What Is an Autodialer and How Does It Work?

What Is an Autodialer and How Does It Work?

March 20, 2024 | Convoso

The term “autodialer” might sound straightforward enough, but these powerful tools come in various forms—and they’re not all created equally.

Understanding the types, modes, and features features of today’s autodialer software is crucial for outbound call centers seeking to optimize their operations. Because the right autodialer can make all the difference, skyrocketing productivity and bolstering your bottom line, making it a worthwhile investment for sales and lead generation teams.

What is an autodialer?

In essence, an autodialer is software that automates the process of dialing phone numbers from a contact list or, often, many lists housed within a CRM or another database. The primary goal of autodialer software is to connect your agents with more potential customers or existing clients—and to do so in less time.

How does an autodialer work?

By taking over manual dialing tasks, autodialers dramatically increase the number of calls an agent can make per hour. This means agents have more conversations with live prospects and customers. Since many calls go unanswered, autodialers supercharge efficiency and save money by minimizing agent downtime.

How an autodialer works exactly varies from dialer to dialer. The most powerful dialers—predictive dialers—leverage intelligent algorithms in order to place many calls at once while accurately predicting when customers will be on the line and an agent will be available to handle that call. Meanwhile, other autodialers leverage good old fashioned phone lines (even if most are virtual now) to place calls simultaneously, while others leverage robotic process automation (RPA), a fancy phrase for what’s now typical, rules-based automation technology, to eliminate manual dialing.

However, although automatic dialing is the key function of an autodialer, that’s just the start of it. Autodialers today—or at least the best of them—do much more than just dial. Ultimately, it’s the range of powerful supporting software features for call centers that define today’s dialers, and that go a long way toward boosting performance and driving ROI. We’ll dive into to those features a bit later.

But first, let’s look at the types of dialers, or dialing modes, that are common for an autodialer software system.

Types of autodialers

There are several types of autodialers that each function somewhat differently, but all are designed to automatically place more calls per agent.

Predictive Dialer

Predictive dialers are designed to take the guesswork out of dialing on a large scale with multiple lines per agent and balances agent idle time and drop rates. Autodialers adjust the pace of dialing throughout the day to keep agent idle time at an acceptable level, while service level goals are maintained and ensure drop rates do not exceed 3%.

Of the three dialing modes reviewed in this blog post, predictive dialing is by far the most efficient.

Progressive Dialer

Progressive dialers are used to maintain a consistent pace of dialing across a pool of call center agents. Using this type of dialer, the call to agent ratio will be one to one, so an agent will be available when calls are answered almost 100% of the time. 

Prior to each call being placed an agent will have the opportunity to review information about the person who is being called, which is typically pulled from a CRM record. The amount of time that each record can be reviewed is limited, which helps improve efficiency and ensure a consistent pace of dialing is maintained.

Power Dialer

Power dialers allow more calls to be placed per agent than progressive dialers. Administrators can determine how many calls to place per agent, while adjusting this pace to ensure service quality goals are met while also limiting drop rates to 3% or less. Under the TCPA, contact centers using an autodialer can only “drop,” or not connect an answered call to an agent, 3% of the time.

This dialing mode is typically used by smaller contact centers with 10 seats or less. Using a predictive dialer requires a minimum of 10 seats, and the efficiencies gained by using a predictive dialer are almost always worth selecting that dialing mode when possible.

Related Content

Read our breakdown comparing the predictive dialer and the power dialer

The Benefits of Using an Autodialer

Campaign management

There are differences between how autodialers select which numbers to dial and when to dial them. Most modern dialers have rules around when to dial numbers that are specific to outreach campaigns or lists of phone numbers. More sophisticated solutions will allow dialing administrators to prioritize groups of numbers to dial before others, which helps them drive maximum speed to lead, and to filter out records that should not be dialed.

Increased contact rate

Autodialers can make multiple attempts for each phone number – more times than would be feasible when dialing manually – leading to improved contact rates.

Agent efficiency

By placing multiple calls per agent and only connecting agents to individuals who have answered the phone, agent idle time can be reduced significantly while also improving productivity.

Increased revenue

Contact centers that focus on outbound sales can significantly increase their top line revenue by keeping agents on the phone with prospects as opposed to manually dialing prospects.

Improved conversion rates

Agents who can dedicate more time to selling or communicating with customers drive better outcomes (which also improves agent retention).

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Are there restrictions on who can be dialed with an autodialer?

The primary federal regulation that governs the use of autodialers is the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). This law requires that organizations using an autodialer gather express-written consent from each person they are calling prior to trying to reach them with an autodialer. It also requires contact centers to scrub their lists to ensure no one is dialed that is on the national Do Not Call list. Contact centers should also maintain their own do not call lists.

Many states also have their own restrictions around the use of autodialers. Convoso recommends consulting with independent legal counsel to ensure any use of autodialer software complies with all relevant federal and state/local laws.

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Download a quick reference chart for State Calling Restrictions on call times and dates.

Illegal autodialers

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) restricts the use of certain autodialers in the United States. Any dialer that chooses numbers to dial randomly or sequentially (e.g., dial every phone number that starts with a set of numbers) is prohibited under the law. 

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Common autodialer features 

The best autodialers are feature-rich to give you maximum capabilities for managing performance and driving efficiencies in your outbound call center operation.

Answering machine detection (AMD)

Voicemail detection features(sometimes referred to as “call classification”) improve contact rates and agent efficiency by delivering more live conversations. AMD features identify if a connected call is a voicemail, fax machine, a live person etc. Calls with a live person on the other end will be connected to agents. If a live person is not available, then the dialer will have rules to determine if that phone number should be attempted again and whether or not a voicemail should be left. 

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List and lead management

In order to use an autodialer effectively, administrators need to be able to set rules around how to reach out to prospects or customers. Most autodialers will include capabilities that allow leads to be filtered, automating scheduled follow ups with leads based on the outcomes of previous attempts. For example, rules can be set so that if a call is completed and a live person has been reached, they will not be contacted again.

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Learn 3 list management strategies to improve profitability of your outbound call center

Caller ID Reputation Management

Call flagging and blocking is a major issue facing outbound contact centers. Due to the large volume of illegal robocalling that takes place in the United States, regulators and telecommunications carriers are placing flags such as “Scam likely” on calls or even blocking them outright. Legitimate businesses need to be proactive and ensure that their phone numbers aren’t misidentified, and strong dialers will have tools to help ensure numbers aren’t flagged/blocked in the first place while quickly addressing numbers that have been affected.

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Learn why you need caller ID management for your outbound call center

Compliance tools

As we discussed above, it’s crucial that outbound call centers need to comply with federal, state, and local regulations when using an autodialer. This involves working with counsel and outside experts to develop an effective compliance policy. However, dialers also often offer different integrated tools to help support compliance on outbound dialing activities, including list scrubbing tools, dynamic scripting, and rules-based checks and automation that help reduce the risk of human error.

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When does it make sense to dial manually?

In some cases, outbound contact centers use a preview dialer, which requires agents to click to dial after reviewing information about the person they are about to call. 

The most common use case for using a preview dialer is when individuals need to be contacted who have not given express-written consent to be contacted with an autodialer system. 

Some organizations that use autodialers will take advantage of the preview mode for the first attempt to reach a lead or prospect. This ensures an agent is always available to take the call and also helps to prevent any potential errors in the answering machine detection process from preventing a live interaction to occur.

Convoso has a product separate from its autodialer software that provides exclusively manual dialing, but still has many of Convoso’s popular management and reporting features called Click-to-Comply.

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