Answering Machine Detection: How Speed and Accuracy Boost Contact Rates for Call Centers

Answering Machine Detection: How Speed and Accuracy Boost Contact Rates for Call Centers

June 28, 2023 | Convoso

As an outbound call center manager, you rely on your team of sales and lead gen agents getting into a rhythm over their day of calling.

Your dialer software is set up to keep your team in a steady flow of conversations. But your agents keep getting voicemails instead of live customers—and now your agents’ efficiency and morale are dropping fast. 

Sound familiar? At many contact centers, this scenario can wind up driving a debilitating cycle of wasted payroll, lost leads, and worsening agent morale.

With this guide to how answering machine detection works, learn how the right voicemail detection software can help the sales and lead generation teams of outbound call centers improve contact rates and conversions.

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Download the ultimate guide to answering machine detection in your call center

What Is Answering Machine Detection?

The technology works alongside call center auto dialer software to determine when a voicemail is reached and to then take appropriate action, whether that means leaving a customized message or adding the lead back into to your workflow for redialing. By filtering out these calls, voicemail detection tools can greatly increase the number of live conversations your  agents have.  

Answering machine detection also help increase contact rates for outbound call centers. And when contact rates go up, so do your opportunities for conversions. That’s why top answering machine detection solutions can do wonders for your ROI.

Why Answering Machine Detection Matters

When your company is making hundreds or thousands of calls day in and day out, every second counts. At that scale, losing out on even a few seconds consistently can quickly add up to huge deficits and lost opportunities.

Inefficiency and Lost Payroll

Consider the scenario that plays out each time an agent reaches an answering machine instead of a customer: Once they realize the mistake, they must either leave a voicemail message or hang up. Then they need to disposition the call. That additional disposition time that’s required—even if it’s just a few clicks!— means losing out on potential talk time and increased costs, all while your agents deal with the frustration of fruitless calls. And if your agents are using a preview mode to dial, you can add in lost dialing time to the mix.

Low Agent Morale and Preparedness

When you’re running a full-scale call center, living with this kind of inefficiency won’t be viable for long. Eventually you’ll feel the effects on your bottom line and from your agents. Because when agents aren’t able to reliably and regularly talk to customers and close deals, they’ll soon become discouraged. And if you don’t think morale and overall readiness have an impact on overall contact center ROI, you’re mistaken.

Don’t take our word for it – We we spoke with Matt Bowers, VP of Operations at Dynamic Insurance Services, the performance at his insurance lead gen contact center was so poor and wait times so long that agents were beginning to quit. Once he made a switch to Convoso’s dialer system, however, things changed and he realized the importance of morale and preparedness for profitability:

It really doesn’t take long to figure out that if you’re talking to more people consistently, your agents are better prepared to take a transfer, and in a better mood to sell, your acquisition cost goes way down.

So, if you’re struggling with leaked voicemails and frustrated agents, the key to regaining agent efficiency and driving more revenue is finding a dialer with AMD technology that provides both accuracy and speed. 

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How Answering Machine Detection Works

Voicemail detection tools filter out calls routed to an answering machine by picking up on the most common cues found in voicemail recordings. For example, they might detect the kind of background noise that’s usually present in voicemail messages. Or, they might identify common phrases that lead those messages, like “Hello, I’m unavailable to take your call right now…” 

Meanwhile, AMD tools are also able to classify other types of call responses, including faxes, SIT tones or disconnections, carrier recordings, and, of course, live customers.

Why speed matters

The best answering machine detection solutions can be customized to detect the presence of a voicemail message, or classify the call and take action, down to the millisecond. That quick determination means better efficiency for your leads and your agents.

Why is speed a crucial factor to consider when choosing an AMD solution for your own call center?  Because every second—or even millisecond—saved adds up to cumulative savings and increased productivity for your team.

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How Accurate Is Answering Machine Detection?

It’s not just the speed of voicemail detection technology that matters, of course. Your call center also needs to deploy a solution that’s as accurate as possible.

Answering machine detection accuracy rates vary across the market, and the truth is that there is no AMD technology that will be able to deliver 100% accurate voicemail detection. Even the very best AMD tools will lead to false positives and false negatives.

What is a “false negative” for answering machine detection?

A false negative occurs when the system detects a human on the line that is actually a voicemail. False negatives drive up wasted agent time as they’re forced to code for an answering machine before moving to their next call. What’s more, repeated false negatives can be a huge drag on agent morale and productivity.

What is a “false positive” for answering machine detection?

On the other hand, false positives occur when the AMD system determines that there’s a voicemail on the line and disconnects when it’s actually a human that has answered, and that potentially results in a lost lead.

Flexible AMD Solutions Can Adjust to Different Dialing Campaigns

Contact centers may want to prioritize either false negatives or false positives based on the lead type. The ability to customize this feature on a sliding scale can be critical for the success of dialing campaigns. 

For high-intent or more expensive leads, it may be worth allowing more false negatives to occur to ensure as many leads reach an agent as possible – the strategy here is to minimize the risk of losing expensive valuable data. 

Alternatively, it may be worth prioritizing false positives for lower-value leads. Regardless, a great answering machine detection solution will help you minimize both, even if you want to prioritize one over the other.

Combine Voicemail Detection with Smarter Dialing Strategies

Both lost time and lost leads hurt a company’s bottom line in a big way. But AMD accuracy is only a part of the solution to improving contact rates. 

Look for a dialer that approaches the issue holistically – a solution that goes beyond simply catching voicemails. Better contact rates are possible when you also have the tools and strategy to effectively manage leads, and the reporting insights to understand lead and agent performance with real-time data analytics

What to do with a lead that keeps going to voicemail

Some call center managers and agents are skeptical of the value of their AMD technology because they think they’re losing good leads due to inaccurate designations of calls as voicemails when in fact a person had answered the phone – as described above, false positives. So, what this shows is that not only do you want the accuracy and flexibility of your system to be top notch, but with the right automation capabilities, consistent false positives can be turned into future opportunities. 

With the right lead management capabilities to supplement your AMD solution, you can find further use for what otherwise would have been lost leads. Sometimes it’s not the quality of your leads that impact contact, but the dialing strategy. Review how you’re recycling your leads and how your dialer is set up. 

Dialing and dialing and dialing is not an effective strategy for converting leads.

In a webinar on next generation lead gen call centers, Convoso CEO Nima Hakimi said:

“You need to look at the data. And if you continuously get a voicemail, stop calling that lead and your system should have the ability to automatically make those adjustments and changes and move the lead to another list if it hits a voicemail more than X, number of times, because you’re just going to burn the agent out, they hate getting voice fills. It kills their productivity and their momentum.”

Use your dialer’s automation to set up a workflow cadence that follows up and redials leads that have consistently encountered voicemail: you could try again in 30 days, then perhaps again in 60 days.

Use data analytics to guide strategy 

You can have the best available answering machine detection system, but if you’re not managing your leads efficiently or analyzing your data, the AMD won’t improve ROI. To become more efficient with your leads, use reporting to evaluate what percentage of those leads pick up. How many of them are transferred? What is the revenue from those leads? 

Ideally, your software provides real-time insight into these aspects of performance. That way, you can see on an hourly basis which agents are producing how much revenue and what was your total cost per acquisition. Better yet, you’ll be able to see which of yours lists are performing well and which aren’t, so that you can focus more of your efforts on the most profitable campaigns.

Improve lead efficiency by dialing smarter not harder

Answering machine detection can actually help inform a dialing strategy that improves lead efficiency. “Customers need the understanding…to stop buying so many leads. Some call centers managers think, ‘We want to buy more and more and more leads,’” Hakimi says. “You really have to shift your mindset if you want to do things right. Especially because lead costs are one of your biggest expenses.” With the right AMD solution and the ability to automate and customize the workflows along with it, call centers can instead make more of the leads they already have.

What about leaving voicemail messages?

Leaving voicemail messages can still be an effective method for getting call backs.  To do this you want to use smart voicemail drops to deliver a personalized customer experience in an automated workflow cadence so that agents don’t have to leave messages. Nima Hakimi describes the best approach to smart voicemail drops:  “You want to leave personalized messages. You don’t want to leave the same message each time, or even leave a message on every single attempt.” Instead, set up messages that vary over time, perhaps one message at first voicemail, then a different on the fourth voicemail encounter, and so on. 

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Download the ultimate guide to answering machine detection in your call center

Convoso’s Advanced Answering Machine Detection Delivers Increased Accuracy and Increased Sales

Convoso’s answering machine detection, which was carefully engineered after analyzing billions of calls, delivers up to 97% accuracy for our customers. And it’s delivered eye-opening results for a number of contact centers.

Jesse Daniels of One Health Direct, an enterprise-scale outbound call center, has said: “Before working with Convoso’s dialer software, our agents were spending about 70% of their day coding for answering machines.”

Not only was this an extremely unproductive use of payroll, but it was also leading to widespread discouragement among the organization’s commission-driven staff. Looking for an alternative to their existing software, Daniels and his executive team trialed two other leading dialers, but the problems didn’t end there.

After learning about Convoso, One Health Direct decided to run a side-by-side trial with their current dialer. The result? An astonishing 70% increase in answering machine detection. Showing just how big of an impact that fast and accurate AMD technology can have, within a month of switching to Convoso, the company had increased sales by 30% and doubled their commissions—the kinds of results that don’t just bolster the bottom line but help build morale and lower turnover.

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Read the full story of the dramatic turnaround for One Health Direct after switching to Convoso.

Ultimately, Convoso’s gold standard answering machine detection is just one piece of the outbound puzzle. Learn how our omnichannel contact center software includes a full suite of tools and solutions to equip your operation with what you need to increase contact rates, support compliance, and deliver a strong ROI. 

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