Computer monitor showing Dialpad's auto attendant user interface

Auto attendant features

Does your business get a lot of phone calls—and need a way to automatically route these calls to the right person or department? Dialpad’s AI-powered collaboration platform has an auto attendant feature that does exactly that.

What is an auto attendant?

An auto attendant (aka. an auto receptionist or virtual receptionist) is a type of virtual receptionist that handles call routing for your company’s phone lines. It’s an automatic program that does what a live operator would otherwise do: put you through to the right person to take your call.

Since they’re used for managing incoming calls, auto attendants or auto receptionists are crucial for contact centers and call centers (since that’s probably where the majority of companies’ inbound calls go).

How does an auto attendant work?

An auto attendant is a telephony system that greets callers with a recorded message and some pre-set menu options. Callers can choose the option they want using their keypad, and the system will then route them to the right department or individual.

This streamlines the call management process, and is commonly used by businesses to efficiently handle a large number of incoming calls.

Auto attendant vs Interactive Voice Response (IVR)

An IVR is basically a more advanced kind of auto attendant. While most auto attendants can direct callers through menu options for basic call routing, an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system lets the caller do more complex tasks.

For example, an IVR could let a caller process payments and transactions, and access specific information through voice or keypad inputs. In this way, IVR systems are a great self-service option that can help contact centers deflect calls and reduce the burden on their agents.

Next, let’s look at what you get with Dialpad’s multi-level auto attendant system.

Benefits of Dialpad’s auto attendant

Dialpad's AI-powered collaboration platform comes with a multi-level auto attendant—and a ton of other advanced features.

Setting business hours for a company in Dialpad

Custom messaging for different hours

If your website says people can contact you from 9am to 9pm Monday to Friday, then you’d need an auto receptionist or IVR system (interactive voice response) to divert calls to agents working during those business hours. In Dialpad, you can define what hours you want your auto attendant to be active.

Setting up priority call queues for VIP callers in Dialpad

Call flow prioritization

Say you work at an auto insurance contact center and someone’s car just got stolen. It's not always feasible to have a separate phone number for these kinds of calls—and with Dialpad, it’s not necessary either because you can customize your prioritization to favor emergency call queues.

Dialpad's call routing options

Versatile call routing

Beyond the basic “route to the first available agent” option, Dialpad’s auto attendant has very versatile routing options. You can route calls to your agents based on who’s been idle longest, who’s the most skilled, and more. Or, route calls to voicemail (you’ll be able to see the caller IDs for callers) or specific teams. It’s like having a secretary who knows the extensions and name directory for your company by heart.

Uploading custom greetings to Dialpad from the online dashboard.

Custom greetings

Record or upload custom greetings that cover all (or most) of the main reasons why people call your business. This way, your auto receptionist can efficiently route the vast majority of your inbound phone calls to the right people without a live person intervening.

Dialpad's IVR menu analytics feature

IVR menu analytics

If you want to see how effectively your calls are being routed, Dialpad shows you how frequently each IVR menu option is used by your callers. If you find that people never punch in “3” on their keypad to learn about “pricing,” for instance, you might consider removing that as an IVR option to create a more streamlined menu system that only covers what your callers have questions about.

Need an auto attendant for your business?

Sign up for a free 14-day trial to try Dialpad's auto attendant feature—and unified communications platform—for yourself! Or, take a self-guided product tour and play around with Dialpad on your own first!

The benefits of having a phone system with an auto receptionist

Fewer spam calls

If your business gets a lot of spam calls, an auto attendant can block many of them—without doing anything special. How? Bots can’t press 1 or 2 to get routed to different people.

It allows your employees to focus on their jobs

Given the choice, would you rather your agents spend their time fielding phone calls to your business and directing callers to different departments—or doing high-value tasks like having actual conversations with customers who are having issues or more complicated questions? An auto receptionist will let them do the latter.

A cleaner call flow

Being able to manage your call flow is vital to running a customer-focused business or contact center. Even if you’re a small business, you’ve got to be able to efficiently direct the flow of your incoming calls so that your agents don’t get overwhelmed by your call volume.

Happier agents

The better your call flow management, the less legwork your agents have to do in terms of getting information from callers (are they calling to request a credit limit or do they just want to apply for a credit card?), the more quickly they can start resolving your callers’ questions, and the shorter your phone queues will be. That means happier agents—and happier customers.

A more scalable business

If you’re growing your business quickly and doing a lot of marketing, you’ll naturally get more phone calls and inquiries from people and potential customers who want to learn more about you. Auto attendants help you handle larger call volumes at scale—without having to hire a ton of people right away. Your virtual receptionist doesn’t mind whether they’re routing calls for eight or 8,000 agents; they’ll do their job just the same.

It’s more cost-efficient

One of the biggest advantages of using an auto receptionist? Unlike human operators, virtual receptionists also don’t need to be paid for the hours they spend working for your company. (Nor do they need breaks or time off.) Virtual receptionists can go 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

It lets your business handle calls immediately

Why do so many customers prefer live chat or other similar messaging-based channels for contacting companies? Some people don’t like talking, sure, but nobody likes to be kept waiting—and with messaging and live chat, you can generally avoid queues and get instant responses.

That’s why it’s useful to have an auto attendant that can handle your incoming calls immediately. Even if they’re later put into a queue, customers can rest assured that they’re in line to speak to the right person once they’ve gone through the auto attendant.

A better customer experience

Consistency is the key to happy customers. If customers know that they can always reach the right people quickly when they call you, at any hour of the day, it can go a long way toward customer retention—especially if you’re in an industry that isn’t known for good customer service.

🔎 Case study time:

See why Mediasmith, a creative agency, says, "We use Dialpad’s automated attendant almost exclusively.”

How to choose the best auto attendant for your business: 4 must-haves

Robust customer service

Speaking of knowledgeable staff, make sure that your automatic phone answering service comes with customer support included. If you ever run into issues with your IVR or auto attendant or can't route customers properly, it'll really affect your wait times, call volumes, and customer satisfaction. In other words, it impacts your whole customer experience. So, make sure your vendor has good tech support (and ideally not at an added price).

24/7 call availability

Today, most customers expect to be able to contact businesses pretty much around the clock, so it’s important to offer your customers after-hours call availability. Look for an automated phone answering service that makes it easy for you to offer 24/7 call availability to incoming callers.

A good auto attendant will allow your customers to get in touch with your business in their own time. Automated phone answering services like Dialpad’s IVR feature do just this. Even if you don’t have a live agent on duty 24/7, you’ll still be able to provide answers to all of those common customer questions and queries.

(Plus, that also means that when your live agents are available, they’ll have more time to focus on high-value conversations and complex questions that actually require expert advice and support. Leave the basic questions that can be easily answered by routing callers to an automated service.)

Enterprise-grade security and compliance

When you're choosing an auto phone answering service, make sure to check out the security and compliance standards. This is crucial if you want to keep your business’ information and data protected. The best automated phone answering software vendors will be completely up front about how they manage client security and the security protocols that they use.

For example, Dialpad keeps business information secure with enterprise-grade security protocols and a 256-bit Advanced Encryption Standard. All voice data is encoded in a Secure Real-Time Protocol that ensures encryption, message authentication, integrity, and replay protection. Plus, with Dialpad you have in-meeting privacy settings, and can set a custom data retention policy according to the unique needs of your industry.

Scalability—up and down

Finally, this isn't technically a "feature," but scalability is very important. You’ll want your automated phone answering service to be able to grow with your business. Cloud-based systems like Dialpad are much more scalable than legacy phone systems, and make it possible to add and remove hundreds, even thousands, of users depending on seasonality.

(For example, airlines will have busy seasons during holidays and might need to add lots of new agents to handle the higher volume of calls and messages during that time. But after the busy season ends, they need to be able to remove those users easily too.)

Answer and route calls with the best auto attendant service

Automated phone attendant systems are typically compatible with all kinds of phone systems, from cloud-based solutions to more traditional hardware-based PBX systems—but if your business values flexibility, you might want to choose something with a mobile app so you can take calls on the go.

Whether you need just a basic auto attendant phone system or something that can handle sub-menus and more complicated logic, make sure that it comes as a package in a good VoIP or customer engagement platform. Why pay extra for a feature that should come included?

Want to streamline your business communications with an auto attendant?

Dialpad gives you a unified collaboration platform that includes VoIP business phone system features and an easy-to-use multi-level auto attendant. Try it out for yourself with a free trial or take a self-guided interactive tour of the app first!