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By Pete Ambriz, originally posted on Toshiba’s Telecom Blog

The use of auto attendants and how they are implemented can say a myriad of things about a business as well as give an impression of a much larger operation than its reality. However, many companies do not use this application to its fullest potential. Following a few basic tips can make your auto attendant simple to create, concise in sending a caller to the correct destination, and effective without requiring the caller to listen to an endless directory of options.

The main purpose of an auto attendant is to direct your client to the resource that can best provide support and/or information in the most efficient way possible. I like to think of the auto attendant as the maitre d’ of the company. The auto attendant is essentially the first point of contact for callers when “entering the front door” of your business, greeting them with their first impression of your company. “Thank You for calling AA Cuisine. If you know the extension of the person you wish to reach, please enter it now. For Sales, press…”

A good rule of thumb is to have no more than three steps or options for the caller to select before reaching a staff member. Navigating through more than five steps may cause callers to hang up due to frustration or impatience.

The list below, which we compiled with the help of Software Advice, shows a basic auto attendant greeting outline

1.) Main Greeting — Your main greeting should begin with stating your company’s name so that callers can quickly verify that they have reached their intended destination. “Thank you for calling AA Cuisine.”

2.) Selection Options — This is what follows a clear and precise main greeting. This includes the typical, “If you know the extension the of person you wish to reach, please enter it now. For Sales, press 1; Customer Service, press 2;…” etc. Always list sales opportunity options first. And whenever possible, the last option should allow the caller to reach a live operator.

3.) Menu Trees — A menu tree allows additional levels of options after a caller makes an initial selection. For example, when a caller selects “1” for sales, he or she can then select from additional options, such as opening a new account or checking the availability of a product. Again, remember to limit your options, helping keep the attention of the caller.

4.) Informational Greetings — Informational greetings can provide business hours, store location or instructions on how to place an online order. Always provide an option to return back to the main greeting.

5.) Separate Day and Night greetings — Day greetings usually include the company’s main greeting along with a simple listing of business hours so that callers know immediately if they can expect to receive assistance during that call. This can be as simple as, “Thank You for calling AA Cuisine. We are open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Please select from the following options.” The night greeting might include, “Thank You for calling AA Cuisine. Our business is now closed. If you would like to leave a message in our general voice mailbox, please press 1. Otherwise, please try us again between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.”

6.) Auto-scheduling — Some auto attendants include auto-scheduling, which allows day and night greetings to automatically greet callers based on time of day and day of week. This feature may also allow pre-recorded greetings to play on business holidays or in the case of emergencies or other unexpected events.

An auto attendant can be very useful in servicing your customers. When selecting a business phone system, be sure the auto attendant offers a wide variety of options, allowing customization to meet your clients’ needs. After all, it is the first impression your customers will receive when they call your business.

Wouldn’t you rather be greeted by a professional maitre d’ at your favorite restaurant — with an eye for elegance and gourmet selections — rather than a basic list of options from a flyer left on your windshield? So would your customers.

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