Imagine that Arthur Miller had not written Death Of A Salesman, but instead wrote Death Of A Sale. In the opening scene an eager customer places a phone call to one of several competing suppliers, only to hear after ten rings those two dreaded words: “Please hold.”  What unfolds is a tragedy played out in three acts of agonizing waiting: Patience, Anger and Utter Despair.  And when the curtain comes down, the sale has been lost and perhaps the customer, too.

This is theater that no business owner ever wants to see, and it doesn’t have to happen. With Auto Attendant, long call-holding periods, botched call routing and lost messages are easily avoided.  Existing customers get the good service they expect.  Prospects are made to feel confident they have called a company that is on the ball.

Sometimes referred to as a “virtual receptionist”, Auto Attendant is a business telephone system feature that without human intervention routes calls to extensions or departments, plays music on hold, records voicemail messages and sends voicemail messages to email.  It can also manage advanced call-forwarding options and send faxes.

When implemented properly, what Auto Attendant does best is save customer relationships and gives businesses a better chance to convert prospects into customers.

Most Auto Attendant systems offer a simple menu that can be customized to the needs of an organization (“for sales, press 1, for customer service, press 2”, for example) to facilitate its use by callers. It may also allow callers to reach an operator or receptionist by pressing a particular number, usually “0”.  Auto Attendant systems have options that provide for time of day routing of calls and weekend, holiday after hours routing. Typically a system allows for a normal, customized, greeting and routing steps for use during ordinary business hours, and a different greeting and routing steps for non-business days and holiday hours.

As a rule, Auto Attendant is included in a company’s phone system such as a PBX (private branch exchange), though some services allow for the installation of Auto Attendant as a stand-alone, interactive voice response program interacting with callers to route calls to desired extensions.

When deployed within a PBX, Auto Attendant is integrated with the automatic call distributor, or ACD, a device that distributes incoming calls to a specific bank of employee-manned terminals. It is often part of a computer/telephone integration system and generally found in offices that receive heavy volumes of incoming phone calls from those who have no need to talk to a particular person but wish to speak to any staff member equipped to serve them.

Auto Attendant services can be integrated with interactive voice response (IVR) systems and thus can route calls to mobile devices, VoIP virtual phones, other automated attendant IVR systems or other locations employing land-line phones.  Auto Attendant can also be used in combination with Direct Inward Dial (DID) by providing a directory of users from which callers can seek a particular individual.  In this way, a caller can search for someone by name and be transferred seamlessly to the correct extension.

So, if you don’t want to see those agonizing acts of Death Of A Sale play out in your place of business, consider the value of an effective Auto Attendant system and how it can help maintain customer relationships, make it easier to accommodate prospective customers and ultimately lead to more business.

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