Are you looking to improve customer experience at your contact centre? Or perhaps you want to better support agents in handling large volumes of customer enquiries and maximise their time? An automated answering service could help. 

While an automated answering system can’t replace your agents, it can help you grow your contact centre business through increased capacity, better management of customer relations and improved processes. Here’s RingCentral’s guide to using automatic answering systems in contact centres.

What is an automated answering system?

An automated answering system allows your contact centre to answer phone calls without a customer service agent on the line. Instead of your team answering calls, an automated phone answering machine uses self-service and advanced automated AI to answer.

An automated answering system is different to an automated calling service or an automated phone call service as it manages inbound calls rather than outbound calls.

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How to set up an automated phone system

An automated phone answering system can be set up to manage the needs of your specific business – whether you need to take payments or direct calls across teams. 

Your business could use an automated answering system simply as a digital receptionist or for automated telephone order taking. Larger businesses could use an automated answering system to guide customers through a series of menus directing them to a specific agent.

Most automated phone answering systems work the same way, by: 

  1. Answering the incoming call – the automated system uses your existing phone number(s) to receive the call.
  2. Playing a pre-recorded greeting message – this can be tailored to your business needs. 
  3. Asking callers for their intent via a menu of options. This can be managed by:
  • Interactive Voice Response (IVR) – which allows customers to speak their choice, rather than push a button on their phone.
  • Asking the customer to push buttons on their phone. 

The system can then provide information as requested, transfer the caller or use call deflection to manage call volumes. 

An automated system uses AI digital routing – or machine learning – which automatically understands a message’s intent and routes the customer. AI routing can recognise different languages as well as customer intent, text semantics for different options, and other information provided by the customer. 

The automated phone answering system can be programmed to provide alternate digital ways of communicating instead of waiting in a queue.

A mobile automated system, or an automated answering service app, can also include chatbots to manage simple or common questions, and to gather information upfront such as order numbers, contact details and contact history. This allows the call to be transferred to your agent with the full information required to handle the call.

The benefits of an automated voice answering system

By using an automated voice answering system your business can save on customer service costs, speed up response times, and manage more calls. The benefits of automated voice answering systems include:

  • Professional call answering – an automated phone system can be used to tailor the customer’s first point of contact to your business standard, ensuring that calls are answered promptly and professionally. 
  • Tailored systems – whether your business needs an automated voice answering system to take payments, make an appointment, or handle complex technical queries, your system can be designed to meet your needs.
  • Cost savings – an automated voice answering system allows your contact centre to collect customer information and deal with simple queries, without having to use an agent. Calls are directed to your team only when the AI cannot answer the query, reducing agent time on each call and allowing more customers to be processed through your contact centre. 
  • Reducing missed calls or sales – by managing calls that do not need an agent, your contact centre can make time for more important calls.
  • Set wait time expectations – your system can inform customers how long the queue will take or how many people are waiting to be connected. 
  • Simplicity – an automated voice system can help your customers get directly to the agent they require by asking a series of simple questions upfront. 
  • Reduce customer waiting times – automated phone answering systems have multiple options for routing calls. This will allow your customers to quickly and easily complete their transaction or reach the team or department that they need to speak to, reducing time spent in queues. 
  • Customer service when you need it – with an automated answering system your customer service can be live, whenever your customers need it, helping your business work 24/7 and across time zones. 
  • Provide an additional sales opportunity – an automated phone system can provide updates or direct customers to special offers on your website.
  • Integration – your contact centre can be integrated with the best automated answering service app for you and can work with remote teams enabling your business to take advantage of taking advantage of contact centre as a service (CCaaS).

Managing the weaknesses of an automated phone answering service

An automated answering system does have some potential weaknesses that are worth keeping in mind. These include: 

  • Technology outages – while technology has improved significantly, it can still fail. IVR needs to manage accents, language and semantics, calls can still be lost, and chatbots fail to direct people to the correct agent. 
  • Customer frustration – if the system is too complicated, calls may be lost within the system, especially if your automated system leads to a message telling callers your business is closed. 
  • An initial lack of human contact can anonymise your business – many customers do not like automatic systems and want to speak to a person.

However, the benefits of using an automated phone answering system outweigh any issues you may find. IVR is improving its voice recognition all the time, and chatbots can now replicate human contact. Your automated system will be designed to direct customers through your contact centre to an agent as quickly and as simply as possible, significantly reducing the potential for customers to be frustrated and calls lost.

How to get an automated phone system with RingCentral

An automated answering system won’t replace your agents in the contact centre. However, automation can make it much easier for you to grow your business. If you’re considering going further and using a business phone answering service, RingCentral can help. Find out more about our inbound customer contact centre.

Originally published Jul 22, 2021, updated Mar 13, 2024

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