For many professionals, fielding 20 business calls in a day is a breeze. But if only one of those phone calls is actually meant for you, you may spend more time routing calls than actually helping customers. As your call volume grows, justifying these “small” interruptions can become a big efficiency issue. The answer: Automate your call routing with a phone menu.

A phone menu is a pre-recorded greeting that enables callers to route their own calls and get the information they need using key presses to indicate who they want to reach. When someone calls a phone number with a phone menu, they’ll hear a list of menu options, such as “press one for our business hours” or “dial two for live support.”

Also known as auto-attendants or IVR systems, phone menus automatically route callers in the right direction as soon as they select an option with their keypad — whether it’s to another phone number, a voice recording, or your voicemail box. Your business can configure exactly what occurs with each option.

In this guide, we’ll explain the importance of a phone menu for small businesses, and how you can set one up in minutes.

Importance of a phone menu for small businesses

When you have a phone menu set up for your phone number, you don’t need to hire a receptionist to route calls. Your auto-attendant will greet every incoming caller with a list of options so that the caller can be instantly connected to the right team member or pre-recorded message. 🙌 This can offer your small business a number of long-term benefits. Here are three specific reasons why you should choose a small business phone system that supports phone menus.

1. Improve the customer experience

A GIF of a guy saying, "Ooh yes, I like this. Yes."

If you want to wow your callers, phone menus are effective tools to make it happen. Your automated menu ensures clients can speak directly to the most relevant team members, without wasting time on call forwarding. No more listening to endless hold music either — routing customers to different lines can help you limit the amount of time they spend in the call queue.

Phone menus also help you customize the customer experience. You can route callers to dedicated lines for sales or support, based on preferred language, and much more. This allows your team members to adjust their call scripts, so callers always get five-star customer support. 🌟

While phone menus haven’t always had a great reputation, your callers may love yours if you’re diligent about making improvements — even better if you track caller satisfaction with customer surveys! According to McKinsey, one company’s use of phone menus boosted client satisfaction by 10-25%.

2. Provide around-the-clock support

Helping your customers 24/7 can get expensive if you’re providing live support. One of the top perks of setting up a phone menu for small businesses is the fact that it can assist your clients, even when your team members are off the clock. With a phone menu system in place, you can answer common questions without staffing your phone lines every hour of the day.

In place of live agents, VoIP phone services like OpenPhone allow you to set up all of the following to ensure after-hours callers still get the help they need:

  • Pre-recorded messages: You can direct callers to voice messages containing answers to FAQs — like what your business hours are, what your return policy is, or how customers can find information on your site — instead of routing them to another business phone number.
  • After-hours voicemail greetings: If you want a phone menu option to send after-hours callers to voicemail, you can still offer support by setting up an after-hours voicemail greeting that offers more context. For example, you can explain when customers can expect a call back.
  • Emergency call routing: If you want to offer live support when customers need you most, you can set up a menu option that routes callers to an emergency phone number for urgent needs. Or, you can record a message that informs callers of an emergency number they can send text messages to. 📱

3. Increase your team’s efficiency

Efficiency is key for any small business, and a phone menu can help you achieve it with ease. Your team members won’t waste time on calls they’re not equipped to handle. Plus, with a virtual receptionist fielding your incoming calls — and with some calls getting routed to voicemail or voice recordings — you can reduce your total call volume. Your team members will only have to handle the business calls that actually require live support.

How to set up a phone menu with OpenPhone

Choosing a VoIP system that supports automated attendants is one of the simplest ways to set up a phone menu. Within minutes, you can have a professional menu set up without any IT support.

OpenPhone includes basic auto-attendant functionality with all pricing plans — and by upgrading to our Premium plan, you get even more advanced auto-attendant features. 💯 Follow these steps to set up a phone menu with OpenPhone.

1. Select a phone number

Head to the Phone Numbers section of your workspace settings, then choose the business phone number you want to add a phone menu to. Next, scroll down to the Phone Menu section and click “Disabled” to open up the Phone Menu set up panel and start setting up your menu.

2. Set up a greeting message

Phone menu: Screenshot of OpenPhone's greeting message options

When callers dial your phone number, your greeting message will be the first thing they hear. Think of it as an introduction that plays before your call menu options. This auto-attendant script can be as simple as, “Thanks for calling XYZ Company! Please select from the following options to reach the right department.”

Tap “Set a greeting message” to upload an audio file, record a message, or type out a message to generate an automated voice recording.

3. Set destinations for each menu option

Under Menu Options, you can set where you want to route callers to based on their keypad or voice command. For each menu option, you can:

  • Forward calls to another OpenPhone number
  • Forward calls to a U.S. or Canadian number outside of your organization
  • Let calls go through to the number callers originally dialed

Premium users on OpenPhone can also send callers to voicemail or a specific team member (even if they share a phone number), or set a pre-recorded message for each menu option.

4. Set what happens if callers don’t select a menu option

In addition to setting destinations for your menu options, you can set a destination for callers who don’t type or say any command. Under “If no option is selected,” you can choose from the three standard destinations listed in Step 3 — or, if you’re a Premium user, you can choose from any of the six destinations in Step 3. Premium users can also set their auto-attendant to repeat all menu options to the caller.

Tap “Save” once you’re done customizing your phone menu and you’re all set.

Increase your efficiency using phone menus with OpenPhone

Screenshots of OpenPhone's mobile and desktop apps

Setting up a phone menu can help you impress and support your customers while keeping your team as productive as can be. With a virtual phone system, you can create your phone menu in a matter of minutes and route your callers to a variety of destinations.The perks of VoIP systems don’t stop with a phone menu. With OpenPhone, you can continue supporting callers and helping your team succeed with unlimited calling in the U.S. and Canada. You can also access features like call recording, voicemail transcriptions, and integrations with business apps like HubSpot CRM and Slack, with small business-friendly pricing. Start your free trial of OpenPhone.

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Emily is a freelance business and marketing writer based in the desert, though her writing is anything but dry. Her passion is writing compelling, human-friendly content that helps growing businesses perform better.

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