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Auto Attendant or Live Agent Answer?

When it comes to the customer experience for your callers, you’ve got options. So which should you choose, an auto attendant or answer with a live agent. Well, it depends…

Image of a phone being answered by an auto attendant or live agent

You’ve  finally decided to use a telephone answering service to make your life easier and enhance your customer service. Good choice! Of course, you want your calls answered by a friendly, professional and courteous telephone answering service agent who is acting as an extension of your business, but are there any advantages to having the phone answered by an auto attendant? That seems counter-intuitive, doesn’t it?

Well, there is a time and a place for everything – even auto attendants! To provide your business with a competitive advantage, it is always best to have a live person answering the phones 24/7. This is especially important in the service industry where many potential sales prospects will simply hang up the phone if they call your business and get a voice mail greeting. In a situation like this, an auto-attendant can absolutely kill your after-hours sales. But are there situations where an auto attendant can be used effectively to enhance your business? Let’s look at two examples.

Example 1 – “I want to answer the call if I am available.”
In this first example you, the business owner, have decided that if you or your staff are in the office and available to take calls that you want to be the first ones to answer the phones. Makes sense. You decide to hire an answering service as a backup should you or your staff be unavailable at any time. In order to make this work, you live support provider of choice will walk you through what you must do to program your phone lines so that they automatically roll over to your answering service should your lines be busy or nobody picks up after, say 4 rings. Now here comes the rub…..

Let’s say you have an after-hours caller that dials your office. It rings 4 times in your office because your night-shift person is unavailable to answer for some reason. So the call rings 4 times in your office and then it rolls over to your answering service. Now let’s say that it takes your answering service 3 rings before they can pick up the phone. From the caller’s perspective, they just listened to 6 or 7 rings and they probably will hang up on the 5th ring, because who listens to the phone ring longer than 30 seconds?  You just lost a sale. Or, they will hang on the line for all 7 rings and call you the next day to complain about multiple rings at night. At this point, they already don’t trust your reliability.

Ok, solution time. If you decide that you want calls to ring in your office first and then roll over to your answering service, it is advisable that you have your answering service set up an auto attendant for you so that callers do not get frustrated by multiple rings. Rather than listening to more than 4 rings, your callers would roll over to the answering service and be immediately greeting by an auto attendant. That attendant greeting might say something like this, “Thank you for calling Company X. We are connecting your call with someone who can help you now!” Your callers now know that they are in the process of being transferred and the possibility of losing that call is almost 100%  diminished.

Example 2 – “I get a lot of non-urgent calls after hours, which aren’t as critical. But I want the urgent calls answered by a live person.”
In this example, you know your customers well. You also know that you get a lot of non-urgent calls at night from people asking non-urgent questions that can easily be handled the next day. But you also get several highly important calls that must be answered by a live person so that they can be taken care of  immediately.

Should you use an auto attendant for this? Maybe. It is always advisable to use a live answering service for all calls when you are unavailable. Even for the non-urgent calls. The level of professionalism and image that you present to your customers will be second-to-none. So I would always suggest that you have every single one of your calls answered live. However, you may not agree with that suggestion and would prefer not to have non-urgent calls handled this way. If this is true, then you should use an auto attendant. It would work like this:

  1. You would forward your office line to an auto attendant outside normal business hours
  2. The auto attendant would greet callers and give them options (Press 1 for this, or press 2 for that)
  3. Your calls would be routed either to voice mail or to a live answering service

The key to making this work is to ensure that your auto attendant can forward calls to an outside number so that you can effectively route calls to your answering service. Solaxis FrontOffice auto attendant systems can do this quite easily. So your callers might hear the following: “Thank you for calling Veterinary  X. You have reached us after-hours. If your pet needs immediate medical attention you may press 1 to be connected with someone who can be of assistance. Otherwise, please press 2 and  leave us a detailed voice mail message and we will respond on the next  business day.”

In this situation, the business owner is using the auto attendant to “screen” the non-urgent calls and only allow the urgent calls to be forwarded to your answering service. Remember, it is always preferable to have your calls answered by a live operator. Yet, there are some nice   auto-attendant solutions   available to those who need a mixture of auto answer and live agent.

Give us a call today to discuss your unique needs and we’ll help customize a plan that is right for you.

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This entry was posted in Answering Service, Cloud Based Phone Services, Customer Service, Voicemail and tagged , , , by Brian Gabriel. Bookmark the permalink.

About Brian Gabriel

As the Call Center Manager for Sound Telecom, Brian is responsible for overseeing the daily operations and long term success of the company while managing a variety of inbound customer support programs. He also has a hand in taking care of the Solaxis services division. Prior to joining Sound Telecom, Mr. Gabriel held management positions with several prominent Internet Services companies including XpenseWise.com and Greatfood.com. Brian started his career in advertising and sales before moving to Washington State. He joined AEI Music in 1995 and supervised their international customer service department and technical support call centers. Brian received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism with a minor in Spanish languages from San Diego State University. Brian teaches adult education at his church and actively supports Christian ministries.