Customers have a growing number of ways to contact businesses including fax, email, and web-based communication. Despite this, 48% of new customers still prefer to pick up the phone when contacting a business for the first time. As businesses automate more and more of their everyday processes, large call volumes have given rise to the use of auto-attendants.

Auto-attendants tend to generate mixed reactions. On the one hand, they help businesses handle large volumes of incoming phone calls. By acting as a gateway, auto-attendants can quickly and effectively direct customers to the right resource. They also lower staffing costs by reducing the number of live operators that have to be available at any given time.

On the other hand, auto-attendants have a reputation for being complex, cumbersome, and difficult to navigate. When implemented poorly, customers are left feeling unsatisfied and frustrated. It’s not enough to just have an auto-attendant system, but the system has to be designed to be as easy for the customer as possible.

How Auto-Attendants Impact Customer Engagement

Software Advice Inc. performed a study on the impact of auto-attendant design on customer engagement. By surveying customers and small to midsize businesses (SMBs), Software Advice identified several key factors that drive auto-attendant usability. These factors are explained in detail below and include introduction length, menu length, and menu complexity.

A Bad Experience Can Drive Customers Away

As the first point of contact for nearly half of new customers, auto-attendant design is critical. 42% of customers surveyed will take their business to a competitor after a bad experience. Only 22% will try to contact the business again through the same number, or by searching for a different phone or fax number. Only 27% will turn to the web to find alternative contact methods.

Based on this information, auto-attendant design can have a larger impact on generating new customers than website design. Improving your auto-attendant experience can not only attract customers, but it can also improve the loyalty of existing customers.

1. Keep Introductions Short

29% of customers surveyed said that long introductions were the main challenge to using an auto-attendant system. In practice, more than half of SMBs surveyed keep their greetings under 3 seconds. In terms of overall menu length, 93% of SMBs keep their menus under one minute, while 57% keep their menus under 30 seconds. Keeping your auto-attendant experience concise reduces customer fatigue and helps your customers reach their destination faster.

2. Keep Menus Simple

Auto-attendants have to field a wide variety of requests. Over ¼ of the customers surveyed found the number of options to be the top challenge in using auto-attendant systems. Too many options can have a similar effect as long introductions, causing mental fatigue for customers and delaying them from their goal. 59% of SMBs prefer to keep the average number of menu options below 5, while 93% stay below 10.

3. Organization Is Key

Auto-attendants need to be concise. 20% of customers found the primary issue to be insufficient information to make a selection. Another 13% found the main issue to be the placement of the most important options. 8% identified out-of-date menu options as a key drawback. Auto-attendants should be updated periodically to adjust to customer need, but large or frequent changes can alienate or confuse existing users.

Fitting Auto-Attendants Into Your Business

Many industries, especially banking, retail, and property management, rely on auto-attendants for over 80% of their business hour calls. These industries generally use auto-attendants to manage large call volumes and direct customers to specific departments or employees. It’s critical to have an auto-attendant that helps customers navigate quickly, while still providing them with the right resources.

At Layer Seven, we understand the importance of quality auto-attendant setup and design. Give us a call at 619-473-5600 or simply contact us to talk about your phone system, Hosted-VoIP, Hosted PBX or auto-attendant needs.

Key Points:

  • Nearly half of consumers prefer telephone for conducting business

  • Many customers get frustrated by poorly configured auto-attendants

  • Large companies have in-house technicians, stable employee count, and little to no chance of moving

  • Problems with matching PBX size to business growth

  • 42% will go to a competitor after a bad experience

  • 20% go online

  • 14% call back

  • 10% visit in person

  • 8% look for another contact #

  • 7% email

  • Customers leave if impatient - 69% of businesses have greetings less than 5 seconds long, but consumers prefer 3 seconds or less

  • 29% for long introductions

  • 28% for too many options (5 ideal, limit 8)

  • 20% because none of the options applied

  • 13% because the most important options weren’t first

  • 8% because options were out of date

  • 3% other

  • Businesses suffer more from bad phone service than having a round-the-clock service