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Planning Your Automated Attendant

The first step in customizing the Automated Attendant is to plan the system. You need to decide how the Automated Attendant can best serve your organization. Do you want Time-dependent greetings? Which options should you offer callers? Should you have multiple levels of Automated Attendants? What should each level offer to the caller? Should you use multiple Automated Attendants?

Voice Prompts: Greetings, the Main Menu and Submenus
Callers to the Automated Attendant hear a series of recorded messages. Although a caller cannot notice any division, Automated Attendant prompts comprise three structural components:

Time-dependent Greetings You can create and schedule any number of different messages, each up to 5 minutes long, that are time-dependent. Time-dependent Greetings are optional. If one or more time-dependent greetings are enabled, the caller hears the active one first, and then the main menu prompt. The system clock and the greeting schedule control when the system changes from one greeting to the next.

The Main Menu If you use Time-dependent Greetings, the main menu prompt follows the greeting. The main menu prompt should describe all of the Automated Attendant options. The main menu prompt can be up to 5 minutes long.

Submenus An Automated Attendant main menu can branch to submenus of choices for the caller. This enables you to keep the main menu brief, and to expand the choices through the use of submenus that branch off from each main menu option. Each submenu should have a prompt that informs the caller of the option that each dialpad key provides.

You can record voice prompts in any of these components. You can mix Time-dependent Greetings and main menu and submenu prompts to customize the system to your needs.

Figure 28 - Automated Attendant Greetings, Menus and Prompts

Automated Attendant Examples
The following examples show some typical Automated Attendant systems in block diagram form. Each example shows a different method of using the Time-dependent Greetings, Main Menu prompt and submenu prompts.

Example 1 - No Greetings The figure below shows the simplest configuration. The Time-dependent greetings are disabled; the Main Menu contains all of the prompts. In Example 1, callers hear the same message no matter what time they call.

Figure 29 - No Greetings, All Prompts in Main Menu

Example 2 - Three Greetings and a Main Menu The figure below shows a simple Automated Attendant which uses time-dependent greetings to provide different messages for different parts of the day.

Figure 30 - Three Time-dependent Greetings and Main Menu

In Figure 30, the morning greeting starts at 8 am and is active until the afternoon greeting takes over at noon. The evening greeting begins at 6 pm. You can provide different services for different times by recording the prompts in the different components, however, the actual button mappings remain the same. For example, a caller who presses 0 after 6 pm would be transferred to the Attendant Console, which would transfer the caller the Attendant Console's voice mail.
Example 3 - Two Greetings and a Main Menu The figure below shows a menu which uses two of the three time-dependent greetings to construct different messages for when the business is open and closed.

Figure 31 - Two Time-dependent Greetings and Main Menu

The example in the above figure uses the afternoon and evening greeting components, but you could use any two components, as long as you specify the appropriate starting times for each component.

Example 4 - Three Greetings and All Prompts in the Greetings The figure below shows an example which uses the Time-dependent Greetings to provide all menu options.

Figure 32 - All Prompt Messages in the Time-dependent Greetings

Example 5 - Three Greetings, a Main Menu and a Submenu
The figure below shows an example which uses the default Time-dependent Greetings, a Main Menu, and a Submenu.

Figure 33 - Three Greetings, a Main Menu and a Submenu

Example 5 uses the default Time-dependent greetings to greet callers according to the time of day. The main menu prompt presents callers with options for reaching the operator, specific departments, or the company directory of names. It also uses a submenu to direct callers to specific sub-groups within the Sales department. Note that the submenu prompt must tell callers the specific keys to press, and these keys must be configured properly. The main menu would be configured to have key 2 map to a Sales submenu. The submenu tree would be configured to have keys 1, 2 and 3 map to hunt groups, and key 4 would be configured for the action Exit Menu.

Menu Options
Whether you record your menu prompts in the greetings or the Main Menu, you must configure the dialpad keys to provide the services the voice prompts describe.
Although you can create up to twelve options (there are twelve different buttons available on a typical telephone dialpad, 0-9, #, and *), most systems limit the choices to no more than five to avoid confusing callers with too many choices. If you need to present more than five options, the use of submenus may be appropriate for your configuration.

You can create an unannounced option for employees by mapping a button without creating a corresponding message to let callers know the choice is available.

The Time-dependent Greetings and Main Menu prompts are just descriptions of the menu options a caller can use. The functionality does not take effect unless you configure the menus and set up the dialpad keys to make sure that forwarding options go to valid extensions. This is done by configuring the Menu Tree for an Automated Attendant. See Configuring Automated Attendant Menus.

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