What is an Auto-Attendant?

You’ve probably heard “Press 1 for customer service or say the name of the department you wish to reach” before when calling a business for help. This is done through an auto-attendant (automated attendant) that allows callers to be transferred to appropriate recipients without going through a receptionist.

An auto-attendant can also be referred to as a digital receptionist or a virtual receptionist. By using an auto-attendant, you can make sure your customers and potential customers get connected to appropriate people in your company.

While it might sound complicated, setting up an auto-attendant is pretty easy.

In this post, we’ll go over how auto-attendant and phone menus work, the benefits of using auto-attendants, and how to get an auto-attendant for your business. 

How an Auto-Attendant System Works

When a customer calls a business, they’re greeted with an automated message that directs them to interact through a dial pad or with a voice response. Customers will then be routed to the department they wish to speak to. 

For example, when you call Comcast, you have a number of options including billing, technical support. By pressing 1 for customer support (or saying customer support), your call will be routed to the customer support team.

Auto-Attendant vs. IVR (Interactive Voice Response)

Auto-attendants are much simpler than IVR systems. An auto-attendant is focused on call routing while IVRs offer more advanced features and automation. Auto-attendants also play hold/connect music if appropriate.

Ultimately, an IVR is a more advanced version of an auto attendant.  An IVR system is more focused on automating customer service and sales tasks. 

For example, if you call your cable company, you can pay by phone by entering your bank account information. Or you might get a follow-up call with a survey of how well your interaction went. An IVR can take Caller ID information and integrate it with other stored information.

Another example you might have encountered is one with a delivery company/service. When you make a call to check in on your delivery and you get asked by an automated system if the reason for your call is the delivery scheduled for later that day. That’s the power of using an IVR system.

Key Auto-Attendant Features

When looking up auto-attendant services, keep an eye out for the following features:

Greeting message

Record a greeting message for your auto-attendant (eg “Thanks for calling ABC Contracting! For Sales, press 1 or say Sales, for Support, press 2 or say Support”). You can upload your existing greeting message to OpenPhone or record it via the OpenPhone web app. 

Some services like OpenPhone support text to speech translation. So you can simply type your desired greeting and OpenPhone will turn it into a professional recording for you.

Example of a text to speech translator creating a professional greeting in real-time

Phone menu options

A phone menu is crucial for auto-attendants to work. You can have up to 9 options max – from 1 to 9. Customers can also use voice commands to navigate the phone menu! So instead of entering 2 for Support, they can simply say “Support.

Texting

Consumers love being able to text a business and you bet many will try texting your business phone number.

Most phone systems don’t support texting a phone number that has an auto-attendant configured.

OpenPhone does. When someone texts the phone number, everyone who is listed as a member of that number will receive it. So if it’s just 1 person, that person will get all texts. If the number is assigned to multiple people, those people will be able to text and call from the routing phone number.

Outgoing calls

Can members make calls from the “IVR / routing number”? They can if they’ve been given access to that number. If they’re simply receiving calls from a menu option, they won’t be able to make an outgoing call with the routing number on their caller ID.

The Benefits of an Auto-Attendant

Auto-attendants may seem simple but they provide many benefits to small businesses and startups. By using an auto-attendant, you can reduce costs and scale your teams much more effectively.

Reduce Operational Costs

With an auto-attendant, you won’t need to hire a receptionist to route calls. Since call routing is done through the auto-attendant, you can hire labor for other teams. 

Always “On” 

One benefit of auto-attendants systems is their 24/7 availability. Customers can call your business at any time even during holidays or outside business hours. 

Since auto-attendants can transfer calls at any time, you won’t have to hire multiple people to cover 24 hours of the day.

Call Routing

An auto-attendants main focus is to help with call routing. So instead of having one of your employees “guess” which department is right, the auto-attendant routes the call to the department says they want to speak with. This helps to prioritize calls and increase customer service efficiency and reduces the need for receptionists. 

Make Your Company Look Bigger

Startups and small businesses typically use auto-attendants to make their businesses appear larger than they actually are. Even if you only have one or two team members handling support, you can use an auto-attendant system to have the calls correctly routed and show your customers how professional your company truly is.

Auto -Attendant Scripts

Here are some examples of scripts you can use for your auto-attendant system. These are also referred to as a custom greeting:

  • “Thank you for calling [Company Name]. Press 1 for customer support, 2 for sales, 3 for billing, 4 for store hours. Press 0 for other inquiries.”
  • “Hi there. In order to best serve you, please press the number for the department you’d like to reach. 1 for sales, 2 for customer support, 3 for technical support, or press 0 to hear these options again.”
  • “Thanks for calling us! We would love to direct you to the right department. Please say the name of the department you’d like to reach. You can say “support” for customer service or “sales” to speak to our sales team. 

Set up an Auto-Attendant with OpenPhone

If you need an auto-attendant for your business, consider using OpenPhone’s auto-attendant features.

With OpenPhone, you can make unlimited calls throughout the world to help support your customers, team members, and clients. OpenPhone IVR is available for iOS, Android, and web apps. You can set it up right through the web app interface.

Preview of the auto-attendant feature on OpenPhone

OpenPhone has all you need from an auto-attendant system:

  • Toll-free and local numbers
  • Calling and messaging
  • Automatic call recording
  • Works in the US and internationally
  • Crystal-clear audio quality
  • Business hours
  • Multiple phone numbers tied to one account

Get started with a free trial of OpenPhone today.

Author

Co-Founder at OpenPhone. Ukrainian-Canadian. Go Raptors!

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