Customer Engagement

Robocalls versus voicebots: know the difference!

Robocalls have been with us for decades. They have pestered millions upon millions of people with enough force to inspire a B-plot in a 90s-era Simpsons episode. Despite sustained (sometimes successful, sometimes half-hearted and slow) efforts at legislation in the US and the EU, they haven’t gone anywhere. Their seeming omnipresence has resulted in some misunderstandings, however. Technology unrelated to robocalls often gets misreported as their cause. 

A glorified autodialer can get misreported as a “bot” despite clear differences between it and a complex voicebot solution. This results in a lot of undeserved bad press for useful and cutting-edge AI technology. 

This article will help you distinguish between malicious variations on the age-old robocall formula, and useful voicebot technology (including SentiOne’s very own Automate), as well as clue you into the possibilities opened up by voicebot technology.

What is a robocall?

Robocalls are pre-recorded and auto-dialled calls usually made without the recipient’s permission. They are most often made by telemarketing firms, seeking to sell a product or service. If a robocall is in any way “interactive” or flexible, it is thanks to a human picking and choosing various pre-recorded messages on the other end of the line.

If a call is auto-dialled, it means that it’s made by a machine or piece of software created to automatically dial numbers on a list, and either play a recorded message or connect the call target with a human. Robocalls generally don’t entail the target coming into direct contact with a human.

All in all, robocalls utilize fairly simple technology that doesn’t allow for genuine communication. As a result, in the public eye, they are nothing more than a nuisance. The limited genuine public utility of robocalls doesn’t make much of a difference in the era of instant messaging. Nowadays, a government office seeking to warn you of an upcoming hurricane is much more likely to send you a text message than to call you.

Robocalls get frequently utilized in scams, which adds to their negative reputation. A single car insurance scam in the US was responsible for around 2 billion robocalls per year, totalling a staggering 8 billion calls between 2018 and 2022. This, of course, is criminal — but lax enforcement of the law both in the States and in Europe means that scammers can continue operating for years on end. 

What, then, is a voicebot?

Despite the similar name, voicebots aren’t closely related to robocalls. Though voicebots can still relay messages by phone, they are much more versatile than any robocall. They also do not require constant human oversight. Most importantly, robocalls are almost universally unsolicited. Voicebots are generally used to receive calls, not make them.

This means that while a robocall can at most advertise your business (or annoy people), a voicebot can handle diverse tasks like handling incoming calls, responding to customer questions, and performing various tasks. A voicebot can greatly take the weight off of a call centre, or even eliminate the need for it. They are also more flexible and convenient than traditional IVR (Interactive Voice Response) systems — forget about listening to lengthy menus!

While IVR systems and robocalls only allow a simple user experience, geared towards a few predetermined contexts, voicebots are much more powerful. Consider the helpline at your local health clinic and compare it to something as ubiquitous as Alexa or Siri!

A modern voicebot relies on natural language processing algorithms. This enables them to learn and adapt to new tasks with relative ease. A properly maintained voicebot will even be able to understand slang and innuendo, eliminating the need for stilted communication. 

The relative lack of human oversight in voicebots means that they are capable of fielding calls 24/7. While a robocall system still requires a call centre, voicebots can manage large amounts of calls by themselves. A voicebot will not be affected by the downtimes faced by robocall systems during the pandemic.

As you can see, robocalls are only tangentially related to the expanding roster of convenient and versatile voicebot systems.

SentiOne’s Automate — a great way to streamline customer communication

One such voicebot system is SentiOne’s very own Automate. Thanks to its cutting-edge intent detection model, Automate is ready to become your one-stop shop for all your voicebot and chatbot needs. With our AI assistant and intuitive interface, you’ll be able to set up and train your fully autonomous customer communication systems with ease. Its capacity to process 1000 calls per second lets you prepare for any sudden spikes in usage that may arise! 

Automate won’t just streamline customer communication on your end. It can let your customers serve themselves — without having to wait for a human to pick up the phone!

Also worth noting is SentiOne’s commitment to regulations. Our voicebots and chatbots remain compliant with relevant regulations, chief among them being the GDPR. SentiOne undergoes regular audits to ensure a spotless data protection track record.

Summary

Despite the name, robocalls don’t have a lot of robot in them — they’re simply a way to play back pre-recorded messages under human supervision. Most function in a fundamentally exploitative manner, performing cold-calling on a mass scale. Some robocall applications are even explicitly criminal.

Voicebots, on the other hand, are part of a constantly growing technological field, one focusing on streamlining customer support and communication. They rely not on human supervision, but AI networks, enabling far-reaching autonomy and flexibility. Most importantly — they wait to be contacted by the client. Because they can handle thousands of calls at once, they can decrease both operating costs and wait times!

While the legal situation of robocalls remains murky at best, properly managed voicebots are fully legal and even increasingly embraced by major corporations and government institutions alike.