Business phone systems can be confusing at times, especially since it seems that there are so many different features and every phone system provider wants to call each feature by a different name. Auto Attendants, Integrated Voice Response (IVR) and Call Center features have different functionally but share similarities. Even Auto Attendant goes by multiple aliases - Virtual Attendant, Automated Receptionist, etc. and the list of terms goes on and on. To add more complexity - combinations of Auto Attendant, Hunt Group, and IVR feature functionality can be used simultaneously within a Call Center.
While some of these phone system features and terms are used almost interchangeably by some, they do have specific meanings and definitions.
Consider, for example, the term “auto-attendant.” For many, it’s a term that doesn’t often come up in conversation. However, it’s a very important consideration for any business with a large number of inbound callers that needs to answer calls quickly AND courteously, then route them efficiently to the people they want or to gain the information they need. We have all had the poor experience of calling a business that answers “Yeah, please hol…..” and then nothing.
What is Auto-Attendant?
For the purposes of this article, the term Auto-Attendant is a phone system feature for providing automated call answering, caller messaging and call transfer of inbound callers to individual users or groups or other automated informational messages within a business phone system. Informational messages are often associated to what many callers may want to know such as business hours, location/directions, brands carried, etc.
An Auto-Attendant comprises many separate functions, including:
- Incoming Call Answer and Greeting Messages
- Call Transfer & Routing Option Prompts
- General Business Information Announcements
- Automated Company DIrectory Lookup Of Users
- System Menu - Repeat, Exit, Operator Prompts
These features help guide callers through an organized and efficient call flow from initial greeting to when they transfer to whichever user, voicemail or department they were trying to reach - all without having to go through or wait on a Receptionist to assist them one at a time.
Why Do You Need Auto-Attendant?
Auto-Attendants are really a necessity these days for any sized business handling incoming calls without connecting through a live person, agent or receptionist. With expense reductions, headcount restrictions, employee multi-tasking and customer experience of paramount importance - ONLY an Auto Attendant can guarantee a quick, efficient and courteous answer to an inbound caller, Without Auto-Attendant, only a full time dedicated receptionist can guide and transfer customers to other users and provide them with necessary information and these days they are typically swamped with calls, not to mention making coffee and copies for executives. Often new callers have to wait while the Receptionist provides basic company business hours or directions time and time again.
Auto-Attendant Best Practices
Clearly, having an Auto-Attendant has become a requirement to any active business. It answers rain or shine, daytime or nighttime without fail. But, it’s also important to “design” your Auto-Attendant right and give it a professional voice so your callers have the clearest understanding of their options and the information you provide to have the experience possible.
Some basic best practices for getting an Auto-Attendant right include:
- Charting Out the Entire Call Flow. Having a visual chart of your call flow from beginning to end helps ensure that you don’t miss anything when you’re writing out your messages for individual call transfer options and possibilities. Callers may want basic business information or need to speak in Spanish. Other callers may not know who specifically they need to talk to about their needs or issues. Designing and organizing your Auto Attendant based on what callers most frequently call about, need or those people or departments that have the greatest call volumes is smart. Charting the call flows also helps callers move appropriately through the system - for example from listening to business hours information to scheduling an appointment. It will also help you catch menu mistakes and omissions like not giving a caller an exit option from your business location/direction information message,
- Using Professional Voice Talents. While using an amateur actor or just an employee with a nice voice from within the organization may sound like a good way to save money, it can cause complications. Using different voices at different times keeps you from having a consistent tone and may actually confuse callers. Amateurs aren’t experienced at enunciating for maximum clarity, and there may be legal issues if the “actor” used leaves the company later. Besides, like everyone, most employees don’t want to be recorded and are scared of the microphone. Besides, who really has a “good” spot to record a message without background noise or more importantly, what is the honest likelihood a “you know”, “like…” or an “ahhh” won’t slip in? Even professional voice talents do multiple recording takes and audio engineers fix the final recordings.
- Stage Inbound Callers To Departments With On Hold Messaging Features. Auto- Attendants can route callers to departmental on-hold messaging features until their call is picked up. Waiting callers are a captive audience. Taking advantage of this time by adding messages to the hold and call park features of your phone system to help keep callers on the line and lets you forward them important information as well as prompt them to be ready with any special paperwork/information they may need for their call. Caller holding time is also a great opportunity to share specials, promotions and upcoming business event details.
These are just a few practices that can help you make the most out of your auto-attendant for your business phone system. For more help and advice, visit us at snaprecordings.com.