In telephony (telecommunications industry), an Automated Attendant allows callers to be automatically transferred to an extension without the assistance of an operator or receptionist. Many AAs offer a simple menu system. An auto attendant may also allow a caller to reach a live operator by dialing a number, usually “0”. Typically the auto attendant is included by default in modern business phone systems such as a PBX, but some services allow businesses to use an AA without such a system. Modern AA programming can route calls to mobile phones, VoIP virtual phones, other AAs/IVRs, or other locations using traditional LAN phones or voice message machines.
Telephone callers will recognize an automated attendant system as one that greets calls coming into an organization with a recorded greeting like, “Thank you for calling …. If you know your party’s extension, you may dial it any time.” Callers who have a touch tone phone can dial an extension number or, in some cases, wait for operator assistance.
An AA will often include a directory which will allow a caller to dial by name in order to find a user on a system. There is no standard format to these directories, and they can use combinations of first name, last name, or both.
The following lists common routing steps that are components of an automated attendant (any other routing steps would probably be more suitable to an IVR):
- Transfer to Extension
- Transfer to Voicemail
- Play Message (i.e., “our address is …”)
- Go To a Sub Menu
- Repeat Choices
- Where to go when the caller dials ‘0’
- Timeout – what to do if the caller does nothing (usually go to the same place as ‘0’)
- Default mailbox – where to send calls if ‘0’ is not answered (or is not pointing to a live person)