Automated attendants are elements of voice processing systems that receive calls from customer, play specific recorded messages for menu options and direct the caller to necessary extension or selected menu option.
Automated attendants are of special use in call centers
They allow callers direct themselves to relevant queue without call center agent interference. What happens is that an automated attendant plays a menu options for callers to choose from, and then the call is directed to the right department or ACD gate.
Earlier standalone automated attendants were common, while these days they are usually integrated into larger voice mail or other VoiP systems used at the call center. In reality, automated attendants became an integrative part of virtual PBX systems and messaging technologies, and are provided inclusive into the voice processing technology suite.
It is voice mail, where call centers get engaged with specialized technologies. Although voice mail systems are being subsumed and integrated into larger VoiP system suites, not all of them are yet alike.
The fundamental processes within voice mail system include receiving calls to separate phone numbers or extensions, playing a greeting message on behalf of the voice mail box owner, and recording the message from the callers. The owner of the voice mail box can play back messages from callers, forward them to other relevant extension, save or delete them.
The role of voice mails in call center operations is different from their application anywhere else. Although the tool and technology can be used in traditional for upper management and call center managers sense, the most extensive use of voice mail is associated with providing callers an opportunity to leave a voice message with some request rather than stay on hold waiting for a call center agent’s answer.
Voice mail can become a crucial tool for small call centers that are tight on budget to hire additional staff or provide extra remunerations to their agents for working after-hours. Voice mail system will accept calls 24/7. However, to get the full benefit from the voice mail system, it needs to include the feature that will alert agents of waiting messages. Otherwise, call center will need to designate agents responsible for returning voice mail calls.
Only few years ago, voice mail was a standalone system that sometimes integrated automated attendants, and was considered to be classic voice processing application. These days, voice mail is integrated into more sophisticated VoiP systems.
The latest ‘screen-based’ developments in voice mail allow call center agents retrieve various kinds of messages, such as voice mails, e-mail, and fax messages, to their computer screen simultaneously. More vendors tend to offer CTI interfaces that allow putting voice mail on desktop computers. Consequently, call center agents get convenient access to various kinds of callers’ and customers’ messages in a unified messaging system. The primary use and aim of ‘screen-based unified messaging’ is to have desktop control over all messages and ability to proceed with them through either computer or phone.
Benefits of screen-based unified messaging system include:
- Ability to retrieve and view voice messages on computer, while being on the phone;
- Lack of need to install sophisticated voice mail hardware;
- Ability to do necessary configurations;
- Ability to move and process data and all types of messages across the networks;
- Lack of necessity for phone pads to make relevant commands.
Previously, controlling on-hold calls, call transferring and conferencing through telephone application programming interface (TAPI) required telephone-oriented software running on systems either connected to ISDN or proprietary digital phone lines.
Unified messaging application gives a notice on incoming voice call in a pop-up window on a call center agent’s PC and provides all available information about the call. With simple click of a mouse, the agent can play a greeting message, ask for caller’s identity, transfer the call to appropriate extension if necessary, or play a message asking the caller to leave a message without answering.
Call centers are forced to change and, thus, integrate various types of messaging into one large PBX system. Nevertheless, it is expected that unified messaging applications of next generation will focus more on serving call centers’ needs.