What is a Phone Autodialer?

Mary McMahon

A phone autodialer is a piece of software or device which can be used to automatically dial telephone numbers, establishing a connection between two numbers or between a computer and a phone number. These systems are used for a variety of purposes, perhaps most notably in telemarketing, where the capacity to contact large amounts of numbers at once is critical. Numerous companies offer photo autodialing systems, ranging from hosted systems which run through a computer to hardware which can be used in a call center.

A phone autodialer can use inputted telephone numbers to call people without a person having to hand dial the numbers on the phone.
A phone autodialer can use inputted telephone numbers to call people without a person having to hand dial the numbers on the phone.

To use a phone autodialer, a list of numbers is fed into the system, and the system starts calling them. When a call connects, there are several options. The phone autodialer may transmit a recorded message or text if it gets a person or message machine, or the call may roll over to a phone operator who can speak with the person who answers the phone. Fax autodialers can also be used to transmit faxes when a fax tone is detected. In a predictive dialing system, the phone system terminates calls which do not end in a human contact and routes the human respondents to telephone agents.

Scammers might use autodialers to target victims.
Scammers might use autodialers to target victims.

Telemarketers often use a predictive dialing system, because it is faster, but it is also possible to use a semi-automated dialer, which activates when the telemarketer hits a button. The dialer saves the telemarketer the effort of dialing, and it will continue calling numbers until a person is reached. Some telemarketers conduct multiple calls at once, in which case they may leave the autodialer active until they have reached the maximum number of clients they can handle.

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Telemarketers frequently use phone autodialers.
Telemarketers frequently use phone autodialers.

In addition to being used for telemarketing, these systems can also be used for political campaigns, and as part of an emergency alert system. Using a phone autodialer, emergency services can rapidly contact everyone with a specific area to play a recorded safety message or to send a safety text. For example, at a college under lockdown due to a security threat, an autodialing system could be used to simultaneously contact every phone number in the college system to alert students and staff to the lockdown.

In some regions, the use of autodialers is regulated, due to consumer complaints about telemarketing and the use of phone autodialer systems. For example, some nations specifically ban the use of recordings, which means that the autodialer must connect calls to a live agent, rather than playing a recording. People may also be able to request removal from autodialing lists so that they do not receive unsolicited phone calls.

A flaw found in many types of telemarketing dialer software is an inability to differentiate a person's voice from a recorded one.
A flaw found in many types of telemarketing dialer software is an inability to differentiate a person's voice from a recorded one.

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