The Auto Attendant Dial-by-Name

Christian Stredicke
CEO of Vodia Networks

In many countries you don’t need it and there is not even a good translation available. But in others you can’t live without it: The auto attendant.

The overall idea of the auto attendant is that there is friendly person at the front desk who is taking care about all visitors and employees as they enter the company. Many companies actually have such a person, the switchboard operator. However, with increasing cost pressure and improving technology, Mrs. Robot is taking this job over.

If a caller does not know what extension number the called party has, Mrs. Robot can look that up for the caller. The telephone dial pad has numbers behind the letters (e.g. 1 also means A, B or C). By entering the name on the dial pad, the auto attendant can figure out which extension the caller wants to talk to and put the caller through. In many cases that’s okay. If the extension has recorded a name, then the auto attendant will use that name for listing options when the search has returned a reasonably small amount of candidates. However certain numbers like the boss or some VIP employees should not be dial able like this. Then the auto attendant can keep a list of persons that cannot be called directly.

A feature that we recently “discovered” is to put the auto attendant automatically into the dial-by-name mode. For that you need to put the magic word “start” into the trigger for the dial-by-name feature. Then the caller does not have to select any option, instead can start searching for names immediately. In the 5.0.4 release, we did take a 2nd look at this feature. Now the caller is pretty much “boxed in” the dial-by-name mode.

Other features like the direct destinations are now also possible in the “boxed-in” mode. For example, the caller can change the language or go to a direct destination. Also, if the caller does not press any key at all, the call gets disconnected if the admin tells the auto attendant to do so. This is useful when using analog lines which have problems with detecting hang-up.

Needless to say, the auto attendant will include the user’s cell phone when calling the extension also in the dial-by-name mode. The caller will not be aware about this. The person being called might be fishing out in the woods, and if the background noise permits, nobody needs to be aware about this.