A dial-by-name directory is part of an auto-attendant system, also known as a virtual receptionist. The steps for setting up this feature will vary by voice-over-internet-protocol (VoIP) service, but once enabled, it gives callers the ability to search for employees using their last or first name, and connect them to individual extensions. Setup is also easy and improves experiences for customers of all business sizes.
Basic Steps for Creating a Dial-by-Name Directory
Most VoIP plans with an auto-attendant offer dial-by-name directories, including virtual phone provider Grasshopper and VoIP service RingCentral. However, these are not always included in lower-level plans, so you may need to upgrade. If you don’t have a VoIP service, read our guide on the best auto-attendant phone system for small businesses for good options.
Once you’ve determined that your small business phone system supports a dial-by-name directory, it’s time to set it up. Although the process differs based on VoIP service features, most providers offer an administrator portal where you can adjust settings and configure the dial-by-name directory. Follow the steps below to enable a dial-by-name directory.
- Log into your admin portal and head to the relevant section, which, depending on your service, may be located under auto-receptionist, additional settings, or an interactive voice response (IVR) tab.
- Find the dial-by-name directory feature and enable it.
- Select from options provided by your service, such as the default directory extension and first or last name searches.
- Edit your searchable list to exclude any extensions you want to keep private, such as those for a CEO.
- Click the save button to preserve your settings and enable the dial-by-name directory for incoming callers and employee use.
How Dial-by-Name Directory Setup Differs by Provider
Although setup can be relatively simple, some small business VoIP services have less intuitive processes, requiring users to locate instructions to find and configure the directory. On the other hand, some providers include call flow and phone tree menu configuration tools to make setup quick and easy. Review your system’s auto-receptionist features and guides before starting.
For example, Grasshopper doesn’t automatically list all employees and extensions. Instead, system administrators must log into their account and manually assign and input department and individual extension numbers to their directory.
On the other hand, RingCentral offers one of the most straightforward setup processes. Access the dial-by-name directory in the auto-receptionist’s “General Settings” tab. All employees with an extension will automatically be imported to the dial-by-name directory, but administrators can click the edit button to exclude individual extensions from the directory.
Need a VoIP provider that scales with the size of your business and has both calling and unified communications features? Schedule a time and date when RingCentral can reach you using the form below.
How Dial-by-Name Directories Work
A dial-by-name directory works by allowing incoming callers to find the phone extension of an employee without speaking to a live receptionist. Upon calling the main phone number of your business, the caller hears an automated greeting followed by auto-attendant menu options.
The incoming caller would then select the correct option (often by dialing 9 or #) to access the dial-by-name directory and enter the first few digits corresponding to an employee’s first or last name. If they can’t remember the employee’s name, many dial-by-name directories allow callers to listen to a list and select an extension. Your auto-attendant then seamlessly routes incoming callers according to preset call rules for each extension.
Your employees can also use the dial-by-name directory to quickly find an extension. By default, most dial-by-name directories include every team member associated with a business who has a phone number. However, system administrators can exclude individuals from a directory through controls available in auto-attendant and dial-by-directory settings.
Benefits of Using a Dial-by-Name Directory
The speed at which your business handles incoming calls directly affects the customer experience. According to RingCentral’s “2020 Customer Communications Review,” 36% of people over the age of 56 prefer phone calls as their communication channel. Additionally, the telephone is the preferred method for 30% of consumers aged 40 to 55 and 22% of those aged 18 to 39.
A dial-by-name directory enables you to accommodate customers’ communications preferences while still creating efficiencies. Setting up a dial-by-name directory can provide your company with several additional advantages, including:
- Fast and smooth customer connections: Customers can immediately connect with their assigned or preferred salesperson, supplier, or account manager without being transferred from a shared department line.
- Improved key performance indicators (KPIs): Using a dial-by-name directory can improve your KPIs for customer satisfaction, average speed of answer, average call abandonment rate, and average time in calling queue.
- Increase employee productivity: A dial-by-name directory reduces the number of callers routed to the wrong person and enables employees to control interruptions and better manage their time.
- Provides flexibility and mobility: A dial-by-name directory routes callers to employee extensions—and not just for on-premise workers. You can also set up calls to forward to external phone numbers, including mobile devices and remote team members.
- Offers convenience: Both customers and employees benefit from quickly locating the right extension without needing a human operator for assistance.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What happens if employees share the same first or last name?
If one or more of your employees have the same first or last name, dial-by-directory and automated response options differ by VoIP provider. Many systems list all individuals matching the first three letters entered by the caller and allow the caller to select the right one. Administrators may also be able to differentiate similar listings by adding middle or first name initials.
What happens if the recipient doesn’t answer the phone?
If a caller selects an extension from your dial-by-name directory but the recipient doesn’t pick up, the automated system routes the call according to your preconfigured call routing rules. The options vary by provider but typically include:
- Forwarding the call to voicemail
- Sending the caller back to the auto-attendant
- Giving the caller the chance to hear the main menu again
- Automatically forwarding the call to another department or employee
Can you use a dial-by-name directory if you don’t know an employee’s full name?
If a caller doesn’t know the full name of the person they’re trying to reach, they may still be able to use your directory. Many systems provide an option to hear all employees listed under any letter of the alphabet. Another option may be to select a department extension or request operator assistance.
Is there a limit to the number of names you can program into a dial-by-name directory?
While many dial-by-name directories don’t limit the number of names you may add to the system, you’re still bound by the number of extensions and lines offered on your account. Some VoIP services provide an extension for each user, some allow multiple extensions per employee, and others support unlimited extensions. Before picking a VoIP provider, look at the number of extensions allowed per plan.
Setting up a dial-by-name directory is an easy way to improve callers’ experiences and connect them to the right person every time. However, the process for configuring a directory differs by VoIP services, and some entry-level packages don’t include an auto-attendant, which is required for a dial-by-name directory.
Our top pick for dial-by-name directories and auto-receptionist features is RingCentral. Unlike other providers, all RingCentral plans come with an auto-attendant and dial-by-name directory. Business users access and configure their directory through a user-friendly admin portal. Plus, RingCentral offers a free trial, so administrators can check out the automated dial-by-name feature and associated tools without paying a dime.