One of the best features offered by the majority of VoIP providers (often at no additional charge for business accounts) is an auto attendant, or virtual receptionist. When you call a business or organization and are professionally greeted by a recording that aids you in reaching the correct person or department for your needs, you’re interacting with this incredibly useful tool.
Virtual receptionist software is a must for businesses regardless of size. While their usefulness for enterprise level organizations is obvious, they’re perhaps even more essential for small businesses that must work additionally hard to ensure that their staff requirements remain lean and that they make a positive, professional impression on clients and colleagues.
Auto Attendant Features
Your VoIP auto attendant makes sure that your calls are connected promptly, in a streamlined, efficient, and accurate manner. However, while it may be clear that using a virtual receptionist is a great idea for your small business, not all auto attendants are created equally. Different VoIP companies’ virtual receptionist offerings may include different features. Here’s a list of the seven we think are the most important for any business.
1. Professional Greetings
First impressions count—and you never get a second chance, as the saying goes! Many auto attendant software options allow you to either create or record your own greetings or to use professionally recorded greetings. If you have the ability to create a crisp, clear professional recording on your own, the former may be fine. However, for most businesses, being able to incorporate studio-recorded greetings into their auto attendant is the ideal way to demonstrate their professionalism to their clients and customers.
2. Call Menu
A well-designed call menu is the backbone of your auto attendant’s usefulness. If the menu is difficult to navigate, unclear, or simply inefficient, you’ll leave callers frustrated. Before you commit to a VoIP provider, investigate the levels and types of menus you’ll have available in terms of programming your virtual receptionist.
3. Call Routing
Of course, your call menu isn’t going to be particularly effective if the auto attendant doesn’t offer exceptional call routing. Once again, you’ll want to investigate exactly how call routing is handled and what options and features you’ll have available. Do your employees often work remotely or switch phone numbers? If so, you’ll want to choose an auto attendant service that can easily route calls to employees regardless of their current location or contact numbers, so that your clients and colleagues are able to contact them with ease. Seamless call forwarding makes it far easier to keep customers engaged.
4. Connection Options
In some cases, customers will know an employee’s extension number. However, it may be advantageous to give customers other options to get in touch with the appropriate employee or department. Dial by extension, dial by name, and departmental directory dialling are all different strategies for helping customers make the right connection as efficiently as possible.
5. Custom Hold Music or Messages
When your customers and colleagues are on hold, what do they hear? Customizable hold music and messages are a great way to maximize your client engagement. Marketing messages, informative recordings, and pleasant music can all contribute to better, more pleasant communication—even when putting a customer on hold is unavoidable.
6. Schedule Customization
It’s typically advantageous, for most businesses, to have schedule customization as an auto attendant option. This can be used to ensure that calls are correctly routed when departments have differing hours or priorities during different times of day. Additionally, customized greetings based on schedule can be a fantastic way to help set customer expectations for their call, which can lead to higher levels of customer satisfaction.
7. Easy-to-Use Interface
With so many features to choose from, manage, and customize, an easy, intuitive user interface is an absolute must for any quality auto attendant software. If you want to add or change an extension, update a greeting, alter a call menu, or facilitate call forwarding, you want the process to be as straightforward and easy to access as possible. You may even want to give employees a certain amount of access to make adjustments to their own call routing and call forwarding.
Knowing What You Need is the First Step
While we consider these seven features nearly indispensable for almost any business, we also know that each organization is different. Before you choose an auto attendant software option, you’ll want to sit down and make a list of your company’s needs as they relate to receiving client calls (our Phone Systems Buyer’s Guide can help!). Choose the service that best meets these needs and avoid making common phone system purchasing mistakes. If there are multiple services that do, it may be helpful to look at added-value features and costs as well.