What Is an Auto-attendant Phone System? Our Small Business Guide
This article is part of a larger series on VoIP.
An auto-attendant is a popular voice-over-internet-protocol (VoIP) feature that transfers incoming callers to the right agent or department without needing a phone operator. This voice menu system allows companies to lessen wait times and manage large-scale call volumes. With its self-service functions, callers can get the help they need through touch-tone dialing, giving agents more time to focus on complex tasks and requests.
In this article, we explain “What is an auto-attendant phone system?” in greater detail, compare top providers, and offer tips to optimize your call flow.
How Do Automated Phone Systems Work?
An auto-attendant system is a voice-enabled menu system that establishes a call flow to help callers reach their desired destination. It plays a series of prerecorded options in which the caller will respond by pressing a specific key in their dial pad, also known as touch-tone dialing. For example, you will be directed to “Press 1 for Sales” or “Press 2 for Support.”
Besides routing callers, auto-attendants have several functions:
- Welcome callers with a custom company greeting
- Help callers navigate the company directory to reach the right extension
- Relay general business information like operating hours, location, or holiday schedules
- Transfer calls to voicemail or an external phone number if no one answers
- Plays hold music to keep callers engaged while in queue
Business phone systems let you set up how your auto-attendant works by creating rules that determine call flows and record auto-attendant scripts based on business hours and holidays. An extended version of an auto-attendant is a multi-level auto-attendant system that lets you create submenus once the caller has selected their first option, creating multiple layers of call flows.
Best Auto-attendant Phone Systems Compared
We choose RingCentral as our top pick for the best auto-attendant phone system due to its advanced call routing capabilities and high level of customization options. If you’re looking for more options, we listed our best picks below:
Auto-attendant Phone Systems
Monthly Starting Price (per User)
$30 per user, monthly
Benefits of Using Auto-attendants
The benefits of an auto-attendant go beyond basic call routing capabilities. When implemented well, businesses will reap maximum benefits from optimized call handling, increased agent productivity, and bigger cost savings.
Disadvantages of Using Auto-attendants
Auto-attendants also have their fair share of disadvantages, especially when configured incorrectly. Before setting up your business phone auto-attendant, here are some disadvantages to be aware of:
The Difference Between an Auto-attendant & IVR Systems
Businesses new to cloud telephony often confuse auto-attendant and interactive voice response (IVR) as one being the other. Fundamentally, both are VoIP features designed for call routing, and the difference between them lies in their capabilities.
An auto-attendant is a static voice recording whose function is to greet, transfer, and hold callers. An IVR, on the other hand, is a smarter auto-attendant that uses speech recognition technology and relies on a dynamic database to interact with callers. It offers a more sophisticated level of customer self-service that asks questions, collects responses, and delivers information pulled from a database.
Tips for Auto-attendant Best Practices
The best way to maximize the benefits of your business phone with an auto-attendant is to learn how to set it up correctly. Below we listed the best practices to help you implement your auto-attendant system and provide callers with a smooth calling experience:
- List your menu options in order of priority: Arrange your menu options based on the most commonly requested information and extensions. This enables callers to find what they need right away.
- Limit the options as much as possible: Keep your menu options short, clear, and relevant. If you want to divide your options further, use a multi-level auto-attendant for submenus. This will save callers’ time and reduce abandonment rates. Save your announcements for when the caller is on hold.
- Update your auto-attendant regularly: Your auto-attendant needs to be updated whenever any changes in your business occur, such as operational hours, office location, and agent extensions.
- Personalize your auto-attendant: Your choice of hold music, script, and recording should match your brand personality. In this case, your greetings and voice prompts should sound friendly and professional. You can hire a voice talent to do this for you.
- Provide an option to reach a live agent: Most callers will still want to speak to a live agent to tackle complex queries. Having staff available to address these situations increases customer satisfaction.
Still need help with your auto-attendant? Check out our phone tree examples to help you craft the best call flow for your business type.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
You may want to maximize the benefits of an auto-attendant and live operator to deliver the best customer service. Auto-attendants are best for basic call routing needs, while live operators come in handy when answering more complex inquiries while adding a human touch to the conversation.
There are two ways to deliver professional-sounding greetings to your auto-attendant: a well-written script and a professionally recorded voice greeting. Most auto-attendant systems allow you to incorporate voice commands and select the voice-over. You can also create your own script and hire a professional voice talent.
A dial-by-name directory is an auto-attendant feature that allows callers to directly reach an agent or extension by entering the recipient’s name using their phone’s dial pad. This allows callers to transfer themselves to their desired destination without needing a phone operator.
An auto-attendant phone system not only enhances caller experience but also helps businesses provide 24/7 support, enhance brand image, and reduce overhead costs. With the right VoIP system provider and best practices, auto-attendants can be your most useful telephony feature for managing high call traffic and providing excellent customer service.