Using an Automated Attendant or a Receptionist in Your Office

With its AA options, Cisco CME can provide a fully automated front end to calls coming into a small office. All IP phone extensions, the system's voice mail pilot number (the number called to access the voice mail application), and general information such as location, business hours, and driving directions can all be accessed via the AA menu choices. However, many small businesses choose to enhance their customer relationships with a receptionist instead of presenting an AA menu to their callers. For maximum flexibility, both modes of operation can be used. A receptionist can answer calls during normal business hours, and an AA can direct after-hours calls or can be used as a backup if the receptionist is unable to answer the phone.

When deploying an AA in an office, you must first decide how to handle calls into the office, both during business hours and after hours. Next, craft the Cisco CME call routing features, the AA menus, and the digit manipulation done by the Cisco CME system to achieve the desired call routing. Cisco CME call routing capabilities depend in part on how the PSTN trunks are configured and what digit information the PSTN delivers.

Calls to the Main Office Number

For a business with direct inward dial (DID) service, the only calls typically answered by an AA or receptionist are the general calls to the main office number. DID calls are switched automatically to the extension number that the caller dials. For example, extension 3001's PSTN DID number is 222-555-3001, so whenever this number is called, the IP phone for extension 3001 rings automatically without AA or human assistance. DID call routing makes sense for a business such as a lawyers' office, where each lawyer must be individually reached by clients and the DID PSTN phone number appears on the lawyer's business card.

Cisco CME's default operation is to switch calls automatically to the dialed extension (via dial peer matching), provided that dialed digits (DNIS) are available from the PSTN for the call. However, even with DID service, it is still possible to redirect all or certain calls to an AA or receptionist by doing digit manipulation on the dialed digits if you prefer this call routing.

Many small businesses might not desire the cost of DID PSTN service because of either size (the business is too small) or the type of business they conduct. For example, a small charity or restaurant's incoming phone business is of a general nature and can be handled equally well by any employee answering the phone. For these types of businesses, multiple general PSTN lines make more sense.

Calls to multiple general PSTN lines can also be directed to either an AA or receptionist. Or all calls can simply ring on the multiple line appearances (Line 1, Line 2, and so on) on the phones and be answered by any employee at any phone. It is also possible that these PSTN lines appear on one phone onlythe receptionist's phoneand that the receptionist then transfers the call to the appropriate extension. All calls not answered directly by employees via these methods must be answered by either a receptionist or an AA.

If you decide that only an AA is required in an office, simply configure all main office PSTN calls to terminate on the AA pilot number. As soon as the AA answers the call, callers can use the dial-by-number or dial-by-name features to reach the extension or service of their choice.

If you decide that a receptionist is required, configure all main office PSTN calls to terminate on the receptionist's extension. The receptionist can then transfer the call to the extension of the employee or group the caller wants to contact. If you want to use the AA to handle calls as a backup to the receptionist, or as an after-hours mechanism, it is possible to call-forward-no-answer (CFNA) the receptionist's extension to the AA.

Note

If the receptionist's phone CFNAs to the AA, unanswered calls cannot be directed to a personal voice mailbox, with the result that the receptionist cannot have voice mail. This situation can be circumvented in one of two ways:

  • Define a separate private extension for the receptionist that forwards to personal voice mail when not answered. Then define a different public extension for the main office calls that forwards to the AA if not answered. Both extensions appear on the receptionist's phone, but different types of calls are directed to each extension, and they have different CFNA destinations.
  • CFNA the receptionist's phone to the AA and then define an AA menu branch where a caller can choose to leave a message for the business. Define a Cisco UE general delivery mailbox (GDM) for this purpose, and configure it to provide a message waiting indicator (MWI) on the receptionist's phone. The definition and use of GDMs are discussed in Chapter 10.

 

Call Routing Considerations for AA Versus a Receptionist

In addition to the business decisions for call routing covered in the preceding section, you also have to consider Cisco CME/UE feature operation when deciding whether to route calls to an AA or a receptionist. These feature considerations are discussed briefly in the following sections. The discussion draws on concepts such as user and group definitions, which are covered in greater detail in Chapter 10, and AA concepts such as dial-by-number and dial-by-name, which are covered later in this chapter.

Using Dial-by-Name to Reach Group Names

Group and personal extensions can be reached via the Cisco UE AA dial-by-number feature or via a receptionist. Group names, however, cannot be reached via the Cisco UE AA dial-by-name featureonly personal names can. Personal names are those associated with the employees in the office. Group names are associated with functions in your office, such as the help desk or the sales or shipping departments.

Reaching a group by name requires one of the following call routing alternatives:

  • A receptionist
  • The caller must know the extension associated with the group
  • A customized AA menu that leads the caller through the available group choices (such as "Press 1 for sales; press 2 for support") and transfers the call to the appropriate extension

Transferred Calls That Forward to Voice Mail

A call arriving at the AA that is subsequently redirected to the chosen extension (by dial-by-number or dial-by-name) may be forwarded to voice mail if the extension is not answered or is busy. In this call scenario, the Cisco UE AA sets the redirected number field appropriately for the call to enter the called person's mailbox.

Consider an example: A PSTN caller dials 444-555-3000, the business's main office number. This call terminates on the Cisco UE AA (for example, 6801 as the AA pilot number), and the caller chooses extension 3001 from the menu. Extension 3001 rings. When it isn't answered, the call is forwarded to voice mail (for example, 6800 as the voice mail pilot number) and enters the voice mailbox associated to Grace Garrett at extension 3001. At this point, 3001 is the number contained in the call's redirected number field when entering voice mail. Therefore, the caller hears Grace's mailbox greeting (for example, "You have reached the desk of Grace Garrett. Please leave a message after the tone.").

Now consider the same call scenario, but with the receptionist answering the call instead of the AA. The PSTN caller dials the main office number, 444-555-3000. The receptionist answers the call and learns that the caller wants to speak to Grace Garrett at extension 3001. The receptionist has two choices when redirecting the call:

  • Transfer the call to the Grace's extension, 3001
  • Transfer the call directly to voice mail (using the voice mail pilot number, 6800)

The first case works exactly like the AA call flow described earlier, and the call enters Grace's voice mailbox. The second case, though, has the redirected number field set to the receptionist's extension, not to extension 3001; therefore, the call does not enter Grace's mailbox, but the receptionist's mailbox instead.

If a receptionist is used to front calls, it is recommended that calls are transferred to the desired extension and not directly to the voice mail pilot number. If the direct transfer method must be implemented, each employee must have an associated phantom directory number (DN) in addition to his or her normal extension. Also, the phantom DN must be associated with the mailbox in the Primary E.164 field of the Cisco UE user definition (you'll read more about this in Chapter 10). In this configuration, the receptionist must transfer calls to the phantom DN for the employee, instead of to his or her normal extension. This phantom DN is then call-forward-all (CFA) to voice mail. This configuration is shown in Figure 9-1.

Figure 9-1. Transferring a Call Directly to Voice Mail

Following the lower set of arrows in Figure 9-1, the receptionist receives a call and chooses to transfer it to Grace's phone (extension 3001). It rings and then forwards to voice mail (pilot number 6800) if it isn't answered.

The upper set of arrows shows the call flow for transferring the call directly to voice mail without first ringing Grace's phone. A phantom DN 8001 is defined for Grace. This secondary extension is configured into the User Profile in the Primary E.164 Number field as shown. In this scenario, the receptionist answers the call, determines that it must be redirected to Grace's voice mail, and transfers the call to extension 8001 (Grace's phantom DN) instead of 3001 (Grace's desk IP phone extension).

Example 9-1 shows the phantom DN configuration required on Cisco CME to support this operation.

Example 9-19. Creating a Phantom Ephone-dn

router# show running-config
ephone-dn 100
 number 8001 
 !choose a number that is easy for the receptionist to remember and that fits
 !well into the dial plan
 call-forward all 6800 
 !call forward all calls unconditionally into voice mail pilot number

The only configuration to be added to Cisco UE is to enter the phantom DN (8001) into the User Profile Primary E.164 Number field, as shown in Figure 9-1. The option of adding a second DN (8001 in this example) is available only if the Primary E.164 Number field is not already used for the employee's DID number (for example, 222-555-3001). This field and its use for voice mail configuration are further discussed in Chapter 10.

Directory Information

The user or extension directory information available to the Cisco UE AA versus the receptionist may be different. The Cisco UE AA allows any digits to be dialed via the dial-by-number feature. The AA blindly transfers the call to whatever digits the caller entered into the dial-by-number feature without any cross-checks. In other words, the AA does not use a directory to determine whether or where the call can be transferred.

The Cisco UE AA dial-by-name feature, however, uses its built-in Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) directory, so only extensions associated with users (not with groups) and with names appropriately configured into the system are accessible via the Cisco UE AA dial-by-name feature.

A receptionist is likely to use either a printed list of extensions (employees and groups) or the directory that Cisco CME provides on the IP phone display. The phone-based Cisco CME directory feature uses the name field under the ephone-dn configuration as its database. This information is not synchronized with the Cisco UE's LDAP name information, so the entries can potentially be different (depending on how the system was configured and which fields' values have been manually coordinated by the system administrator).

Understanding the Cisco IPC Express Integrated Automated Attendant





Cisco IP Communications Express(c) CallManager Express with Cisco Unity Express
Cisco IP Communications Express: CallManager Express with Cisco Unity Express
ISBN: 158705180X
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2006
Pages: 236
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