Answering Machine Detection: What It Is, How It Works [2024]

December 12, 2023 | By Sam Pelton
Cartoon representation of an automated call and an answering machine

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Did you know that in America, only 52% of phone calls are answered? And if the calling phone number is unidentified, that number drops down to only 24%.

What this means is that in our current climate people don’t answer their phones—especially if the call is coming from a number they don’t recognize.

This presents a problem for businesses and organizations who need to call customers or people they serve. SMS can be a solution in many cases, but sometimes a call is needed.

But there’s still good ol’ voicemail, which allows you to reach people even if they don’t answer.

And there’s one tool that helps voicemail be a more workable solution for businesses: answering machine detection.

So what exactly is answering machine detection, and how can you use it for your business? This article will help walk you through.

What Is Answering Machine Detection (AMD)?

Answering machine detection is technology that analyzes when a phone call is answered in order to determine whether the call was answered by a human or by an answering machine.

Automatic detection of an answering machine serves the (arguably) primary purpose of allowing automated calls to leave a voicemail accurately.

If AMD is not employed on an automated phone call, the automated message may begin playing as soon as the answering machine picks up the call, rather than waiting for the tone that indicates when the caller can leave a message. The voicemail recording would then not contain the full message.

AMD therefore helps businesses more successfully reach people when they need to call, especially when the calls you’re making are automated.

(There are, of course, other reasons that businesses implement AMD technology, such as for call center efficiency and data collection.)

AMD technology can be implemented if the call is placed through an external service provider that offers AMD (such as Mobile Text Alerts).

How Does Answering Machine Detection Work?

Answering machine detection analyzes when a call is picked up. It’s created to be able to make a determination on whether or not the “pickup” was made by a human or an answering machine.

In the case of a business making an automated call, the calling service will delay playing the call recording if the AMD technology detects that the “answerer” is likely a machine. It will then wait to play the automated call until after the “beep,” so that the fully message can be recorded as a voicemail.

The technology is fully integrated into your calling technology so it all happens automatically. The process therefore looks like this:

  • You initiate a call (whether manually or automatically)
  • Once the call is picked up, AMD goes to work analyzing to determine if the answerer is a human or an answering machine
  • If AMD determines that the answerer is human, your message is played
  • If AMD determines that the answerer is a machine, it delays playing the message until it hears the “beep”

This whole process helps make your calling efforts more effective.

The Answering Machine Detection Process and a simple flow chart out of the bullet points above

Benefits of Answering Machine Detection?

Arguably the main benefit of taking advantage of answering machine detection is that it’s able to make your automated calls more effective.

After all, as we mentioned previously, these days a lot of people don’t answer their phones. I know that I personally don’t usually answer calls from phone numbers I don’t recognize, and sometimes I’m too busy to answer calls even from numbers I recognize.

So if you’re making automated calls with important information, you need to be able to leave an effective voicemail. If an automated phone calling service isn’t able to detect answering machines, it won’t be able to accurately leave messages for the people you’re trying to reach.

Without answering machine detection, a large portion (if not most) of your automated calls would leave voicemail messages without the full content of the message included, because part of it will be cut off by the recording starting too early. It will start playing back your message as soon as the answering machine picked up and by the time it reached the “tone” to actually leave a message, part of the message will already have played through.

So when that’s considered, if you’re trying to make automated phone calls, answering machine detection technology is almost a must.

Issues with Answering Machine Detection?

The primary issue with answering machine detection is that it’s not always accurate. It’s difficult for technology to determine sometimes whether a human or machine has answered a call.

This difficulty is understandable—after all, there are so many nuances involved in this kind of analysis that it’s amazing that the technology is as accurate as it is.

So you may have times in which the AMD technology will cause your pre-recorded message to start playing before the “beep,” or you may have times where it delays too long thinking that the answerer is a machine even when it is a human.

If you’re using AMD for other purposes besides pre-recorded calls, you’ll just need to be aware that it’s not always accurate so you can’t rely too heavily on it.

However, as time goes on, the technology will only get more and more accurate, and will thus become more and more useful.

Should I Use Answering Machine Detection for Call Centers?

Some companies seem to use answering machine detection to help with call center efficiency.

While this could be a beneficial way to use AMD in some cases, since it could help call center agents screen calls without having to manually sort through dozens or hundreds of voicemail messaging inboxes, we would not recommend this approach for most businesses. Due to the potential inaccuracies of AMD, there would be a good chance that you will miss out on legitimate calls.

That being said, the technology is improving, so you may find it reliable enough to be worth the risk. If you decide to implement AMD into a call center process, just make sure to take caution about not over-relying on it.

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How to Use Pre-Recorded Phone Calls and Answering Machine Detection with bullet points

How to Use Pre-Recorded Phone Calls and Answering Machine Detection

Some tips for using pre-recorded phone calls with answering machine detection include the following:

  • Repeat your message after you read it through once, keeping in mind that answering machine detection may cut off the beginning of the message if it doesn’t analyze the call correctly
  • Make sure your message isn’t too short (but also not too long)
  • If possible, notify your audience ahead of time (such as when you collect their phone numbers) that they’ll receive automated phone calls, so that they aren’t surprised or confused when they receive one from you

Here are some brief examples of different ways that pre-recorded phone calls and answering machine detection can be used…


Businesses could have any number of reasons for sending out pre-recorded phone calls to customers.

This could include situations such as…

  • An item is available for pickup
  • A job or service is finished
  • An appointment is coming up
  • There is an important update on a customer’s account


Schools use pre-recorded calls to give updates to parents and students.

This would include updates such as…

  • School closures
  • Student absences

Other Nonprofits

Besides schools, different kinds of nonprofits can use pre-recorded phone messages.

Here are some examples…

  • Inspirational messages
  • Volunteer updates
  • Donor appreciation

Alternative to Phone Calls and Answering Machine Detection

Since, as mentioned above, phone calls are often left unanswered by recipients, you may want to consider alternative communication methods when possible.

One of the best alternatives is SMS, which has high read rates (by some accounts up to 98%) and is frequently used (over 2 trillion messages are sent annually in the United States).

SMS allows you to communicate most of the info that a pre-recorded phone call can, but is much more likely to be consumed by your recipients.

For the best results, you could consider using both SMS and pre-recorded phone calls together.

Get Answering Machine Detection for Your Call Blasts

Although answering machine detection for call centers is not advised, AMD for businesses that are making pre-recorded phone calls (including call blasts) is a must.

AMD is included for free in any “Phone Alerts” plan with Mobile Text Alerts. Contact sales to try it out for yourself today.

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