I don’t know about you, but whenever I encounter what seems like a never-ending list of options read to me by an obvious computer, I scream agent into the phone until I finally reach a live human. Sometimes I spam through the options just to get to an agent faster, and sometimes I try to skip it all together by hitting star or zero.

Most of the time, clients are reaching out to your call center in hopes to speak to an agent directly to fix whatever it is they’re calling about. And that seems to be one of the biggest gripes with automated attendants, they feel like a roadblock: a system designed to keep callers away from agents. But quite the opposite is true; their real goal is to help direct callers to the proper agent or department, so any issue can be solved as soon as possible.

Generally, the issue lies within the auto-attendant’s script. Too generic and basic leaves callers frustrated and feeling unwelcomed — but too confusing and all-encompassing can leave callers overwhelmed. While each script and process will differ for each auto-attendant, depending on your business and services provided, there are a few guidelines that should be taken into account. We like to think of them as the do’s and don’ts of automated attendant scripting.

The Importance of a Good Script

Auto attendants help guide your callers through what could otherwise be a confusing routing system. Replacing the need for a human secretary to answer all calls and redirect to the best department, these automated call center software systems can generally be quicker, if they’re setup in a way that makes it easy for callers to navigate.

Except that’s a fairly big if: if the system is simple enough. It’s not uncommon for callers to run into a confusing, complicated system that just leaves them frustrated — you don’t want your automated attendant to me a source of friction within the caller’s journey. That’s why the script, and journey, that customers follows will be a crucial role in improving that overall customer experience by reducing as much friction as possible.

Especially since these systems will be the first point of interaction for many new or potential clients, as well as returning clients. Customers will be very quick to abandon a provider if they feel like they can’t get to the help they need, or are left waiting on hold for an unnecessary amount of time.

You want your auto attendant to be a simple guide to help callers receive the support they need, not a confusing mess that puts a wall between callers and agents. If you really want an upper hand, while not exactly the same as an IVR, these solutions can be made so much smarter with the help of AI.

But, before we get that complicated there are some simple guidelines any business can follow for the best auto attendant possible.

The Do’s of Auto Attendant Scripting

1. Do begin with a welcome greeting and appreciation for their call and business. While it would be difficult to offer a personalized greeting for every single caller, we don’t want to greet callers with a cold, emotionless robot response. Something warm and welcoming will help keep things calm and easy. But also remember to professional as this will be the first point of contact for many.

2. Do keep the greeting short and to the point. Try to limit your very introduction to no more than two or three sentences. No one wants to have to sit through a 2-minute-long monologue when all they want to do is get to an agent as quick as possible. Sometimes less truly is more.

3. Do offer callers the option to visit to your website if there are self-service functions available. This way, callers might actually be able to fix their problems before even getting to an agent, or find the information they need even quicker online. Again, it’s all about reducing the friction in the process.

4. Do place the most important and frequently used options as the first choices in the auto attendant’s list. If most callers happen to call about billing questions, then billing should be the first choice that the attendant offers to callers.

5. Do let callers know right away if any menu options have changed. Routine callers might be accustomed to spamming the same keys to get to the department they need, but it’s not uncommon for your business to have to switch around things from time to time. This simple little note can help save callers frustration, and again, reduce a lot of friction.

6. Do leave the zero-key reserved for the specific function of jumping straight to a receptionist, or agent. This way, the callers with the utmost urgent issues can skip the entire process and speak to a live human as soon as possible.

The Don’ts of Auto Attendant Scripting

1. Don’t welcome callers with a massive monologue that drags on for over a minute, this will just frustrate everyone. Make sure to limit the amount of information in the greeting, for example it would be appropriate to thank the caller, and maybe state your website for self-service once, but don’t jump straight into business hours or repeat a clunky company slogan.

2. Don’t overwhelm your callers with the sheer amount of options. It might seem helpful to give each individual department, or potential reason for calling, a unique option; but this can easily overwhelm callers and lead to extra friction. Just as we said with the greeting, we don’t want callers to have to sit there waiting for 2 minutes just to figure out the right button to press.

3. Don’t force your website down caller’s throat’s if there will be nothing of value for them there. Chances are, many might have already checked the website, or are looking to directly speak to an agent. If your business has self-service options online then a simple reminder once or twice is good, but constantly bombarding callers with your website will make them feel unwelcomed.

4. Don’t always promote the fact that the zero key is reserved for that quick jump to agents. While this seems a little contradictory, the auto attendant is there for a reason: to guide callers to the proper department and agent that can best serve them. If all your callers know that zero goes right to an agent or live operator, you’ll be negating the entire process and cause a huge bottleneck in the system.

5. Don’t ever disconnect or hang up on callers. Some auto attendants can be configured to disconnect callers if an option is not chosen within a certain time frame, or if they don’t respond to an agent quick enough. Give all your callers the benefit of the doubt, and build in some decent time padding. Nothing is more frustrating than having to put the p hone down for a second, only to pick it back up and realize you were disconnected.

6. Don’t repeat the same wording and pleasantries for every single option and line of dialogue. It might seem polite if your auto attendant is always saying “please” and “thank you,” but this can get old really quick and simply adds extra wasted time to the process. Your intro should thank callers once, and agents themselves can be trained to be as polite and courteous as necessary. Remember, the entire goal is to get callers the help and support they need as soon as possible.

Our Final Thoughts

Since the auto attendant is generally going to be first point of contact with your business for most clients, it’s imperative that the process goes as smooth as possible. Many of us have already come accustomed to skipping through these sometimes-annoying systems, but the right setup and the right script can really go a long way in reducing the friction in the process.

Your business should aim to inform callers, but avoid overwhelming them with a massive list of options. You want to welcome and thank callers, but you don’t want to bombard them with “please” and “thank you” every five seconds. The same goes for referencing your business’ website — the information found there generally can be helpful, but chances are those calling in for support already gave up online, or simply want to speak to a human.

Just like everything in life, the proper auto attendant script is all about a fine balance: a fine balance between including the necessary information, and trimming down the fat of what could otherwise be a bloated, friction filled process. Callers want to feel welcomed, but they don’t need to be showered with thanks and praise. Find that happy medium, and optimize your scripting with big data to help develop a friction-less process that leaves callers happy and satisfied with the service they received.