Auto Attendant Phone System Guide

Auto Attendant Phone System Guide
Article by Zarah AriolaZarah Ariola
Last Updated: June 09, 2023

If your business is experiencing a surge of inquiries, it's a good problem to have. But managing them can be challenging, especially for small or fast-growing companies. An auto attendant phone system can help by providing a professional caller experience and freeing up your team to focus on what they do best. Learn more about its features and benefits below.

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What Is an Auto Attendant Phone System?

An automated attendant is a VoIP (voice over Internet Protocol) service that has digitized and optimized the phone call process, making it much more affordable and customizable to your needs.

Think of an auto attendant system as your virtual receptionist, a digital tool that allows you to receive and direct calls to the relevant specialist or department. With this, you can receive many incoming phone calls without overwhelming your client faces.

Four Steps on How To Set Up a Phone Auto Attendant

  1. Know Your Customer Query Processes
  2. Prepare a Standard and Script Your Client Facers Can Apply
  3. Set Up Call Paths for the Auto Attendant to Follow
  4. Save Your Settings, Conduct Regular Checks, and Update Accordingly

Once you find a provider that can give you the support you need and the offerings you prefer, these are the steps you need to take to set it up:

Step #1: Know Your Customer Query Processes

Before setting up your automated attendant phone system:

  • Take inventory of your team’s capabilities
  • Establish a plan of action for receiving and directing calls
  • Assign people and form departments to be the designated specialists to answer customer inquiries
  • Equip your teams with business numbers to receive their calls
  • Provide the necessary assistance to your customers' needs

Step #2: Prepare a Standard and Script Your Client Facers Can Apply

Write down the best practices and guidelines on how your team should receive calls and respond to inquiries. If your provider has a text-to-speech option, it can be as simple as selecting which one works best for your organization.

If you’ve selected an answering service provider with which you record your auto attendant’s responses, take the time to craft the most suitable answers. Remember that you may be handling sensitive concerns from your clients, so be mindful of this as you prepare your script.

Step #3: Set Up Call Paths for the Auto Attendant to Follow

Call paths, also known as call flows, are the routes your callers will follow toward the customer service agent they can talk to. This is the primary function of your automated answering system, where your hard work is launched to your audience.

The automated attendant’s dialogue can guide your callers to the appropriate specialist with the audio recordings or text-to-speech you've prepared.

Step #4: Save Your Settings, Conduct Regular Checks, and Update Accordingly

Remember that your automated answering system is still a machine, so once you’ve set everything up, be sure to save your progress. Take note of the configurations and conduct regular updates when you apply changes to your business operations.

How Does an Auto Attendant Phone System Work?

Auto attendant phone systems can be programmed to handle a wide variety of scenarios and can be customized to fit the specific needs of any business. They can also be integrated with other communication tools, such as voicemail, email, and instant messaging, to provide a seamless and efficient customer experience.

Generally, they all work the same way:

  1. Callers dial the phone number of the organization or business they want to contact
  2. The auto attendant answers the call with a pre-recorded message that greets the caller and provides instructions on how to proceed
  3. The caller is presented with a set of options, such as "Press 1 for Sales,” “Press 2 for Customer Service,” “Press 3 for Billing," etc.
  4. The caller selects the appropriate option by pressing the corresponding number on their phone keypad
  5. The auto attendant then routes the call to the appropriate department or individual based on the caller's selection
  6. If the appropriate person or department is unavailable, the caller may be given the option to leave a voicemail or be transferred to another available representative

What Are the Main Features of Auto Attendant Systems?

The following are the central features that auto attendant systems have to offer:

  • Programmed to direct general inquiries to automated responses
  • Transfer inbound calls to support agents for complex concerns
  • Automatically forwards customers to the appropriate department instead of instructing them to call a different number
  • Message forwarding and remote access for digital nomads and freelance professionals
  • Unlimited voice mail for your internal queries, as well as virtual receptionist services for your clients
  • Inform customers about business hours, nearby branches, or other relevant news and changes
  • Holds a queue for callers for available customer service agents

Should Your Business Use a Phone Auto Attendant?

88% of small to midsize businesses have vouched for the benefits of automating operations, which they claim allows them to compete with larger companies. With this, we can determine that it isn’t a matter of your business’s size. A small business can start investing in automation tools as soon as possible. Larger enterprises can ease their team's workload rather than struggle to keep up with it.

Organizations known to use automated answering systems include the following:

  • Technical support centers and call centers with quality control functions
  • Public safety and emergency services handling incoming calls to hospitals and fire or police departments
  • Restaurants with food delivery or reservation services
  • Entrepreneurs who require a virtual receptionist to receive their business calls
  • There will come a time, too, to move beyond simple automation tools to partnering with extensive customer service agencies. Look further into providers who can assist you better and compare answering services vs. call center services depending on what your operations require.

When Should You Get an Auto Attendant Phone System?

While we recommend setting up a phone system with an auto attendant for any business, below are excellent points to consider as you decide exactly when your company needs it:

  • You’re fielding several incoming calls from potential clients, more than your current team can manage
  • You’re building a virtual assistance business and developing your products to offer virtual receptionist services to your clients
  • You’re developing your business processes and want to delegate communications to dedicated point people so you can focus on your work

Auto Attendant vs. IVR

  1. Purpose
  2. Complexity
  3. Integration
  4. Cost

An auto attendant and IVR (Interactive Voice Response) are both automated phone systems that can handle incoming calls, but here are some of the main differences between the two:

1. Purpose

An auto attendant is primarily used to answer and route calls to the appropriate person or department. An IVR, on the other hand, is more interactive and can provide additional options, such as allowing callers to enter data or access self-service features.

2. Complexity

Auto attendants are typically simpler than an IVR and may only offer a few basic options for callers to choose from. An IVR can be more complex and may include more advanced features, such as voice recognition, call routing based on caller history, or integration with other software systems.

3. Integration

Usually, an auto attendant is a standalone system that can be used with any phone system, whereas an IVR may be integrated with other software systems, such as a CRM or ticketing system, to provide a more comprehensive solution for managing customer interactions.

4. Cost

Generally, auto attendants are less expensive than IVRs, which may require additional hardware, software, and setup costs.

As tech-savvy as it may seem for your business to have an IVR to first engage with your customer calls, more than 27% of customers are more satisfied when reaching an agent from the get-go than those received by an IVR. The same source also found that 76% of customers prefer to call customer service rather than other means. The method preferred is emailing at 21%.

While using an IVR may help optimize response efforts from your team, it may not lead to the most satisfactory customer experience. After all, they prefer to call since they can be connected to a person they can interact with rather than a system that may not be able to address their concerns.

With this, you can also consider partnering with a comprehensive customer service provider whose call center SOP can provide an extensive list of features to cater to all incoming calls.

Auto Attendant Phone System: Key Takeaways

An automated attendant phone system can simplify your business's call-handling process by directing callers to the right department and queuing them until a representative is available. You can also consider IVRs or you can hire one of the top call center companies, which are also effective in dealing with customer inquiries.

By using an automated answering system, you can set expectations with callers, establish operational hours, and streamline your call handling process. Consider partnering with a professional answering service company to help you find the right solution for your business.

Auto Attendant Phone System FAQs

1. Why do companies use automated phone systems?

Companies use automated phone systems for efficient call routing, improving customer service, increasing efficiency, and reducing costs. Moreover, automated phone systems can operate around the clock, allowing businesses to receive calls outside of regular business hours.

Many companies opt for an automated phone system to provide consistent messaging to callers. What’s more, these phone systems can provide valuable data on call volume, duration, and other metrics. This info can later be used to identify trends and inform future decisions.

2. How much does an auto attendant cost?

The cost of an auto attendant can range from a few dollars to several hundred dollars per month, usually between $20-$100. The price depends on several factors, such as the size of your business, the complexity of your phone system, and the specific features you require.

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