What is an Auto-Attendant?

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What is Auto-Attendant?

Since phone systems, or Private Branch Exchanges (PBX’s) were first deployed some 50 years ago they have consistently been updated and upgraded to satisfy the demands of the business user. Believe it or not, voicemail boxes are a relatively new feature (mid-1990’s). Call forward, call waiting, and music on hold are examples of features that were considered important feature upgrades to the PBX.

But the introduction of the Automated Attendant, or Auto-Attendant (AA) for short, has had a significant and lasting impact on the business phone system. Auto-attendant features include:

  • A pre-recorded greeting played to a caller either announcing an informational message (hours of business, business address, etc.) and sometimes offering dialing instructions to caller (dial 0 for an operator).
  • Referred to sometimes as a digital receptionist, auto-attendant phone systems eliminated the need for a receptionist to answer and route calls.
  • Introduction of the dial by name directory, where the caller would hear, “please enter the first three letters of the person’s first or last name”, and the call is then routed to a matching employee extension.

The biggest benefit to the auto-attendant is that it takes the responsibility of managing incoming calls from a person to the PBX. That person is now available to take on different, often more important, tasks to help the business. While that sounds simple, what auto-attendants did was open up many more automated routing possibilities that businesses enjoy today.

Evolution of the Auto-Attendant

Auto-attendants are still in use today as a stand-alone technology, most commonly used by small businesses. But, auto-attendants have evolved into very sophisticated call routing software packages.

Interactive Voice Response (IVR)

Interactive Voice Response (IVR)

IVR’s are auto-attendants with the added feature interaction with the caller from simple to complex paths. When your hear, “dial 1 for customer service, 2 for sales, …” that’s an IVR. You are interacting with the phone system. But over time IVR’s experienced their own evolution.

  • Specific customized greetings are used to route incoming calls more precisely, lowering customer on hold times and getting to the correct person.
  • Inbound IVR: Enables a caller to use their touch-tone phone to interact with a database and obtain self-service information on-demand.
  • Call Flow: Allows callers to navigate through a call flow application using their phone, with the option to zero out to an agent.
  • Database Integration: Integrate into any database platform that supports industry-standard web services style API (Application Programming Interface).
  • Outbound IVR: Allows the user to broadcast messages, via voice, SMS, or email to a set group of customers that can be uploaded to the IVR platform.
  • TTS (Text To Speech): TTS uses the computer voice instead of a recorded prompt. IVR enables the business to record their own prompts specific to their unique needs or application of IVR.

Contact Center

The newest evolution of the auto-attendant is the cloud-based contact center. Call routing is no longer about getting inbound calls to a business routed to the correct person. Communication between businesses and the customers and prospects falls into to category now of Unified Communications (UC). UC encompasses all of the ways business communications is done.

  • Voice phone call
  • Email
  • SMS
  • Chat
  • Social media

In a contact center, all of these types of communications are routed based on the same type of user input given by the caller in an IVR. Included in a contact center solution are agents who are specially trained to answer questions, assist with troubleshooting, assist with sales order, and many other tasks that are aligned with a contact center agent’s specific skill set. 

Contact center managers have very in-depth communication reporting that allows for improved customer interaction, which in turn drives more profitability to a business. 

Want to learn more about how auto-attendant can help your business? Request a quote today!

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