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We’ve all used an auto attendant before, whether we realized it or not. When you call a business and hear “For English, press 1. Para español, oprima 2,” or “Press 1 for Sales. Press 2 to hear our business hours.” These are both examples of auto attendants, which are also sometimes called digital receptionists or virtual attendants.

Auto attendants are extremely valuable for companies because they serve as a type of call management that makes sure the company’s callers get to the right department quickly and easily. So what can auto attendants do for you? How do they work? What makes them so useful? Let’s look at how they can help manage and organize your inbound calls.

What is an auto attendant?

An auto attendant is a menu system that uses voice or number prompts to help callers navigate to the correct department. This type of VoIP phone system feature helps eliminate or lessen the need for a human receptionist or answering service. You can also use one of these systems to help out a receptionist when it comes to managing periods of high call volumes.

Auto attendants are very easy to learn to navigate and use, and they fill a very important role by ensuring that your callers aren’t kept on hold for long periods of time. This can up your customer service cred and keep your customers happy.

This feature also helps to reduce the cost of customer contact. When used to handle incoming calls, there’s a reduced need for having a dedicated receptionist, and the system works around the clock without a need for time off. The virtual receptionist also handles multiple calls to your phone number at once, so you don’t need to add supplementary staff to handle busy periods – they can do it all on their own.

What does an auto attendant do for me?

Auto attendants are designed to perform a unique task that can truly streamline your customer contact on your business phone system. Here are three aspects of the system that make it useful for businesses:

It Greets Customers

Greeting customers may seem like the least important option, but it’s actually one of the most! When a customer is calling in to a business, they don’t want to sit there with the phone ringing and ringing, they at least want to hear a greeting and be given options on what to do next. The auto attendant can immediately provide the caller with confirmation that they’ve reached your company with a script that starts with, “Thanks for calling…” This is eases the customer knowing that they’ve got the right number, and that their customer service journey has started.

Based on research done by Forbes, you only have seven seconds to form an impression with your customers, so lead with a professional-sounding greeting and an easy to use auto attendant.

Provides General Business Information

In addition to greeting the customer, the system can provide critical information to the caller such as business hours, or any news about the company. An auto attendant script may say something like, “Welcome to CallHarbor. We are open Monday through Friday from 9 to 5. We will be closed on Labor Day.” Auto attendants can also be set up for incidents such as weather emergencies or power outages, and let your customers know that no one is in the office.

Especially in recent time with hours being affected by COVID-19, it’s common to hear adjusted hours in attendant scripts. The best part about the auto attendant is how easy it is to adjust and fix it in our customer portal, or by simply calling us and having us adjust it for you.

Transfers Calls

The ability to transfer calls is one of the most well-known features of an auto attendant. Using a script, the attendant system provides the caller with info on how to reach the person or department they need. You can have an auto attendant give specific prompts and information, or simply transfer the call to a selected person’s phone number.

Establishing a menu flow that’s convenient for callers is very important. The last thing you want is for your customers to become frustrated and hang up while you’re trying to direct them. If they are being transferred to a specific department, say tech support, you can build your call queues out to do a round-robin calling (routes callers to the available agent that has been idle the longest), or something such a linear cascade (routes callers to a group of available agents in a predefined order), adding an even more feature-rich experience.