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The pros and cons of auto-attendant software

auto-attendant software

In essence, an auto-attendant is a type of automated call answering system that can help to route callers to the right person or department. Large organisations are well known for using auto-attendants. They are a quick and affordable way to manage a large volume of callers without employing a potentially vast number of receptionists or call centre agents to filter and forward callers to the correct extension.

When you call a company with an auto-attendant, you will be greeted with a self-serve menu. You might, for example, be asked to – press 1 for the sales department; press 2 for aftercare; etc.

Auto-attendants can also allow callers to carry out basic tasks or transactions such as making a payment; without even having to speak to someone.

As a business owner, if you were to use auto-attendant software, then as soon as your callers dialled a particular number to reach your company, they would be greeted by a recorded message, then the appropriate menu options. This level of automation has several advantages and disadvantages.

What are the advantages of using an auto-attendant?

As outlined above, the message would give the caller options to choose from in terms of numbers to press to reach a specific department or individual. This self-serve menu provides a cost-effective way to route callers to different extensions. It can simplify many processes for both the caller and the organisation using the auto-attendant. In addition, auto-attendants have existed and been used extensively by large corporations and banks for several decades, so callers usually expect to be greeted by one.

If a business is taking hundreds, or even thousands of calls per day, auto-attendant software is a highly cost-effective way to manage call volumes, route calls, and streamline the whole process. The alternative of hiring a call centre agent to answer each initial call would be drastically more expensive to set up and maintain. In addition, when dealing with certain transactions, such as paying bills, callers will often just want to get the job done as soon as possible.

The importance of a human touch

When it comes to the drawbacks of using an auto-attendant, the most obvious is that it lacks a human touch. As the world becomes increasingly automated, people report feeling more isolated. Adding a human touch and the warmth of a human-to-human interaction can be a distinguishing factor with unexpected power.

We currently live in an era of hyper-personalisation, with the likes of Google, Amazon and Facebook knowing more about us than our best friends probably do. This data and tracking allow the brands we interact with and purchase from to provide hyper-personalized experiences. Yet, the customisation and personal greetings that we receive from a faceless eCommerce platform or search engine often feel unauthentic. In many ways, we can feel less engaged and more suspicious of a brand that never reciprocates the information and openness they receive from us.

According to an article written by Adam Waytz for the Harvard Business Review, states that:

“Smart organisations, rather than continuing to automate their services at all costs, would be wise to understand the ways that human presence creates value in the mind of consumers.”

Waytz goes on to surmise that:

“Sensing human intention at the root of the interaction is critical because people tend to equate intentionality with purpose and meaning.”

Callers, customers and people, in general, will remember how you and your company made them feel. In some instances, using an auto-attendant is acceptable. In others, calling a local small business, for example, speaking to a human, will create a much better first impression than interacting with a piece of software.

It is important to bear in mind that your reputation as an entrepreneur and business will correlate directly, in almost all instances, to how you make your clients, customers and callers feel. Forming human relationships from the first interaction is crucial for many small businesses, and this is why, in many instances, a telephone answering service is superior to an auto-attendant.

Why use a telephone answering service?

For many businesses, using a telephone answering service is an excellent alternative to using an auto-attendant. An auto-attendant can be highly effective when organisations are experiencing thousands of calls per day and have call centres full of agents dealing with queries, sales and aftercare.

A highly professional and polite receptionist can provide a much warmer and personalised service for businesses with smaller call volumes than an auto-attendant. For example, someone might want to get in touch with your business quickly while on a break at work. If, in this instance, the caller is greeted by an auto-attendant, they are likely to feel frustrated and annoyed.

However, if the call is answered promptly by a polite receptionist, who can answer basic queries, take a message or route the caller straight to the appropriate person, the caller is likely to feel that their call is appreciated and valued.

Reduce interruptions & increase productivity

One significant advantage of having a telephone answering service with a virtual receptionist is that the receptionist can take messages and filter out unwanted calls.

With the number of spam calls increasing in recent years, busy entrepreneurs can receive several unwanted calls every day.

These unwanted calls may not seem like a huge issue, but scientific research has shown that a single interruption takes around 25 minutes to recover and refocus from entirely. In other words, when an interruption has been dealt with, it takes nearly half an hour to get back into the swing of things with the task at hand. In addition, it has been shown that interruptions cause a significant increase in stress, anxiety and errors.

Using a telephone answering service is a cost-effective way to work smarter, and not necessarily harder. With fewer interruptions, you will get more work done in the same amount of time. The fact that you won’t have to listen out for your phone constantly will also mean that you can focus on the task at hand.

With an out-of-hours answering service, you can also enjoy your leisure time without having to keep your phone nearby. You can literally switch off and let your virtual receptionists handle any business calls on your behalf.

Never miss a business call

Whilst unwanted calls are highly annoying and can cause a bottleneck in productivity, missing calls is not an option for many businesses. A missed call may be a missed sales opportunity, so even if you want to get the core of your work done, missing calls is not a good idea.

Our research suggests that around one in three business calls are missed. A missed call creates a bad impression for your business and frustrates the caller. Callers are unlikely to leave a voice message and will often go on to call a direct competitor.

With a telephone answering service, all of your calls will be answered promptly. Here at Moneypenny, we give you a dedicated receptionist who will handle calls just like an in-house, full-time employee, but for a fraction of the cost.

If you opt for an out-of-hours answering service, you can also capture calls around the clock, regardless of the time of day or night. With the number of shift workers increasing year on year, contacting a business outside of regular working hours can provide a significant competitive advantage for your business. In addition to shift workers, people working normal hours will often prefer to contact businesses in the evening. For example, a working parent may find the best time to contact a company in the evening, after the children have been put to bed.

Using a professional telephone answering service provides an authentic and personal interaction for your callers. In addition, it allows you to enjoy the peace of mind that comes with knowing that you’ll never miss a business call.

UK-based receptionists

With Moneypenny’s Telephone Answering service, all of our receptionists are based right here in the UK. This allows our receptionists to build rapport with your callers and build a relationship from the first interaction. This level of engagement is not possible with auto-attendant software.

A cost-effective business phone system

Moneypenny’s Telephone Answering service, covers all angles regarding a small business telecommunications system. You can use your mobile phone as your primary business phone but still create the impression that you have invested extensively in your phone system. With thousands of local, national and freephone telephone numbers to choose from, you’ll be sure to create a professional image on your website, business cards and company literature.

With our award-winning Telephone Answering app, you can even can make outbound calls using your mobile phone from your business number – keeping your personal number private and ensuring customers always receive a professional impression.

The app also allows you to set a VIP caller status to particular telephone numbers, and you can quickly access any messages sent to you by your receptionist from the app’s home screen.

With Moneypenny, there are no lengthy contracts, and you can enjoy a free trial without providing any payment details. Set-up typically takes under 24 hours, and you can enjoy all of the benefits of an in-house receptionist and an office phone system for a fraction of the cost.

For more information on how to start your free trial click here.

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