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Bad Auto Attendant Design Repels Customers, Study Finds

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Customers reaction to a bad auto attendant experience Anyone who has ever jabbed the zero key repeatedly in the hopes of connecting to a real human knows that not all auto attendant designs are created equal. A poorly-designed auto attendant system can chase away customers -- as many as 42 percent, according to a new report by telecom software review website Software Advice, a Gartner company

The report was based on surveys and interviews with hundreds of small-to-medium businesses throughout the United States.  

The secret to good auto attendant design? They have to be simple, succinct, and clear. Otherwise, you risk the technological equivalent of having spinach stuck between your teeth. You might not notice it, but it could be driving people away.

The top takeaways are brilliantly simple, and can have huge effects on your bottom line:

  1. Your introduction should be kept short and sweet -- no more than three seconds. By cutting out generic time-wasters such as “menu options may have changed,” you get straight to the point. And customers appreciate it: as many as 58 percent of the study’s participants preferred introductions no longer than three seconds long.

  2. Make a great first impression. Almost half (48 percent) of consumers prefer to make initial contact with a local business over the phone, so your auto attendant system is on the front lines of their user experience. As the adage goes: You can’t make a first impression twice, so start your relationship off in the right foot -- or risk losing customers to the competition. After a frustrating experience with a bad auto attendant system, a whopping 42 percent of consumers will readily take their business elsewhere.

  3. Keep your menu options short. The most common complaints are overly long introductions and too many menu options.  A small, manageable number of menu options (say, five to eight) strikes the right balance for customers.

  4. Know how competition within your industry is leveraging this increasingly user-friendly technology. The use of auto attendants varies greatly from industry to industry.  Adoption is currently high in retail (83 percent) and banking (80 percent), while low in real estate (20 percent) and accounting (15 percent).  

ShoreTel's Virtual Auto Attendant provides the power and flexibility needed to operate an effective auto attendant service. A good design for your system should incorporate the features recommended by the Software Advice report:  short, informative prompts and a focused number of options.  Following these principles, your system should excel at placing your customers in contact not only with a human, but with the correct human, and quickly.