Telephony 101: Auto Attendant

A common misconception is that an Auto Attendant is a very simple kind of inbound Interactive Voice Response(IVR). Alison Smith notes in her article 15 Commandments of IVR that "IVR" seems to be a catch-all term which applies to a device which automatically transfers the caller to an extension without the intervention of an operator - this is actually an "Auto Attendant". IVR is much more than this. Let's look a little deeper into the real meaning of each term.

Auto Attendant
In telephony, an Auto Attendant allows callers to be automatically transferred to an extension without the intervention of an operator. Many Auto Attendants will offer a simple menu system (i.e. "For sales, press 1, for service, press 2," etc.). An Auto Attendant may also allow a caller to reach a live operator by choosing a menu option. An Auto Attendant serves a very specific purpose of replacing live operators and routing calls. In addition to its main purpose, Auto Attendants have the ability to provide different greetings based on time of day and day of the week. They can also support multiple languages and touch tones as well as voice recognition.

Interactive Voice Response (IVR)
In comparison, an IVR offers the functionality of an Auto Attendant, but also an advanced level of interaction with the caller that an Auto Attendant is not able to provide. An IVR allows a caller tointeract with the system. This means callers can maintain bank accounts, schedule appointments, or even make purchases using their telephone. From a company's perspective, benefits of an IVR system would include the ability to retrieve call center statistics and maintain a larger customer base without an increase in staff. And an IVR system can grow as you grow. Control, cost savings, and scalability are benefits of an IVR system that a simple Auto Attendant cannot compete with.

How does IVR work? IVR is a technology that allows a computer to detect voice and dual-tone multi-frequency signaling (DTMF) keypad inputs. In telecommunications, IVR allows customers to access a company's database via a telephone keypad or by speech recognition, after which they can service their own inquiries by following the instructions.

Although similar in nature, there are indeed some great differences between the two offerings. If you're interested in learning more about the different kinds of IVR, follow our blog closely. There is more valuable information to come! Inphonite, LLC develops and markets professional, automated phone messaging systems and interactive computer telephony products that improve the profitability and productivity of a wide range of organizations.