Auto-Attendant Basics – part 2

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In the previous lesson we covered:

  • Benefits of using an auto-attendant
  • Why to K.I.S.S. your main greeting
  • Providing a known extension announcement

If you’re just joining us go ahead and catch up by clicking here for part I of the series.



Auto-Attendant Part II

In part II of this series you will learn:

  • Departmental vs. solution based prompts; which is right for your organization?
  • How to track-down, the who, the why and the language your callers use.
  • To identify if your call routing is efficient or giving callers the run-around
  • Tips to help streamline your call routing more efficiently.


Here’s where we left off on our scrip development:

You have reached The Acme Company, manufacturing quality widgets since 1985. If you know your parties extension you may dial it at any time…


Step 2 – The Prompts



Departmental Based Prompts

The next piece of the auto attendant puzzle is adding prompt options. The easy or standard way to set-up your prompt options is to use a department based call distribution. Simply list the name of the different departments and leave it to your caller to choose which department will best meet their needs.


For The Sales Department please press 1
For The Service Department please press 2
For The Shipping Department please press 3
For The Manufacturing Department please press 4
For The Accounting Department please press 5


The prompts above sound cold, methodic, and repetitive. Let’s add some warmth by changing the prompts to reflect a ‘person’ in a particular department, rather than the department itself….


To speak with a Sales Representative press 1
To reach a Service Technician press 2
For questions about shipping press 3
To speak with someone in manufacturing press 4
For billing inquiries press 5


We’ve also broken up the action; to speak…, to reach…, for questions… to avoid methodic repetition. You may have also noticed that we removed, ‘please’ entirely from the prompts. . Please is a nicety when used sparingly.  We’ll revisit where and when to ‘singularly’ use The Magic Word.


Solution Based Prompts


Here’s the theory: Everyone who calls your business has a problem that they want or hope you can solve. Solution based prompts are an auto attendant options promise, to direct callers to someone who can help solve their specific problem.


Solution based prompts provide your callers with more intuitive routing selections and is useful to distribute calls to different specialty groups within a department.


Gather your call data

To make your auto attendant customer centric, you’ll need to do a bit of research. Don’t worry, it’s really quite simple. In fact, for a small or medium-sized business, this could be as simple as having a conversation with your receptionist. Ask who is calling and why. Better yet, request a log be kept of every call that comes in over several days and track not only why they are calling but the wording callers are using.


If your business currently uses an auto-attendant, you’ll need to speak with staff who regularly field customer calls.  Find out not just who calls and why but also how often calls have to be transferred due to misrouting or caller confusion. Again, it may be wise to keep a written log for several days.


After you collect your data, look for trends and keep the wording your clients use in mind. It’s advisable to use multiple prompt options that may even transfer to the same extension if it helps callers better identify the option they need to solve their problem.


Instead of a prompt directing to the sales or service department a solution based prompt might sound like this:


To learn more about increasing productivity with one of our many add-on modules press 1
For help with error messages, or if your system is unresponsive press 2


We’ll continue this auto attendant series in the next edition of ComTips as we delve into prompt structure and discuss:

  • How and when you should use sub-prompts
  • Importance of having an “operator”
  • Simplifying caller navigation

Click here for part III

About the Author:

Jeff Wilson advises businesses and organizations about optimizing their telephony communication systems and develops custom professionally voiced messages that project a polished image for every caller. You can reach him using the, 'support' email link found on the contact page.
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