Automated attendant

Automated attendant

In telephony, an automated attendant (also auto attendant or auto-attendant, or sometimes autoattendant or AA) system allows callers to be automatically transferred to a user's extension without the intervention of a receptionist. A receptionist, who acts as the telephone operator, can be reached by pressing 0 on most systems. Although an automated attendant is usually a feature on modern PBX and key phone systems, it is possible to provide one on standard lines and phones.

The term "Automated Attendant" is often considered to be the same as "IVR". While an automated attendant can be considered a very simple kind of IVR, in the telecom industry the terms are generally considered separate.

There is often a 'dial-by-name' directory to find user on a system. The dial-by-name directory is usually set up last name followed by first name. Once the user name is announced the caller can press # and it will automatically ring the extension, sometimes after announcing the correct extension number for the caller's future reference.

A phone can be set to "do not disturb" to forward all calls directly to voicemail without ringing the extension. Express messaging is used when the caller does not want to disturb the user, or is calling a guest mailbox without a phone.

On many systems there are message-only information "mailboxes" so that a company can give business hours, directions to their office, job offerings, and answers to other frequently asked questions. These mailboxes may be forwarded to the receptionist after each message plays, or the user can return to the main menu.

Automated attendants have many different uses, such as some colleges which have telephone registration where the caller uses the key pad to register for courses or check grades.

Other features of automated attendant systems include transferring to another outside phone line, connecting two companies via wide-area networking and VOIP, and incorporating software (like Outlook Express and others) to have unified messaging. Some also have ACD/UCD features.

Many auto-attendants are programmed very poorly by their owners, leading to what has frequently been called "Voicemail Jail" (though the name seems to be a misnomer, it comes from the fact that early Automated Attendants were part of the voicemail system--voicemail and automated attendants are part of the same thing to many people). Large companies often try to force callers through a seemingly endless series of questions and menus before anyone will actually answer the phone to give a simple answer. Some are even recursive leaving users stuck in an infinite loop. This is now a major source of frustration for many consumers, who have also felt a decline in customer service in general. Some even expect callers to speak their way through the menus, which can be a major inconvenience when audio distortion on the line occurs, there's much background noise (such as in on-street payphones) or the caller simply has a bad accent in the language the AA is expecting to hear. Such AA usually don't provide an easy way to circumvent this problem, except maybe pressing the 0.

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