Auto-attendant

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What is auto-attendant

Auto-attendant (automated attendant, AA) is a part of a business phone system that automatically routes incoming calls to the desired extension without an intervention of live receptionist. An auto-attendant may also be called a virtual receptionist. In the case of cloud PBX routing to an extension means call forwarding to landline phones, mobile phones, VoIP devices, softphones.

Some details

A typical auto attendant greets a calling customer and offers a simple menu, for example, “Welcome to ABC company. For sales – press 1. For customer support – press 2. For information about business hours – press 3. Press 0 if you want to talk with a secretary or dial up the desired extension”. The caller responds to the menu by pressing proper keys on his phone.

The AA, in its turn, answers with a one of the following actions:

  • Forward a call to proper extension
  • Present a recorded message
  • Forward a call to human operator
  • Forward to Voicemail
  • Go to a submenu or to a superior menu
  • Repeat choices.

Sometimes an auto attendant uses a dial-by-name directory which allows a caller to dial the desired person by name. Auto attendant converts dialed name to extension number and forwards call to the right employee. AA allows a user to dial first name, last name, or both.

If a caller fails to press any key for the predefined time, auto attendant will end up the call or forward the call to a receptionist.

Some auto attendant support can behave differently during business and non-business hours. That means a use of different menus and rules.

The best way to forward call to employee

There are 3 opportunities to forward incoming call to proper extension:

  • By means of live receptionist
  • By means of virtual receptionist
  • By using DID (direct inward dialing) technique

The live receptionist way would be the best were in not for expenses and long time for a caller to get desired person or service.

DID way is the fastest but has a lot of disadvantages such as including cost, lack of identification of the called organization, use of ten-digit numbers, a caller should remember a lot of needed numbers, a company can’t reveal a reason of call.

The use of auto attendant is a good choice. It has drawbacks, for example, caller’s problem doesn’t fit any point of a voice menu, voice menu may be complex for caller and so on. But these shortcomings can be overcome by a possibility to switch to live receptionist at any time. Do not forget about this option.

Auto attendant and IVR

Auto attendant system resembles a simple IVR. So auto-attendant and IVR is often considered synonymous, although this is not entirely accurate. In some implementations, IVR is a more feature-rich system.

What is auto attendant used for?

A wide variety of companies, state organizations and noncommercial associations use auto attendants. It’s the most customer friendly and cost effective way to connect a caller to proper employee. AA simplifies call handling, replaces (or helps) human operators, and facilitates the use of customer service business rules.