What is an Auto Attendant?

Small businesses are busy. Speed and efficiency are essential to keep expenses low and generate revenue. But you don’t want to sacrifice customer service either.

Hiring someone full-time to answer your phones can add to the cost of doing business. Even the most efficient receptionists can’t answer and transfer high call volumes. Deploying team members as backup receptionists leaves fewer resources available to help your customers.

Many small businesses don’t have the budget for a full-time receptionist. The solution? Deploying an auto attendant can help a receptionist with high call volumes—or replace one entirely.

An auto attendant is used for day-to-day call management, answering calls automatically instead of a live person. Only a full-time dedicated receptionist can guide and transfer customers to other users without an auto attendant. Also called an “automated attendant,” it’s a function available with most telephone systems. An automated attendant is an initial response to a customer’s call that quickly puts them in touch with the right person or department.

Some of the features of an auto attendant include:

  • Answering incoming calls with a greeting
  • Call transfer and routing prompts
  • Giving callers your location and times of operation
  • Automated directory of employees for searching
  • Options for repeating the greeting or speaking to an operator

When a caller reaches a company’s number, the auto attendant can be programmed to say something like:

Thank you for calling Continuum Computers and IT in Reno, Nevada. If you know the extension of the party you would like to reach, you may enter it anytime. For sales, press 1. For billing, press 2. For technical support, press 3. For our dial-by-name directory, press 4. To hear our location and hours of operation, press 5. To hear this menu again presses 9. To speak to an operator press 0 or stay on the line.  

With this introduction, callers immediately know how to get to the right person who can help them. Instead of individuals transferring calls, the auto attendant does this automatically.

One caveat is that many people don’t want to listen to a long menu and will likely hang up. Make your greeting menu short and offer the caller the option to speak with a live person.

Benefits of Having an Auto Attendant

Auto attendants automatically route callers accordingly without multiple transfers. Intuitive menu options let callers tell the system who they need to reach by pressing the keypad.

For a small business, customers get help faster when they can reach your team. Most people prefer to do business with someone they have a relationship with and understand their situation. A dial-by-name directory lets callers pick the person they need and then transfer to their extension.

Even if you have a receptionist in the office, the auto attendant helps during high-volume call periods. If someone isn’t available, the auto attendant can route the call or direct the caller to leave a voicemail.

Auto-attendants can also transfer calls outside the office to smartphones, softphones, and team members working virtually. After hours, the auto attendant can take voicemail or route calls to a call center. Your small business can easily be “on 24/7.”

Sub Menus in an Auto Attendant

You can also add submenus for additional extensions as needed, such as individual numbers of your tech support team. When the caller presses the key for tech support, they hear the names with the number for that person.

Sub menus can also help bilingual and multilingual companies and teams. You can configure the Auto-Attendant to offer caller options in your company’s English, Spanish, and other languages. Each submenu offers instructions in that language.

Auto attendants can also transfer calls outside the office to smartphones, softphones, and team members working virtually. After hours, the auto attendant can take voicemail or route calls to a call center. Your small business can easily be “on 24/7.”

The auto attendant can also integrate with your customer relationship management (CRM) system. While the system routes the call, the team member who will answer the call gets a customer briefing from the CRM. Team members can be ready for calls before they answer.

On Hold Music and Messaging

Auto attendants route calls quickly and efficiently during regular calling periods. But when businesses experience a higher call volume, callers may need to wait in a call queue before someone can speak with them.

Though some callers will hang up or leave a callback message, others will stay on hold. For these, on hold music and messaging are helpful.

Music on hold reassures callers that they are still connected. Messages on hold can also tell callers about important information they may need while they wait, such as:

Please have your customer or account number and the latest invoice available so that we may assist you more easily.

On-hold messaging is also ideal for telling your customers about additional services your company offers, sales and promotions, and other events. Team members may forget to mention something, and the caller may not know about them otherwise.

What is the difference between an auto attendant and an IVR?

An auto attendant greets the caller and routes the call based on the user’s response. IVR, or “Interactive Voice Response,” on the other hand, is a technology that allows your phone system to interact with a company database using voice commands or tones from a telephone dial pad. A dial-by-name directory is an example of an IVR. Still, it can be mighty for companies like banks who can utilize an IVR to conduct transactions after inputting your bank account number and a password.

With an IVR, the caller can enter an “ID” or account code, then provides access to a database. This is where the “interactive” part comes in. Banks and Credit Unions often have “phone bank” systems that allow you to conduct transactions.

Who should record my main greeting?

An auto attendant gives a company an immediate professional presence. That initial greeting is the first impression for those calling for the first time. You only have one chance, so make it good.

It’s easy to record your own spoken messages for your auto attendant. But should you?

Not everyone wants to get in front of a microphone. Recording your messages in your office may include background noises. Clear, consistent, and easy-to-understand menu options are vital for any business.

If your employees aren’t up to the task, consider using a professional service to record all your auto attendant menu messages.

Tips for Setting up an Auto Attendant

  • Put together a call flow chart to map where calls will be routed
  • Make sure your  greetings are fast, as callers can be impatient
  • Always allow the caller to hear the menu again by pressing a number
  • Utilize on-hold messaging to market your products or help the caller
  • Always have an option to speak to a live person, or your caller could get frustrated and hang up
  • Consider using professional voice talent to record your greetings

How much does an auto attendant cost?

Most auto attendants and IVRs come free with your VoIP-hosted phone system account.

Whether your business is just you, a small team in an office, or a diversified workforce with team members in different time zones, an auto attendant can help callers and customers get through immediately.

Contact Press8 Telecom today to discuss upgrading your small business phone system to a new, flexible VoIP phone system for less money than a traditional analog phone system. We’ll give you a free quote on the system that works for your company.



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