Showing 1-20 of 117 products
Virtual Office is a collection of comprehensive web-based business VoIP solutions from offered by 8x8. Enterprise grade phone service, virtual meetings, mobile applications, virtual contact centers and more are available to help companies... Read more
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RingCentral Office is a cloud-based business phone solution that offers business communication tools for video, voice, fax and text. Core features of the solution include conferencing, auto-recording and unlimited long-distance and... Read more
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Jive Communications delivers a cloud-based unified communication solution to organizations of all sizes across the U.S. Jive Voice includes integrated products for business VoIP, video conferencing and contact center which are all... Read more
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Vonage Business Solutions is a cloud-based communications solution suitable for small and midsize companies. The solution offers a business phone system that enables businesses to connect their VoIP phone system to internet-enabled... Read more
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Nextiva is a business-focused VoIP phone system serving small businesses and enterprises. The Nextiva VoIP service provides users with a complete phone, chat, texting, and fax solution. Customers get more than phone service. They... Read more
Recent recommendations: 38 recommendations
Business Voice is a cloud-based VoiP solution created by PanTerra, which allows users to take or make calls from their office phone number, communicate with their team, and have file access, all from any device with an internet connection,... Read more
Recent recommendations: 31 recommendations
FluentStream is a business phone solution designed for companies of all sizes. It offers call monitoring, telemarketing, IVR and reporting features within an integrated suite. The solution is available both in cloud-based and on-premise... Read more
Recent recommendations: 27 recommendations
Designed for organizations of any size, Dialpad Talk is a cloud-based communications platform that allows businesses to access voice, messaging, meetings and video from any computer, smartphone, or tablet. Other key features include... Read more
Recent recommendations: 26 recommendations
GlobalMeet, a new generation unified communications (UC) platform, helps customers create connections with their employees, customers and shareholders. GlobalMeet provides a rich feature set including enterprise voice, a cloud-based... Read more
Recent recommendations: 15 recommendations
Ooma Office is a cloud-based VoIP solution that caters to small businesses across various industry verticals that helps them to manage their business operations. Ooma Office offers various capabilities offered by traditional IP PBX... Read more
Recent recommendations: 13 recommendations
net2phone’s cloud PBX VoIP phone solution enables businesses to communicate in a variety of methods, whether voice, texting, messaging or web chat, over an array of devices, in the office and on the go. The net2phone solution features... Read more
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Versature’s cloud-based business VoIP services provide Canadian companies with unified communications and call analytics solutions to help manage their business operations. Versature’s key features include auto attendants, click-to-dial,... Read more
Recent recommendations: 5 recommendations
Twilio's Voice API is a fully programmable VoIP system that helps companies make, manage and route calls to a browser, app, phone and more. Key features include call monitoring, call transcripts, call routing, PBX, auto dialer / predictive... Read more
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Five9 is an all-in-one cloud contact center solution for inbound, outbound, blended and omnichannel contact centers world-wide. Powered by Practical AI, Five9 enables agents to provide customer experiences across phone, email, chat,... Read more
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NICE inContact is a SaaS-based call center software that helps businesses to maximizes the quality of leads and minimizes the cost of client interaction. The solution comprises of many features required to process inbound support requests... Read more
Recent recommendations: 3 recommendations
UberConference by Dialpad is a cloud-based web conferencing solution that helps businesses of all sizes by combining messaging, voice and video. While it enables users to join meetings instantly without using a PIN, UberConference... Read more
3CX Phone System is an open standards communications solution, suitable for any sized business that wants all the features of an advanced contact center at a fraction of the cost. 3CX can take your business communications to the next... Read more
Mitel is a cloud-based VoIP phone system that offers collaboration and conferencing tools to enable information flow within the organization. The solution enables system administrators to manage user settings, set preferences and... Read more
Aircall is a cloud-based phone system designed for teams like customer support or sales teams. Aircall is a software that allows companies to get phone numbers in 30 countries, configure them in seconds and forward calls easily across... Read more
Bandwidth is a modern communications platform giving you access to voice, messaging, and 9-1-1 from the cloud. They offer you the power and reliability of a fully-owned nationwide all-IP voice network paired with a platform of enterprise-grade... Read more
An automated attendant (commonly shortened to auto attendant) is a software application included in many business phone systems. Auto attendants are also known as “virtual receptionist software,” since these applications can perform many of the functions of a human receptionist.
Our buyer’s guide will cover the following topics:
What Is Auto Attendant Software?
You know those voice menus you get when you call a local business? “Press 1 for Suzy, 2 for Bill” etc.? That’s an auto attendant.
The primary purpose of an auto attendant is to route incoming calls by listing options in a voice menu for callers to choose from (for example, “press 1 for sales, 2 for accounts receivable” etc.). Once the caller enters a number or symbol on her or his telephone keypad, the application automatically routes the call to the corresponding extension.
Auto attendants are NOT the fancy menus you get when you call your Internet provider to pay your bill, or when you call your credit card company to check your account balance. That’s a separate kind of system known as an interactive voice response (IVR) system. Let’s take a quick look at the differences in functionality between IVR systems and auto attendants to help you make an informed selection.
Auto Attendant vs. IVR
Auto attendants are commonly confused with IVR software. There are a number of distinctions between auto attendants and IVR systems:
- User input
IVR: Allows for voice response on the part of the caller (for example, “please state the reason you’re calling”).
Auto attendant: Limited to numerical input (“press 1,” “press *” etc.).
- Self-service functionality
IVR:> Allows callers to perform tasks over the phone, such as paying a bill or checking an account balance.
Auto attendant: Routes callers to the proper extension.
- Business context
IVR: Call centers that handle a high volume of inbound calls.
Auto attendant: Smaller companies without large teams of dedicated sales or support agents.
- Menu structure
IVR: Menus “branch out” into various sub-menus as callers choose different options.
Auto attendant: Generally have just one or two menu levels. Many auto attendants have only one level, but some offer a few sub-menus to choose from (for example, for different departments).
- Call routing
IVR: Routes callers into a call queue, where they wait on hold for the next available agent. The queue is configured and controlled by a software application known as Automatic Call Distribution or ACD, which usually integrates with the IVR system.
Auto attendant: Routes callers directly to an extension. In some cases, auto attendants can be integrated with your call queue if your PBX system has ACD functionality (more commonly found in call center solutions than more basic PBX systems).
Typically, IVR systems are used in dedicated call centers, while auto attendants are used by local businesses and businesses that just need directory routing, e.g., dentists’ offices, law firms, consulting firms etc. IVR systems are both expensive and complex to program—they will be overkill for most small businesses, except small businesses that deal with unusually heavy inbound call volume.
IVR systems are generally sold on a standalone basis or they’re packaged in specialized software suites for call centers. Auto attendants, on the other hand, are packaged differently, as we’ll discuss now.
How Auto Attendant Software Is Packaged
Auto attendants are generally included as applications within Private Branch eXchange (PBX) systems. A PBX system is the interface between extensions in a business directory and broader telecommunications networks (e.g., the traditional phone network and the Internet). PBX systems are applications that serve as the core of business phone systems: Indeed, in most cases, the term “PBX” is simply a synonym for “phone system.”
The basic purpose of a PBX system is to enable routing control over both inbound and outbound calls. Most business phone systems are suites of PBX applications that include auto attendants alongside other applications, such as voicemail and call recording.
While most auto attendants are packaged in these PBX suites, some vendors offer them as stand-alone applications. Many of these standalone solutions also offer IVR functionality.
If you operate a call center, want to enable self-service options for inbound callers or want to place incoming calls into a queue, then you should consider a call center system. Smaller businesses can generally get by with PBX suites designed for their needs—many of which include auto attendants.
Common Functionality of Auto Attendant Software
Unlike IVR systems, auto attendants are straightforward, easy-to-program applications. Auto attendants include the following standard functionality:
|Voice menu||Allows you to record your own voice menus. Some vendors also offer professional menu recording services.|
|Dial-by-name directory||A special auto-attendant phone feature that allows you to reach employee extensions by spelling out the employee’s first or last name with your telephone keypad. Particularly useful for larger offices.|
|Introductory greeting||Allows you to record a greeting that welcomes inbound callers and describes your business or brand.|
|After-hours mode||Allows you to program the system to offer different greetings and options based on your business’s hours of operation (e.g., informs callers that your business is now closed when it enters after-hours mode). Can also be programmed to handle weekends and holidays.|
The capabilities of auto attendants can be greatly enhanced by PBX call routing functionality, such as find me/follow me (which forwards calls from office phones to mobile devices after a fixed number of rings) and hunt groups (also known as ring groups; forwards calls to a group of extensions defined by business role, rather than to a single extension). Find me/follow me enables callers to reach employees on mobile devices as well as desk phones from the auto attendant menu. Hunt groups are useful for department-level options in the menu; for instance, when an inbound caller presses #1 for “sales,” the desk phones of every employee in sales will ring.
By using hunt groups with an auto attendant, small businesses that have multiple employees dedicated to answering the phones can set up a very basic call center solution. You can choose to have all your agents’ phones ring at the same time when a caller makes a selection in the auto attendant menu. Alternatively, you can have phones ring sequentially in a round-robin scheme (employee A gets the call first, and if s/he doesn’t answer the call goes to employee B, then C etc.).
We’ve done industry benchmarking research to determine best practices for programming both IVR systems and auto attendants. Our design report on IVR systems can be found here, and our auto attendant report can be found here. We interacted with hundreds of IVR systems and auto attendants to determine the benchmarking standards detailed in these reports.