Considering how many options people have nowadays to contact businesses, it might feel like there’s not much need for phone support to exist. Are people even using phones to call customer support nowadays? Surprisingly, yes, the vast majority of them still are.
In their Contact Center Satisfaction Index for 2020 report, the CFI Group researched contact center customers’ expectations and satisfaction rates - including asking the respondents about their preferred support channel. The results? 76% of respondents said they prefer using the good old phone line. As for other channels,
- 20% people said they prefer to use emails
- 14% picked live chat
- 10% opted for using online contact-forms
- 6% said they mainly use social media
This makes it pretty clear that a need for efficient phone support is unlikely to disappear in the near future. As anyone who has ever called a support line can attest to, reaching out to the right person on the first call is no mean feat though. After waiting for several minutes on hold or listening to a busy signal, it might turn out that the contacted company still uses a “whoever answers the phone first” approach and that the person reached isn’t even who the caller wanted to speak to.
Having a receptionist who can greet callers, answer simple questions, and route the callers to the correct department or person is a slightly better option. However, they can still handle only one call at a time.
However, what if you hired a virtual receptionist that could handle hundreds of calls at the same time while guiding every single one of them to the correct agent without missing any? The name of that virtual receptionist is “auto attendant.”
What is an auto attendant?
An auto attendant is the well-known “For sales, press 1“ menu system through which callers can be quickly directed to the person who is most suitable to answer their questions or issues. After a caller picks a menu option from the available choices, the auto attendant either puts them into the queue or connects them directly to a suitable agent.
Besides routing callers, an auto attendant can also greet and inform them about the current situation in the contact center like new office hours. If a customer reaches out to the company outside office hours or during a holiday, the auto attendant can also ask them to leave a voice message.
Sounds exactly like a typical receptionist, right? But while a human receptionist works only during office hours and might sometimes become overwhelmed with the number of calls, an auto attendant can work 24/7 and take care of hundreds of calls at once without ever needing a break.
What are the main benefits of using an auto attendant?
No matter the size of your business or the industry you operate in, your company can gain a lot from “hiring” an auto attendant as your own receptionist. What exactly?
#1 Visible savings
Besides taking a lot of time, hiring a human receptionist can also rack up your costs quite fast. For smaller businesses, paying for their salary and benefits might be simply too much for the business to handle. With an auto attendant, you don’t have to worry about not having enough staff to handle all calls during peak hours or holidays either.
Auto attendants are available straight away as a part of a contact center platform subscription (in CloudTalk, even on the lowest priced plan) with no additional costs to you. All you need to do is to purchase a contact center subscription, configure the auto attendant properly, and they will be ready to start working straight away.
#2 Improves agents’ productivity
When your agents have dozens of tasks to take care of during their work days day, every minute counts. And yet, how much time per day do they waste on passing calls from one agent to another or answering questions about office hours or company location?
An auto attendant can make a massive difference here. As callers will be swiftly routed to the correct agent or department, it means fewer calls that need to be transferred and less time that your agents require to answer each question or issue.
An auto attendant can also play various messages to your callers, such as informing them about office hours or a new business location, eliminating the need for them to call agents for such information. This both saves your agents time (which they can spend on more complex issues) and lowers their overall workload, as well as taking a lot of stress off their shoulders.
#3 Much better customer experience
Besides having to wait a long time on hold, what callers hate most about calling a phone support line is being passed from agent to agent and having to repeat themselves. An auto attendant can solve this problem easily by guiding the caller to the correct department straight away. It might sometimes be the case that a caller picks the wrong option or their issue is too complicated for one agent to handle, of course. But in most cases, a routing feature can noticeably speed up the process of connecting a caller to the right person and getting their issue solved during the first call - and that’s one of the things they want most.
But that’s not all.
While a live receptionist only works during office hours, an auto attendant works 24/7 - including during close of business, holidays, and weekends. At times when your agents are unavailable to take calls, an auto attendant can take care of customers instead. An auto attendant can, for example, inform callers that the office is closed, state the business hours during which agents will be available to take calls, and also ask the customer to leave a voicemail so that an agent can contact them back.
#4 Showing a professional Image
Finally, “hiring” an auto attendant can have a very positive effect on how callers perceive your brand. Receiving many missed or abandoned calls doesn’t only mean losing business opportunities, but also leaving your callers frustrated about being unable to contact you. An auto attendant makes sure that all calls (even those outside of business hours, as mentioned above) are answered and all customers are dealt with. If they know you are reachable whenever needed and can quickly give the necessary help, customers will be far more confident in your brand and see you in a much better light.
What’s more, an auto attendant won’t have a “bad day” - no matter what time of the day it receives calls or how many it has to answer at any given moment, it will always greet callers in the same way and show them the shortest possible way to reach a suitable agent.
How can you use an auto attendant to improve customer satisfaction?
While the role of an auto attendant is to take some workload off your agents' shoulders while boosting customer satisfaction with your exceptional service, improper set-up can cause your callers to become angry and frustrated instead.
When you are adding an auto attendant feature to your contact center, you need to keep an eye on a couple of factors that might significantly impact how your callers perceive the automatic helper.
- The first impression your callers have of your company is the most important, so make sure that both the greeting and messages sound professional and natural rather than robotic. The latter might cause callers to think they won’t be able to reach a human agent and thus abandon the call.
- Keep your menu simple. If they have to listen to several menu options before hearing one they are interested in, callers might become fed-up and end the call instead. A good idea here is to put the most commonly used options first for easy access.
- One of the options you should include early is to reach a live agent straight away, for people who either don’t want to or can't use the auto attendant feature.
- In the script, start by describing the menu option rather than its number as this is much more important information for callers.
- If your callers can pick a language option in the auto attendant menu, include this information early so that callers can make a choice without first listening to a whole menu they can;t understand.
- While many companies use hold time to promote their latest offers, playing a promotional message right at the start can annoy callers. It’s a much better idea to play promotional messages on sub-menus, such as if a caller wants to reach the sales department.
Even with the increased number of support channels that customers have at their disposal nowadays, most of them still stick with making phone calls because they are the fastest method. And by helping callers reach suitable agents for their situation and solving problems quickly, you will show yourself off as a reliable company that puts customers’ needs first. And this might be just what you need to stand out from the competition.
Adding an auto attendant that can provide relevant and helpful information to your callers while working hard to save their precious time is a great step towards building a reputation for reliability and exceptional customer support. If you’re ready to try out an auto attendant yourself and see what one can do for your business, try CloudTalk today! An auto attendant is just one of the many features you can use in CloudTalk to make your customers happier.