What Is an Auto Attendant and What Can It Do for My Business?

For many customers, a phone call is the first interaction they have with a business.

To ensure every interaction is as effective and efficient as possible, your small business phone system needs to be professional and useful to callers—without breaking the bank. An exchange auto attendant (also called a UM auto attendant) is one of many advanced phone features that can help.

Below, we’ll dive into auto attendants and explain what they can do for your business.


What Is an Auto Attendant?

Calling a business can be a difficult experience. In fact, 67% of customers have hung up in frustration because they were unable to get a real person on the phone. An auto attendant solves this issue by acting as a virtual receptionist, directing customers to the department or service they want.

This automated phone system uses auto attendant software to answer incoming calls and presents the caller with a menu of options for different departments within a business.

For example, “Press 1 for Sales, 2 for Customer Service.” The caller chooses the department they want from the main menu, using a touch-tone keypad or by speaking the number, and the attendant transfers the call through this interactive voice response (IVR).

The auto attendant script provides callers with information, including business hours and location. Many auto attendant systems also allow callers to press 0 or use voice prompts to speak directly with a receptionist or customer service representative.

Virtual auto attendants help alleviate customer frustrations by getting the right person on the phone at the right time. They also help businesses operate more efficiently by putting customers in touch with the correct department—no more frustrating call transfers because an employee is unable to answer the caller’s question. Auto attendants save time for both your customers and your business.

How Can an Auto Attendant Improve Your Business?

Studies indicate that 48% of customers find that customer service reps answering calls is unhelpful. An auto attendant is a fantastic feature that improves customer service and avoids being part of this statistic in several ways:

    • Avoids missed calls. You never know who’s calling. Auto attendants help avoid missed calls by picking up even when no employees are available to answer. Data shows that 34% of callers that hang up don’t call back, so catching them on the first try is critical.
    • Appears more professional. Like it or not, appearances count in business. An auto attendant gives your business an air of legitimacy and professionalism to callers. If a phone call is the first contact a potential customer has with your business, an auto attendant can start the relationship off on the right foot.
    • Provides a consistent experience. It’s not always possible for the same person to answer the phone. And even if you do have a dedicated receptionist, the call could still go to voice mail, or the receptionist might not answer with the same greeting and friendly tone every time. An auto attendant provides a consistent experience for callers, and consistency is crucial for good customer experience.
    • Saves money. Auto attendants can save your business money in a couple ways. Since the auto attendant is always there to answer, you don’t need to worry about hiring a receptionist. Many small businesses use auto attendants to replace receptionists. You also don’t need to worry about another employee losing time by answering calls. An automated IVR system increases general productivity and efficiency since calls are routed right where they need to go.
    • Personalizes your greeting. Auto attendants allow you to customize the greeting, menu options, and other message content to suit the situation and context.


Is an Auto Attendant Difficult to Set Up and Maintain?

Most auto attendants, including Frontier’s, provide simple tools to set up your virtual receptionist. You’ll need to do a few things, though:

    • Outline a call directory for your company. Make a list of all the departments in your company a customer might need to speak to. Go through the departments and assign each a phone number. If there are more than ten (the number of keys on a touch-tone phone,) you may want to give each department a two- or three-digit extension number. This might also make sense if you anticipate adding more departments in the future.
    • Consider specific information customers may need to know about your business. Things like hours of operation, upcoming holiday closures, weekend hours, after-hours telephone number, and street address are useful. These can be assigned a number on the auto attendant directory or added as part of your greeting message.
    • Keep it short and sweet. Overly long greetings and menus can be irritating for customers, and a frustrating experience with an auto attendant can be a major driver for customer turnover. In fact, the biggest complaints about auto attendants are long introductions and too many options. Keep your greetings brief and minimize the number of items in menus to five (or fewer) essentials.
    • Keep your directory updated. As your business grows, you may add additional extensions and departments. Make sure to update your directory as soon as these changes occur. This helps ensure a smooth calling experience for your customers.
    • Change your message as needed. Frontier makes it quick and easy to change your auto attendant greeting and messages, so update them as often as necessary to convey important information or match your business’s growing brand.

If you’re struggling for ideas, follow this sample script, making adjustments as necessary to fit your business’s persona:

Thank you for calling The Acme Tech Company, where “Technology and business come together.” If you know your party’s extension, you may dial it at any time. Otherwise, choose from one of the following options. For Customer Service, press ‘1.’ For Technical Support, press ‘2.’ For our regular business hours, press ‘3.’ For accounting, press ‘4.’ For Purchasing, press ‘5.’ Otherwise, press ‘0’ for the receptionist, or stay on the line and we will assist you.


How Do I Get an Auto Attendant for My Business?

The best way to get an auto attendant set up for your business is with a VoIP phone system. These phone systems operate over the internet rather than traditional phone lines, which makes it easy to implement an auto attendant and its advanced features without any major expenses or fuss.

If you have a traditional PBX or cloud PBX phone system for your business, you can still implement an auto attendant, though the process tends to be more involved, and you’re more likely to require additional help and support from your provider.

Once you decide on a VoIP or PBX auto attendant, the only thing left to do is pick a plan and get started. Frontier Business VoIP has plans that scale to any small or medium-sized business, with technical support available 24 hours a day.

An auto attendant is just one of the powerful, enterprise-level features Frontier Business can provide for your small business. Frontier has cutting-edge infrastructure and strong partnerships with the industry’s leading equipment manufacturers—in fact, Frontier is Mitel’s #1 partner in North America.

Frontier is an excellent choice for businesses looking for quality phone features, including Skype for Business, on a budget.



48% of respondents say phone is their preferred method for contacting a business for the first time.

45% of consumers initiated a purchase over the phone in the last year.

The top pain points reported with auto attendants are long introductions (29%) and too many options (28%), suggesting that businesses should strive for brevity and simplicity in greeting and menu design.