What is Auto Attendant?

An auto-attendant is a feature of a PBX, which mimics the receptionists or switch-board operators role by acting as a virtual receptionist. By taking on this role, by answering incoming calls and forwarding them to the correct internal extension the auto attendant enhances the businesses image.

 An auto-attendant can answer incoming calls and can issue options via an auto-menu, which a caller may answer through multi-tone key presses, which the PBX system can identify. The menu system can be hierarchal and consist of several sub-menus. An example would be when the auto attendant answers the call it would provide a standard greeting which identifies the company by name and suggests to dial 1 for sales, 2 for finance, 3 for technical support.

The auto-attendant interfaces with the caller using pre-recorded welcome and option messages through the inbuilt voice recording facility. A PBX administrator will structure the menu hierarchy, write the scripts and menu suggestions, for example, “dial 0 for further assistance”. Then have an actor of volunteer record the messages, Common pre-recorder voice tracks are available for most systems. Some PBX can recognize vocal responses, but more common is the multi-tone key response from the handset. By being able to distinguish between each touch tone the PBX can understand what the caller inputs in response to their menu suggestions.

Auto-attendants have become more popular due to hosted virtual PBX systems rise in popularity. Services such as Grasshopper that act as incoming call answering services provide a multi menu system which will redirect calls from a fixed line number to any mobile, landline of the customer’s choice. Grasshopper call answering is a very convenient service for small businesses that require a central business number, but have no fixed office location.  Customer can call the office number and the virtual auto-attendant can forward the call to the staff who are predominantly working from their mobiles.

The Grasshopper auto-attendant answers the inbound calls and redirects them dependent on the customer’s response to the menu selections that the auto-attendant suggests. Auto-attendants can also answer calls and provide message services for businesses out of hours.

Alasdair Gilchrist

Alasdair is a technical writer with interest in business practice, operational strategy, start up philosophy and affordable technology. He lives in Nonthaburi, Thailand with his wife and daughter, and writes terrible novels as a hobby.

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