers also report difficulties with long wait times for tech support. And if you think dialing with low contact rates will cost your call center, wait until you do the math on not calling at all for extended periods.
How to Upgrade to a VICIdial Alternative
Between the costs of installation, development, and maintenance, as well as the opportunity costs posed by common VICIdial pain points, it’s clear that VICIdial is far from being truly free.
Still, not just any VICIdial alternative will do. As you conduct a search for that alternative, there are a number of other critical factors to consider.
Beware Third-Party Solutions Based on VICIdial
Don’t settle for an imitation: A number of third-party contact solutions, including Ytel and GOautodial, are actually based on underlying VICIdial code.
Though they may have made some improvements to the VICIdial foundation, they’re still prone to many of the same issues, including a few of those outlined below.
When deciding which software to purchase, the type of carriers used is one of the most important factors to understand. Look for a provider that uses name-brand, Tier-1 carriers such as AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile. Using a dialer that only connects through top-tier carriers will ensure maximum call quality and connectivity.
It’s important to get a solution that provides managers with everything they need to improve call center performance. Ask the following questions about reporting capabilities as you search for the right solution:
- Depth of Analysis. Does the solution offer robust reporting capabilities with the granularity that you need to make smart decisions? E.g., Does it tell you what your true CPA is at the list level? Or lead source level? Can you access real-time data to decide if you should pull your agents off non-performing lists? Does it give you insights into agent productivity throughout the day? Make sure you get reporting that can track these essential call center KPIs.
- Speed. Are you able to quickly run reports? Can you automate and schedule the delivery of reports?
- Customizability. Can you easily create, run, and save new custom reports?
With the introduction of STIR/SHAKEN, state-level “mini-TCPAs,” other game-changing regulations, your call center needs compliance experts on its side. As VICIdial users with plummeting contact rates can attest, not having a dialer that can cope with the changing landscape—including increases in call blocking and flagging—will cost your business dearly. Look for agent-friendly features like dynamic scripting software as well.
Caller ID Reputation Management
VICIdial charges you $2.50 each month for every one of your DIDs. However, if like so many of today’s outbound contact centers, you’re facing significant spam likely issues, you’ll be burning through quite a lot of caller IDs.
But that’s not even the biggest issue. With VICIdial you have no visibility into how bad those spam likely problems are for your business. That’s because the platform lacks caller ID reputation management solutions.
On a platform like Convoso’s, you instead get a comprehensive dashboard that shows you which of your numbers are being affected by call labeling or blocking and by which carriers. This enables you to take action quickly—and be sure your contact rates and revenue aren’t taking a hit.
You don’t just need a dialer that helps your call center excel right now. You need a call center that can easily scale alongside your business as it succeeds and grows.
Systems like VICIdial (or based on it) struggle to do just that. They can suffer from a high volume of dropped calls when scaled beyond 20-30 seats. Plus, since they run into limitations on the number of agents able to work simultaneously on the same server, scaling your call center without crashing the system will drive up infrastructure costs.
Look for a platform that makes scaling as simple as it should be. Make sure you can add agents, purchase new phone numbers, and configure routing quickly—and without the need for additional hardware, downloads, or coding.
Choosing Productivity and Profitability Over Price
You’ve heard it before: you get what you pay for.
When it comes to VICIdial and solutions based on it, there’s a lot of truth in that. While “free” and low-cost contact center solutions might seem like cost-effective answers, these savings mean nothing when they come at the cost of performance and profitability.
Convoso’s contact center software provides a powerful predictive dialer and a full suite of tools and solutions to boost contact rates by up to 300%, deliver more conversions, and increase ROI. Plus, we’ll be there when you need us most: Our experts are constantly rolling out product updates and upgrades to adapt to a fast-changing compliance landscape. And your dedicated Customer Success Manager is standing by for responsive support.
But, don’t just take our word for it!
Here’s what a switch from VICIdial to Convoso did for One Health Direct:
Here’s what a switch from VICIdial to Convoso did for NextGen Leads:
NextGen Leads also saw across-the-board results when they moved from VICIdial to Convoso. In the words of their Call Center Director, Melvin Merritt, “Convoso blew VICIdial away.”
In a side-by-side trial between Convoso and VICIdial:
- Loading up the leads was simplified
- Live transfers were streamlined
- Navigating features was smoother
- Convoso support was readily available
Want to discover what Convoso can bring to your call center? Request a demo today to see the results for yourself.Schedule a Demo