Automated Attendant

Category: Phone Systems

An automated attendant, in telephone systems, is a software-driven system that answers and routes incoming calls without the intervention of a live operator. Can your business benefit from an auto-attendant voicemail system?

Do You Need an Automated Attendant?

Automated Attendant Auto-attendants often have voice menu tress - "Press 1 for Sales, Press 2 for Tech Support," etc. Voice-enabled auto-attendants are a simple form of Interactive Voice Response (IVR), but the two terms are kept distinct. An auto-attendant just answers and routes calls, while an IVR may be capable of searching account records, reading balances over the phone, faxing documents, and much more.

Automated attendant functions are pretty simple, so their features are often built into office PBX systems. All the owner must do is program the auto-attendant with a directory of names and extensions to dial, and perhaps assign keypad numbers to different extensions. There is no integration with other vendors' accounting software. If answering and routing calls is all you need, then an auto-attendant is right for your business.

An auto-attendant system generally supports the following functions:

  • Transfer to Extension
  • Transfer to Voicemail
  • Play Message (i.e. "our address is ...")
  • Go To a Sub Menu
  • Repeat Choices

Additionally, many auto-attendants let callers search for people by spelling their names on the keypad. Other functions considered standard in auto-attendants are:

  • Designated "zero" extension to which callers are transferred when they press the zero key
  • Timeout action - what to do if the caller presses no keys for X seconds; usually, transfer to "zero" extension
  • Default voicemail box to which callers are transferred if "zero" extension is not answered

Some auto-attendants have multiple time-based menu trees. During regular business hours, one set of extensions and default actions is in effect. At all other times, another set is in effect. This allows callers to interact with night and day crews, or to go straight to voicemail after hearing "Our offices are closed..."

Auto-attendants are different from more rudimentary telephone system functions such as line hunting. In line hunting, one phone will automatically route calls to a set of other phones, called a "hunt group," until a call is answered. If no one in the hunt group answers, the caller goes to a designated voicemail box. The caller is offered no options and does not interact with the system to direct the call; that's the key difference between an auto-attendant and lower-level functions.

The vast majority of telephone systems rely upon auto-attendants rather than the more complex and expensive IVR systems. Indeed, it's hard to find a business of more than ten people that does not use an auto-attendant these days. The functions built into an auto-attendant are as much as most businesses need, as you can see.

Do you have something to say about automated attendant systems? Post your comment or question below...

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Posted by Bob Rankin on September 16, 2010 04:21 PM

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Article information: All About Voicemail -- Automated Attendant (Posted: September 16, 2010 04:21 PM)
- Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved