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10 Simple Rules for Setting up a Business Phone System Auto Attendant

Posted by Gregg Haughton on May 11, 2012 1:44:00 PM

When we install a business telephone system, part of the job is to script the auto attendants and creat the menu trees. This blog post will provide 10 simple rules to follow to make your business phone system a productivity tool rather than a source of frustration to your customers.

  1. KISS - If you choose to answer your calls with an Automated Attendant, which is common, make sure the front end greeting is simple and easy to follow. It's tempting to try to provide options for every type of caller or question. If you use an auto attendant, keep your front end options to the few most common types of calls. If your auto attendant tree has more branches than a Harry Lauder's Walking Stick bush you'll confuse many callers.
  2. Option 1st, then number - Many auto attendants are set up backwards. "Press 1 for sales" should be "For Sales, press 1", otherwise when the caller recognizes what dept they need to reach, the number will have already been said.
  3. Make sure everyone has a name recorded in their mailbox - How many times have you spelled a persons name int the directory only to hear "for extension 345, press *". The name recording in a mailbox must be recorded so the system can confirm to the caller they are reaching the right person.
  4. Have something on hold - When an auto attendant transfers a call, make sure the caller is not listening to dead air. Maybe it's our inherent mistrust of machines, but callers will fear they have been disconnected if all they hear is a click, then silence. This is an ideal time to play some recorded marketing message (see the messaging on hold blog for more detail). If not, then music is a good alternative.
  5. Never create a loop - Often referred to as voice mail jail, make sure that each branch on your auto attendant menu tree has an end. Ideally,  someone should answer the call, but if no one is available, send the caller to a mailbox. Never send the caller back to the beginning of the auto attendant menu.
  6. Check mailboxes - If you set up a general mailbox, or departmental mailbox, make sure it gets checked regularly. Ideally, the mailbox should light a message waiting light or be converted to an e-mail and sent to someone responsible for returning calls.
  7. Check your hours - Most companies set up day and nite greetings. Make sure the clock and settings in your auto attendant match your business hours.  
  8. Set up a back door - Give your employees an easy way to call in and check messages. If you don't have voice mail to e-mail, program a number or extension that plays a simple message such as "to check your messages, press #". You'll be surprised how many folks don't check messages after hours because they don't know how to navigate in the auto attendant.
  9. Keep the voice consistent - Make sure the same (preferrably cheerful and clear speaking) voice is used on all company greetings. As callers move thru the system, they should recieve instructions from the same voice.
  10. Keep the menu current - You shoud periodically listen to your greetings to make sure they are relevant. If you close a department, make sure it's eliminated. Make sure any names listed still work for your company. 

For many of your customers, your auto attendant is your businesses front door. Make sure your front door gives a great first impression and your business will benefit.

I welcome your comments and encourage you to check your front door.

Gregg Haughton


Topics: Business Phone System, VoIP Phone System, Auto Attendant

Is Your Answering Service a Thing of the Past?

Posted by Justin Stackawitz on Dec 2, 2011 3:33:00 PM

You are probably saying to yourself “I thought Answering Services have been a thing of the past for ten years!”. You might be surprised. I have worked with countless business phone systems for organizations that are still, even today, reliant on subscription-based outsourced answering services. Admittedly, the far majority of these are in the medical (or dental, or veterinary, etc.) community, as they naturally have a greater need to ensure that every single call from a patient gets answered appropriately.

As telephone systems, and more specifically voicemail systems, have evolved over the years, businesses have had the opportunity to migrate their after-hours answering responsibilities from the recurring cost of a service that has live humans answering all calls to automated attendants which not only eliminate the need to pay a service on a regular basis, but also will route calls to their intended destination. For industries that do not typically receive emergency level phone calls during non-business hours, this was an easy switch to make…basically a no-brainer. However, for those in the medical industry, or any others for which emergency calls can be received during off hours, there continues to be trepidation that an automated attendant simply cannot replicate the level of service provided by a human being answering a phone call.

We are finding now, though, that because of further advancements in the technology of current voicemail systems, they have the ability to effectively replicate the duties that a live answering service can provide, even in emergency situations. Granite Communications has many clients which have implemented this level of use for their voicemail systems. Using the options available in today’s voicemails, there are medical facilities (and property management companies, and plumbers, and oil/heating companies, etc.) which can simply direct callers to a designated emergency mailbox, which can then immediately notify – by home phone, cell phone, beeper, even e-mail – an on-call Doctor, or technician, or serviceman. This allows the on-call professional to quickly respond to emergency requests from their patients/customers.

Of course there are still operations out there with the philosophy that the only way to properly handle these type of calls is with a live answer 24/7…but as the technology has advanced, so too have the options available to companies in this situation.

Topics: Business Phone System, busines phone systems, Business Telephone Systems, voicemail, Auto Attendant

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