Finding ways to improve your customer service does much more than just keep existing clients happy – it can also increase your business revenue by 4-8%.
Business VoIP features like auto attendants streamline the customer experience by helping callers get the information they need without having to wait on hold or have their calls transferred.
Here, we’ll outline the top 10 business phone system auto attendant tools that keep first call resolution – and customer satisfaction levels – high.
In this article:
- What Is An Auto Attendant?
- How to Set Up An Auto Attendant
- What Is The Difference Between An Auto Attendant And IVR?
- The Best Auto Attendant Phone Systems
- Are Auto-Attendant Phone Systems IVR Alternatives?
An auto attendant is a business phone system feature that answers and directs inbound calls based on the caller’s response to the automated greeting or menu system.
Also called virtual receptionists or auto-receptionists, they connect the caller to the best available agent or department based on information they provide via speech, dial pad touchtone entry, or even according to the specific phone number dialed.
Multi-level auto attendants automatically play pre-recorded messages that give the caller additional options after they’ve determined which department or agent they need.
In addition to helping agents during peak call volume, auto attendants provide a high level of customer self-service that often prevents them from having to interact with a live agent at all.
This keeps agents free to make more outbound sales calls or assist customers with more complicated issues. By following pre-set call paths ( also called “call flows”) auto attendants also:
- Help callers to determine which department/person they need to speak with
- Prevent inbound callers from having to hang up and redial phone numbers
- Forward calls to voicemail or other phone numbers if agents are unavailable
- Automatically transfer inbound calls
- Provide callers with key information like hours, location, or weather/COVID updates
- Hold calls until a live agent is available
Setting up an auto attendant varies by provider. Some have text-to-voice for easier greeting recordings, while others require you to create your scripts and audio files from scratch.
Auto-attendant scripts are your means of communicating with the customer – the last thing you want is to have a poor auto-attendant flow that frustrates a customer as they are routed.
Below, we’ve outlined a step-by-step general process for how to set up your automated attendant software:
- Select desired call management method (all calls routed to auto-attendant vs calls not answered after a set number of rings, etc.)
- Assign department and/or individual agent business phone numbers, add any additional numbers for call forwarding (cell phone number, additional agent phone number, etc.)
- Write and record (or enter in via text-to-speech) phone system greetings, call menu options, and voice mailbox messages
- Create call groups (groups of agents with similar skillsets, working hours, departments, etc.)
- Choose whether or not to have an operator (where the caller can press “0” or another number to be automatically directed to the main call menu, voicemail box, etc.)
- Set business hours and/or day and night mode schedules
- Set holiday greetings and schedules
- Configure timeout settings to redirect the caller to the main menu, route calls to voicemail, forward calls to another phone number, or hang up if calls remain unanswered for a select period of time
- Save all auto attendant settings
Note that most systems allow admins to input/record both “main menu” greetings and individual greetings for specific departments, holidays, agents, etc.
You’ll also be asked to enter the specific phone numbers or extensions for each department. Some systems incorporate first-level extension dialing, which enables users to dial an extension immediately without having to go through the entire menu.
The main difference between an auto attendant and an IVR (Interactive Voice Response) system is that IVRs usually offer a higher level of customer self-service with more advanced configuration and input options than auto-attendants.
IVRs may have more advanced call routing strategies, intelligent assistants, ring strategies, or more streamlined drag-and-drop call flow design tools. This isn’t to detract from auto-attendants, which are a much more straightforward way to automate call routing and take less time to configure.
Auto attendant capabilities work well for businesses that don’t need automatic speech recognition, Natural Language Processing, or other conversational AI functionalities.
While less sophisticated, an auto-attendant has features like day and night mode. When configuring day and night mode, your business may have all calls ring the number four times and then send the call to the auto-attendant. When night mode is engaged past a certain time, the calls will automatically be sent to the auto-attendant because there are no agents available.
Just about every VoIP provider offers the auto-attendant feature as a part of a bundled monthly phone service package.
The providers listed below have easily-configurable auto-attendant processes and are especially ideal for small businesses or startups.
RingCentral MVP (Message, Phone, Video) is a UCaaS solution designed for businesses with a high daily call volume, or a call volume that outpaces their current number of agents.
Its multi-level auto attendant feature is available on all 4 of RingCentral MVP paid plans, which range from $19.99 to $49.99/user per month (for 20-20 users, when paid annually.)
Other important features of RingCentral include:
- 24/7 customer support
- Automatic call recording at Premium and above
- Salesforce integration at Premium and above
More information about available features and plans can be found in our RingCentral Review.
Nextiva is cloud communication platform designed for solopreneurs and smaller teams.
Nextiva offers four paid plans from $18.95 to $59.95/user per month (for 20-99 users, when paid annually.)
Each plan has an auto attendant option.
Other important features of Nextiva include:
- Unlimited SMS at Pro and above
- Mobile phone apps available at Pro and above
- CRM Integrations with Salesforce and Zendesk
For additional information, check out our post on Nextiva pricing and plans.
Grasshopper is a VoIP phone number provider designed for small teams or solopreneurs that need an affordable, “no-frills” business phone application.
Grasshopper has an auto attendant feature that provides recorded scripts to answer your incoming calls. The company also has a professional voice studio for an additional fee. If you prefer to have calls taken by a live person, Grasshopper also has a live virtual receptionist option. Grasshopper pricing plans range from $26 to $80 a month for those that bill annually (prices jump to $29 to $89 for those that choose monthly payment options).
Other important features of Grasshopper include:
- Desktop and mobile apps with all plans
- Gmail integration available
- Voicemail transcription included with all plans
Our Grasshopper review provides additional details.
Vonage is a VoIP phone system with competitive plans for businesses of any size needing bundled or a la carte business communication tools.
Vonage Business Cloud pricing is between $19.99 and $39.99, and all plans come with an auto attendant. However, those needing multi-level auto attendant must upgrade to the Premium Plan or above.
Other important features of Vonage include:
- Integration with Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics
- Spam shield for all incoming calls
- Company-wide call recording available
Our Vonage Business Cloud review offers additional insight.
8×8 is a unified communications platform for companies with a high number of incoming international calls.
Pricing for 8×8 plans ranges from $15 to $44 per user if billed annually. Each plan comes with an auto-attendant as well as both mobile and desktop apps. However, the auto-attendant doesn’t inform callers of the current wait time, which makes it best for businesses with a low call volume.
Other important features of 8×8 include:
- Up to 10 GB of media storage (call or meeting recordings)
- Unlimited calling in up to 47 countries
- Access to dial by name directory
Read our 8×8 Review for more information.
3CX’s business phone system includes a digital receptionist and stands out because it permits recording greetings in multiple audio file formats, including PCM, 8 kHz, 16 bit, and mono.
It also offers extensive menu and sub-menu options for setting up the attendant. Call path options include“connect to queue,” “transfer to voicemail,” and “send a call to call flow apps.”
In total, when setting up this aspect of your routing, you have 10 options for how to direct callers.
Other important features of 3CX:
- HD video conferencing support
- Support for multiple office desk phone models
- Caller ID, remote call forwarding, and charging based on the number of simultaneous calls.
3CX offers its service for free for one year. It charges for its Pro and Enterprise plans in the second year, which cost $145 and $180 each.
Our 3CX phone system review offers more input.
Ooma is a business phone service provider offering an auto attendant upon setting up an account.
By default, the auto attendant for Ooma, which they call a virtual receptionist, is configured with text-to-speech enabled. This means that you can type out and select the greeting, and a computer-generated voice reads it to the caller. The control panel also allows you to record your audio files, so if you have a receptionist that is your typical first point of contact, this is a good option.
Ooma’s auto-attendant lets team members check voicemails remotely on a cell phone. The company offers three plans: Ooma Office ($19.95/user per month), Ooma Office Pro ($24.95/user per month), and Ooma Enterprise ($27.99/user per month).
Other important features of Ooma:
- Multi-ring to ring various devices simultaneously
- Enhanced call blocking
- Ooma Office Base Station connects existing analog phones to the VoIP network
Check out our guide on Ooma Office Pricing to learn more.
Phone.com stands out in the VoIP industry because it includes one local or toll-free number with several business plans.
An auto attendant is also included with their Base, Plus, and Pro plans, and its lowest plan is only $10.39 per month for basic users who pay annually. Phone.com offers easy-to-follow webinars that walk users through the process of setting up their auto attendants. Its pricing places it in a similar niche to Grasshopper, which is why it was featured in our Grasshopper vs Phone.com standoff.
Other important features of Phone.com include:
- Vanity phone numbers
- SMS messaging included
- Unlimited user extensions
You can also learn more on our Phone.com customer review page.
GoToConnect features an auto attendant in all its cloud-based PBX solutions. The automated system answers calls with a custom greeting to reflect your brand or the time of year.
GoToConnect is available in multiple languages and multiple company locations to help callers find the right extension or agent.
Other important features of GoToConnect:
- Automated answering
- Call routing
- Virtual voicemail
You can learn more in our GoToConnect Pricing Guide.
Dialpad is a cloud communications platform offering a multi-level auto attendant with each of its call plans.
Dialpad allows users to record or upload custom greetings and offers call routing strategies to ensure callers reach the right department.
Other important features of Dialpad:
- IVR menu analytics
- Call flow prioritization
- Custom messaging
Read more in our Dialpad Pricing Guide.
- Self-service options for customers
- CSATs (customer satisfaction surveys)
- Menus that are accessible by voice response
- Omnichannel callers
Auto attendants are easy to implement, shorten customer wait times, and connect callers to the right department. They are also something to consider for small businesses that don’t need overly complex menus for their customers.