Making Your Small Business Sound Big With the Right Auto Attendant

Posted by Tristan Barnum on Aug 30, 2013

I recently came across a great writeup on the Software Advice blog that breaks down How to Sound Like a Fortune 500 Company With Your Company’s Auto Attendant and had some extra tips geared especially toward small businesses with fewer than 10 employees. 

It seems the smaller the business, the bigger they like to sound, but sounding big is often conflated with complicated and overly wordy auto attendants. The IRS is big right? You know who has the most horrible and complicated auto attendant I’ve ever come across? The IRS.

small business auto attendant
Image courtesy of Flickr user NNECAPA

Give them an experience they remember because your auto attendant solved for the person on the other end of the phone.

Remember the purpose of a good auto attendant- it’s to satisfy the reason they'’re calling. Do they need directions? Get them there with minimal fuss. Do they need to pay a bill? That should definitely be painless!

The Golden Rule of Auto Attendants

Sounding big should not be the goal, but a side effect of a great auto attendant. Small companies grow into big companies by serving their customers, so remember to build it for them, not for you.

The reason the IRS auto-attendant is so bad is because they built it for themselves, to make their lives easier, not to get the callers where the callers want to go. And they can get away with this because there’s no competition. If they give me a bad experience, I can’t take my business elsewhere, I can’t go pay my taxes to another company. But your customers can, so every little thing counts, and I’d argue that your auto attendant is not a little thing, it’s a virtual welcome mat on the front step of your business and is an opportunity to make a great impression.

So without futher ado, here are my extra tips, based on the original post, that you can apply today if you’re a small company trying to sound big, while respecting the people calling in to your business.

State the most important information right away

Indeed! Another thing to keep in mind is to pay attention to the format of that information. Imagine you’re listening to an auto attendant and sort of zoning out, or maybe you’re using Voxox for iPhone in a noisy airport. You hear, “blah blah blah for accounting.” Your ears perked up at the word “accounting” but you missed the number you’re supposed to press! So reverse the format: “blah accounting (ears perk up) press 6. Problem solved!

Keep choices, short, simple, and easy to understand 

A little note about what makes something easy to understand; using jargon in your auto attendant is at best, confusing and at worst, annoying. Stay away from acronyms too. No one knows what your QRP department is, likewise your Happiness Office. No matter what your Human Resources department likes to be called, your callers are unfamiliar with this language, so don’t use it, no matter how big you think it makes you sound!

List the most-requested options first

Always start with where they’re calling, simply and clearly “Thank you for calling Voxox” and go right into your most popular options. Too often companies think it makes them look bigger to pitch to the caller during this opening greeting. By doing this, you’re just getting in the way of your caller, which makes for a lousy experience. If want to pitch them something, while they’re on hold is the time, and try to make it fun and interesting. Southwest.com does a great job at this, with funny and clever messages that are more interesting than music would be, all while not getting in the way of the caller. 

Use separate extensions to relay detailed information

I couldn’t agree more, just remember to keep it simple and menu items to a minimum, no one wants to dig through 5 levels of an auto attendant to listen to a 5 minute essay on how their products will be shipped.

Don’t list your entire company roster 

My guidline is that if your business has fewer than 8 employees, just make a menu if you’d like them all to be reachable (For Mary, press 1; for Jim press 2...), rather than using a dial by name directory, which will take more time and key presses for your callers to navigate.

Use different greetings for different times 

If you decide to go this route for your small business auto attendant, try this: “Thanks for calling Dr. Farnsworth, our office is closed until 8am.”  It’s a great way to start your auto attendant because it sets 2 expectations- The office is closed so you’re not going to reach a person, and you know when to call back if you need to. 

For more information on Voxox’'s small business phone system solutions, that include auto attendant capabilities like these and more, check out our Hosted PBX. We can build these menus out for you, using best practices like these, and ensure that your auto attendant is projecting the right kind of big company vibe. 

Tags: Top Tip List, Voice Communication, Communication, Business