Auto attendant

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 business communications platform has an auto attendant feature that does exactly that.

Pop quiz: You call a company’s business phone line, and you’re immediately put into a queue with hold music. What’s missing?

If your answer is “That automated voice that tells me to press 1 for Sales, or 2 for Customer Service...”, then you’d be correct. That voice is called an auto attendant, and it’s a valuable type of phone answering service that many companies are using.

Automated attendants are helpful for many different reasons, and come with different degrees of functionality. But first—what are they, exactly, and why should you want one in your business phone system?

What is an auto attendant in a phone system?

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 are crucial for contact centers and call centers (since that’s probably where the majority of companies’ inbound calls go).

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

Dialpad’s auto attendant features

Custom auto attendant messaging for different hours

In Dialpad, you can define what hours you want your auto attendant to be active. If your website says people can contact you from 9 to 5 Monday to Friday, then you’d need an auto attendant or IVR system (interactive voice response) to help you divert calls during those times to agents working at those times. (If people call you outside of those business hours, you’ll probably want to record a custom message or create call routing rules there too.)

Call queue prioritizing

Some calls are going to be more urgent than others. (Say you’re an auto insurance company and someone’s car just got stolen.) That doesn’t mean it’s always feasible to have a whole separate phone number for these kinds of calls—and with Dialpad’s auto attendant, it’s not necessary either.

You can prioritize particular calls, even when other callers have been in the queue for longer. This gives you more control over your call flows and lets you customize your phone call prioritization to favor specific emergency call queues and/or contact centers.

Versatile call routing

Beyond the most basic “route the call to the first available agent” option, Dialpad’s auto attendant has very versatile routing choices. You can route to your operators or agents first—based on who’s been idle longest, who’s the most skilled, and more:


Or you can go with “Other routing options,” which lets you route calls to voicemail (you’ll be able to see the caller ID of who left the message), or certain teams or individuals. It’s like having a secretary who knows the extensions and name directory for your company by heart and can automatically forward calls to any one of them in less than a second.

Customized greetings

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

IVR menu analytics

If you want to see how your calls are being routed, Dialpad actually 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:


Benefits of an auto attendant

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 attendant 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 attendant? 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 automates call management for you

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.

Easily answer and route calls with an auto attendant

Whether you need just a basic auto attendant or something that can handle sub-menus and more complicated logic, make sure that it comes as a package in a good VoIP or unified communications platform.

Auto attendants 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, we’d choose something with a mobile app so you can take calls on the go.

FAQs about auto attendants

Can an auto attendant forward calls to my cell phone or external numbers?

Yes! Dialpad’s auto attendant feature lets you forward calls to a maximum of five external numbers (they can be desk phones or mobile phones like Androids and iPhones) so your business will never miss a call again.

Can I use an auto attendant with a virtual phone number?

Yes, with VoIP providers like Dialpad, you can get set up with a virtual business phone number in minutes and use an auto attendant with it.

How do I know if my business needs an auto attendant?

If you get a lot of repetitive calls and really only need your phone system to pick up, play a pre-recorded greeting, and prompt the caller if they want to speak to someone… then you could just use an auto attendant.

Can an auto attendant still give a caller the option to dial by name?

Yes! You can do that in Dialpad—there’s an option for dialing by name or directory.