Auto Attendant vs. Human Receptionist – Which is the Better Choice?

When the auto attendant was first introduced it was something of a novelty, and to some, a worry. As such systems have evolved some people have chosen, often out of financial necessity, to replace a human telephone receptionist with an almost fully automated call answering and call routing auto attendant. But which is the better alternative for a small to midsize business in the 21st century?

To begin answering that question we should look briefly at the points in favor of each option:

Auto Attendant

• They’re Cheaper – Once an auto attendant is configured it does not need training, it does not need lunch breaks and it never loses its temper with difficult callers or has a bad day.

• They Sound Impressive – Many callers associate being greeted by an auto attendant with calling a larger business, so implementing one for use by a small business can help appear larger and more ‘capable’ than a new caller may have assumed. In other words, it can offer a branding boost on a day to day basis.

• They’re Reliable – Auto attendants don’t need sick days or vacations, and they can, if called upon to, work 24/7 without anyone worrying about human rights violations.

Human Receptionists

• They’re Friendlier – It’s not that auto attendants are rude, but even the best of them are rather cold sounding. Humans do tend to prefer to talk to humans, especially when they are seeking help in solving more complex or difficult issues.

• They are Smarter – A good human phone receptionist can often solve many problems and answer many queries without the need to transfer the caller elsewhere, saving them the frustration of getting lost in a press 1 for A, press 2 for B loop when they really don’t know what they need or who they need to speak to.

• They Can Do Other Things – It’s rare these days for a human telephone receptionist to simply sit and answer the phone all day. Instead they complete all kinds of other admin tasks as well, effectively doing double duty.

Getting the Best of Both Worlds

The fact is that even for a small business the best answer to the auto attendant vs. human question is to combine the two to reap the benefits of both. Having an auto attendant answer the call initially, and offer routing for simple things like balance checks or direction and address inquires while offering the option of discussing more complex matters with a friendly human voice really is enjoying the best of both worlds, for both the business and its callers.

Take, for example, the phone system serving a doctor’s office. These days many choose to automate certain simple operations – confirming an appointment, requesting a prescription refill or getting hours and directions – to free up busy office staff to focus on more complicated calls that, in this particularly sensitive environment, really do call for a human touch.

Modern auto attendants and IVRs can be configured on both traditional PBX phone systems and integrated into VOIP systems quickly, efficiently and relatively expensively. They can be customized to match the business’ current needs and easily expanded when those needs change. Oh, and they can also provide a helping hand your hardworking staff will appreciate, another big bonus.

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