Chapter 15. The Automated Attendant

I don’t answer the phone. I get the feeling whenever I do that there will be someone on the other end.

Fred Couples

In many PBXs it is common to have a menuing system in place to answer incoming calls automatically, and allow callers to direct themselves to various extensions and resources in the system through menu choices. This is known in the telecom industry as an automated attendant (AA). An auto attendant normally provides the following features:

  • Transfer to extension

  • Transfer to voicemail

  • Transfer to a queue

  • Play message (e.g., “our address is…”)

  • Connect to a submenu (e.g., “for a listing of our departments...”)

  • Connect to reception

  • Repeat choices

For anything else—especially if there is external integration required, such as a database lookup—an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) would normally be needed.

An Auto Attendant Is Not an IVR

In the open source telecom community, you will often hear the term IVR used to describe an automated attendant. However, in the telecom industry, an IVR is distinct from an auto attendant. For this reason, when you are talking to somebody about any sort of telecom menu, you should ensure that you are talking about the same thing. To a telecom professional, the term IVR implies a relatively complex and involved development effort (and subsequent costs), whereas an automated attendant is a simple and inexpensive thing that is common to most PBXs.

In this chapter, we talk about building an automated attendant. In Chapter 17 ...

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