The auto attendant feature within a phone system derives its name from America. The word ‘attendant’ is key because it replaces the need for a receptionist or telephone operator to direct calls that come into your business.

This means that you don’t need to have your colleagues on reception distracted by incoming calls whilst trying to manage your business guests. Or it can remove the need to have a person whose principal role is to answer a switchboard in the back office.

Before thinking about the capabilities of an auto attendant system, it’s worth reminding ourselves what an auto attendant does not do, as there is sometimes some confusion.

An auto attendant is not a voicemail facility, so does not normally provide the capacity to leave a message at the point the call is received. If the caller knows the person that they’re trying to reach, and their extension number, they can leave a voicemail through this route.

Neither is an auto attendant system an interactive voice response (IVR) capability. An automated attendant performs a very useful and specific role of replacing a live operator and routing calls. Additionally, IVR is designed to provide specific functionality including account enquiries and telephone ordering.

So, an auto attendant cannot be used, for example, for customers to operate their account or make an order over the phone. The core value of an automated attendant system is its capability to transfer calls to an extension (on-site or virtual) without being handled by a telephone operator or a receptionist.

Many automated attendant systems provide a simple menu of choices for callers. For example, “For new business, press one; for customer service, press two” and so on. An auto attendant normally includes the option for callers to reach a person if their enquiry does not fit into the categories on the menu, so the human touch is not lost.

Auto attendants can not only manage calls to extensions across your building, they can be programmed to direct call traffic to off-site locations and handsets, including colleagues who are working from home, from other offices, or who have cloud based apps on which they can receive calls.

So, auto attendants are a capable and versatile element of a modern telephony system.

There are many ways in which the set-up of an auto attendant can be made bespoke to a business. However, even the ‘core’ routing capabilities of an auto attendant can propel your call management.

The standard features include the transfer of calls to specific extensions; call transfer to voicemail boxes; call transfer to sub-menus; the inclusion of standard recorded messages, such as opening times; transfer to a colleague, plus, of course, the option to replay menu choices.

Key benefits

The principal benefit of a call attendant system is that it will handle and distribute calls quickly and efficiently. This means that your customers are quickly connected with the right person. A call attendant prevents queuing at your switchboard whilst other calls are handled and optimises the flow of calls into your business.

Call flow

When setting up an auto attendant, it’s a good idea to consider how you want calls to flow through your organisation. This means understanding the most frequent calls to your organisation and what customers need from you on the telephone.

Business drivers

The key drivers for an auto attendant are expense reductions, headcount costs, reduction of multi-tasking and a focus on the best customer experience. A well-planned auto attendant can help you to achieve each of these.

Professional image

An automated attendant can help to lift your brand. Increasingly, customers have come to expect this level of automated service and efficient call handling.

The human touch

Whilst automated attendance can manage many routine telephony tasks, there will be times when customers want to speak to a person who can help them, perhaps because their request is unusual, or they simply cannot reach the person they are trying to talk to.

So, one of the options of an automated attendant is to revert the call to a colleague. It’s important that this person understands your organisation and is skilled at managing a variety of occasional but varied requests.

If you would like to learn more about how an auto attendant could save your organisation time and money, Time Communications would be happy to talk you through the options available to you. Contact Time Communications’ expert team on 0113 2059640, you can request a callback on our home page, email at [email protected] or message us here.