How to use a virtual auto attendant to make your business more efficient

How to use a virtual auto attendant to make your business more efficient

Auto attendants (also known as ‘IVRs,’ Interactive Voice Response Systems, or ‘PBXs,’ Private Branch Exchanges) have become the norm for many large businesses. Auto attendants save businesses thousands of dollars in time and resources. PBX services are readily available for small businesses as well, and they are extremely inexpensive. In fact, there are several companies that do nothing but sell phone numbers and auto attendants for small to large businesses. The truth is, with some fine tuning and a little advice, anyone who owns a small business can save a ton of money and become much more efficient, all while emulating an impeccably professional look and feel to their business.

If you’re looking to save money on personnel and give your company (even if your ‘company’ is just one person) a more professional image, you should definitely think about investing in a virtual auto attendant. Here are the extremely easy steps to take if you’re interested in a virtual PBX.

  1. Google the term ‘Virtual PBX’

    After you Google the term, ‘Virtual PBX’ several companies will come up. Some of the most popular companies are One Box, Virtual PBX and AccessDirect. These services give you access to record your own greetings and program your own services, or you have the choice to get your recordings and programming done for you.  If a virtual auto attendant won’t work for your business, and you are interested in using actual equipment with an ‘in house’ auto-attendant, see our blog post on How to setup Auto Attendant using Avaya’s IP Office Manager.

  2. Check the rates

    If you want to keep your own business number you can do so. If you want to pretend that you have a store front in New York, you can choose a New York number, and when people call it, the number simply routes to the customer, wherever he or she lives. Be sure to check how many minutes you’re able to use, if there is any limit at all. The cost should be from $10/month to $99/month, depending on your needs.

  3. Fill out a flow chart

    The auto attendant company will give you a flow chart to fill out.  You will have an opportunity to make your greeting (with a suggestion for a script), and then have your customers select options. For example, press 1 for Sally, press 2 for Bob, press 3 for Derek, press 4 for general information, and press 5 for emergencies. Once you have decided on the script you would like to use, you need to decide what is going to happen once your customer chooses an option. If someone presses 1 for Sally, you can decide whether you want that to ring to Sally’s phone extension, or perhaps her cell phone, or maybe just make it a voicemail box. If someone leaves a message in the voicemail box, you get an email with a wav.file attachment directly on your phone, as well as a text message alerting you that you have a message. You can design each extension to ring up to three numbers in a row if you’d like. Many apartment complexes with after hours emergency lines, for example, will have two or three numbers called, and if it’s not answered a text or an email will be sent to maintenance people. There are no limits to what these auto attendants can do.

  4. Be sure of how it works

    If you want to switch to an auto attendant, be sure to know how it works. Don’t be afraid to call the customer service department for your auto attendant company.  No question is too big or too small.

  5. Learn to trust the system

    Remember, by using an auto attendant you are freeing an employee who otherwise could be focusing on work. The auto attendant will route your calls and messages to the correct person, instead of using a paid receptionist to take messages or hunt people down. You will have to trust the system and get used to it, but it doesn’t take long, and you will save money.

  6. Points to remember to ensure your auto attendant is not frustrating your customers

    • Make your auto attendant upbeat and to the point, but most importantly list your office hours as soon as you state your company’s name. For example, “Thank you so much for calling Acme company. Our normal business hours are Monday through Friday from 9am to 5pm Central Standard time. Please press one for….
    • All auto attendant companies will allow you to make two greetings and auto-switch them at the same time each day. The after hours greeting can say, “Thank you so much for calling Acme company. Our offices are now closed but we will reopen tomorrow morning at 9 am Central Standard time.” This gives your customers so much information before they even have to press a button.
    • Make your greetings short and to the point. “For Claims press one, for customer service press two, for Rob, press three.”
    • Use a caveat, “If no one answers and you leave a voicemail, we are immediately notified of your voicemail and we will call you as soon as possible.”
    • At the end of the greeting, thank them for their patience and tell them you appreciate their business.

Good virtual auto attendant companies can have your auto attendant up and running in one day. You will get the instructions to record the greeting yourself or you can have the company do it, and they will send you voice examples to choose from. You will be shocked at how much a simple auto attendant can do to make your business more efficient, please your customers, and organize what information is important.  Auto attendants are definitely a worthwhile investment for small to large businesses, as they exude confidence in the business owner as well as the customer.