An automated attendant (AA), also referred to as a virtual receptionist, helps direct calls from customers without needing a live operator. If you’ve ever called a business and heard “Thank you for calling ... ,” you have encountered an auto attendant. It doesn't matter if you are using an Avaya phone system, TelWare SIP, or another phone system; you can integrate an auto attendant easily.
One of the primary benefits of an auto attendant is that your business can route calls more efficiently and connect callers to the right employees quickly — without needing operators, in most cases. This will increase your team efficiency.
Another advantage to using an auto attendant is that you can customize messages for after hours or holidays. You can even create different recordings for promotions, office hours, emergencies, and more.
In addition, your auto attendant can answer frequently asked questions with pre-recorded messages. One popular use is a pre-recorded message of your store's hours of operation and location.
Lastly, our auto attendant is an easy way to provide consistency for your brand. You can use the greeting to insert your brand name, slogan, and/or website into every call. Every customer will be greeted exactly the way you want.
Creating Your AA's Specifications
An auto attendant is a powerful tool your business needs to take full advantage of. What makes a successful auto attendant for small- or medium-sized businesses? Customization, of course.
Before you start writing a script, you will need to evaluate your incoming calls to best understand what call flow works best for your business. Successful auto attendants transfer the customer to the right place quickly and easily. The ACD (Automated Call Distribution System) and AA should be designed to put the most frequently called options first. This will cut down on the time a customer needs to listen to the AA, quickly routing them where they need to be.
Customize your auto attendant for specific hours or days of the week. Your auto attendant can be programmed differently for special events, after-office hours, and more. Think about what you want your auto attendant to sound like after closing if you do not support 24/7 calls. Do you want your after-hours AA to include a general voice mail box to capture messages from customers?
Did you recently move and want an easy way to tell your customers? An auto attendant is the perfect opportunity to spread the message temporarily. Keep in mind that if your greeting is too long, it will frustrate busy customers. Customers want to get to the information they are looking for quickly.
After completing a pre-recorded message (typically featuring your store hours and directions to your location), don’t forget to route the caller back to the main menu in case they need something else. Do not design the AA to hang up as the customer will hang up if they have received their desired information.
Also, if a menu option is not selected within a few seconds of the end of the greeting, connect the caller to an operator or receptionist. The caller may not have a touch-tone phone or may be unsure what option to choose.
Here are some options you can include in your customized AA:
- Multi-Branch Integration
- Play prerecorded messages (i.e., address, hours, promotions, etc.)
- Dial by extension
- Transfer to ring group
- Transfer to Automated Call Distribution System
- Transfer to operator (typically “0”)
- Transfer to voicemail
- Dial by name
- Multi-level options
- Repeat menu
After you've determined the flow and options of your auto attendant, you can begin writing a script:
Thank you for calling XYZ Company, specializing in widgets. If you know the 4-digit extension of the person you are trying to reach, you may dial it at any time. For hours and directions, please press 1. For Customer Service, please press 2. For Sales, please press 3. To speak to an operator, please press 0.
In this example, pressing 1 would play a pre-recorded message with the hours of operation and directions as shown in the above flow design. Option 2 would transfer to the “Customer Service” hunt group. All extensions designated as members of the “Customer Service” group would receive the call, and any of those members can pick up the call. Pressing 3 would do the same for the "Sales" groups. It is fairly standard to use "0" to reach an operator. If you put this first, however, customers may not listen to the rest of the options:
Thank you for calling XYZ Company. Did you know that you can check your account status with us 24 hours a day/7 days a week by visiting XYZ.com? Here you can view information about your account, as well as receive answers to general questions you may have. To speak with the operator, press 0 at any time. For customer support, press 1. For accounting, press 2. For all other requests, press 3. To repeat these options, press 4.
Creating customized greetings to let your customer know you are closed is much more professional than simply letting the phone ring off the hook:
Thank you for calling XYZ Company. Our offices are currently closed. Our normal office hours are Monday thru Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. If you would like to leave a message on our general voice mail box, please press 1 now. We will return your call on the next business day.