What Is an Autodialer?
An autodialer is exactly what it says on the tin.
It is an automatic dialer that calls a long list of phone numbers. You can also write it as “auto dialer” or “auto-dialer, if you want to play with a hyphen or a space. In some instances, it is also called by the Asimovian name of “Robocaller”.
It is not from science fiction because it must have woken you from an afternoon’s slumber at least once. Even Homer Simpson knew about it when he tried to pull a ploy with its help. So, like all handy electronic devices, an autodialer is a software box that has a good side and a bad side.
But we won’t judge on human failings now, because an autodialer is a critical tool for enterprise communication and customer support. You can also find them used for emergency response, in hospitals, and in schools.
How Does an Autodialer Work?
Autodialers boost productivity as it is inefficient for a human to dial a long list of numbers and expect to reach them all. Earlier autodialers were hardware contraptions connected to telephones. The current crop of autodialers are software based. VoIP autodialers work with computers/telephony modems or can be routed through PBX systems with SIP trunks. The adoption of VoIP can help reduce equipment and calling costs.
Smart autodialers are designed to detect the difference between a human and a machine voice at the other end of the line. No autodialer is 100% sentient. But, they can give the receiver a menu of automated options (called Interactive Voice Response) and then hand the call over to a human operator. Dialers can also play a recorded message or leave a message on an answering machine.
A variety of autodialers are available on the market based on these differences in call management and the technology solution used. It is a catch-all term, so your solution will depend on how your company wants to interact with its segment. Some of the popular solutions come from Five9, Genesys, inContact, Voice2Phone, Callfire, and Talkdesk.
The Parts That Make Up an Autodialer
There are a variety of autodialer vendors who offer the sheer range of dialing technologies available today. An autodialer can also be at the core of a complete call center software suite. For e.g. Freshdesk which is a vendor for companies like Honda and CISCO.
A typical autodialer is one part of a complete calling station. It includes:
- A computer.
- A voice modem
- Auto-dialing software.
- A telephone line (PSTN or VoIP).
- An agent who will answer calls.
The autodialer is a software that is programmed to dial a series of phone numbers and react according to the response received. Here is a quick snapshot of the steps involved:
The computer dials a number from a contact list. The autodialer decides for how to long to call a number and the sequence of numbers it should dial from the contact database. Then, it attempts to detect the difference between a busy signal, an answering machine, and a human voice. Calls are dropped if no human voice answers after 4-5 rings or it goes to an answering machine.
When a call is answered, the auto dialer routes the call to a recorded message or an agent. If there are no free operators at the moment, it will put the caller on standby and often play a recorded message. In the background, the software logs feedback based on call duration, quality of call, and other information.
Autodialers are customized to the business scenario. But some of the features of an industry-grade smart autodialer include:
- Custom messaging features.
- Multilingual text-to speech capabilities.
- Efficient IVR that can pre-qualify good calls.
- Automatic detection of a machine or a live person.
- Scalable for multiple inbound and outbound campaigns.
- Efficient call management that can route calls to the right person.
- FTC Compliant with an opt-out feature for respondents.
- CRM integration and personalization of messages.
- Easy download of real time reports.
The sheer number of technologies involved makes it difficult to pin down all the features in a short list. So, let’s go over some common autodialing technologies.
Types of Autodialing
You must have been at the receiving end of an Interactive voice response (IVR). It is just one autodialing technology available in the market today. You will come across a few more when you shop for a solution. Some of the major dialing methods are:
You do not have to manually dial a number. Click a phone number on your computer screen. You can be instantly connected or receive a callback on your phone. The moment you answer, you’ll hear the auto dial tone.
This gives you the most control. View all call information on your contact sheet before any call is placed. Choose to make the call or move on to the next name on the list.
This is like a preview dialer but without the hands-on control. The phone rings after a preset interval. You can preview the call information but have only have about 20 seconds to make or cut the call.
A predictive dialer is one of the smarter solutions. The software goes down a list but only connects when it detects a human voice. Any other machine signal like a voicemail or busy tone won’t allow the call to get through to you thus saving you time.
The drawback is that can’t preview contact information. Some intelligent predictive dialers can also play recorded messages and IVR prompts, and only pass the calls when explicitly requested by the contact.
Live Conversation Automation
An LCA system is a more seamless solution where calls are quickly transferred to agents without time delays. The idea is to avoid voicemail and roadblocks like receptionists and increase live conversations with the right decision makers. E.g. Team Dialer from Connect Leader.
This automated system can send a stream of voice mails to contact numbers when there is no need for an agent to speak directly. It is also called voicemail broadcasting.
Automated Call Distribution (ACD)
An Automatic Call Distribution system is tailored for inbound calls. It can handle large volumes of incoming calls and distribute them to the most qualified support staff.
The Pros and Cons of Autodialers
Autodialers get a bad rep because they can be intrusive. They are a target for flak because of undesirable solicitation from “spammy” companies and aggressive telemarketing campaigns. Thanks to electronic spam in general and the notoriety of call centers, the FCC has also mandated an Autodialer Law.
But autodialers also come with a bouquet of benefits. Apart from B2B and B2C solutions, autodialers can be used to broadcast information to parents and students in schools and colleges. Used judiciously, automated calls can even save lives. Political campaigns used robocalling, until FCC regulations restricted its use.
It can be a struggle to choose the right autodialer. You should base your decision on the size of your business, integration with your CRM, the dialing solution you want to use, and the price.
But the bottomline is this – consider an autodialer to back your CRM if you want to maximize your business productivity while minimizing the cost client interaction.