The 3CX telephone system is a very easy to set-up, easy to use service. The handy web management tool makes it easy to change the announcements you play to callers when they first dial in, before they get to one of your staff. This is handy if an event or outage impacts you and you want to alert people calling that something is going on.
It could be an event, outage or maybe the office is going to close for some reason. You could just let the callers go to voicemail and they’d be none the wiser but there are good reasons, other than manners, to use ad-hoc announcements to either change their perception, manage their expectations or just reduce the amount of voicemail you have to deal with when things return to normal.
We also have another article, specifically tailored to providing information to patients using 3CX that could also apply to other businesses: Using 3CX to Provide Information to Patients
3CX Default Set Up
The stereotypical “SMB” setup is for incoming calls to either go to reception or directly to the extensions of your staff. Pretty straightforward and easy to manage. If the phone isn’t answered, it goes to voicemail and people get a standard “Sorry we couldn’t take your call” announcement and the option to leave a message.
This is probably the most common setup but it boils down to one person being able to take one call at a time. You can put people on hold while you try and answer a second or even third call but that’s a poor experience for the callers that get “Hi, thanks for calling, can you hold?” and it’s not exactly fun for the person being inundated with calls either.
3CX also makes it easy to set your office hours and provide a different message to callers that ring after hours. Again, the basic set up is just to have an “AH” voicemail box and just direct all calls to that.
If you want to be a little more advanced and take the pressure of your reception staff, you can use a Call Queue to answer and greet callers automatically and then pop them on hold until an operator is available. A much better experience for everyone involved in my humble opinion!
So for setting and forgetting the generic messages your callers will hear 99%^ of the time, the basic set up has you covered.
But what about when there is a special occasion?
Using the Digital Assistant
The 3CX Digital Assistant is what most telephone systems called an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system. It lets the system answer your calls, provide your callers with some information and, if required, some options which allows you to help get your callers to the right area more efficiently.
It also lets you provide information to callers before they get to your staff. This can be really useful and got a fair amount of use during the pandemic. We could quickly update recordings that reflected our customers status during the lockdown and restrictions and provide up-to-date information to callers without them having to talk to staff or wait for someone to return their calls.
In IT we often use them to announce a known outage before the caller gets to the help desk to report a fault. If people know we are aware of the problem and are working on it, they tend to hang up and leave us to it which saves our help desk staff being inundated with calls and having to repeat the same message over and over again.
So let’s say that, for whatever reason, you want to set a temporary announcement for all callers. Below is one way to do it. The pro’s of this method are simplicity and speed, the con is that you have to remember to manually undo the change.
Set A Temporary Announcement for All Callers
- Log in to your 3CX Management Console
- Click on Digital Receptionist
- Click on +Add to create a new receptionist
- Use a name that makes sense like “Email Outage May 2021” or “Office Closed for Training” just so you know what it is for. That will also help when cleaning up old ones later on.
- 3CX is usually pretty good at picking a free extension so you should be able to leave the default 0 take note of it though because you will need it later.
- Leave the Type as “Standard”
- Click on Record to record your announcement. Again, give it a good name that makes sense to you and make sure you leave the “.wav” on the end. Once you have recorded your announcement you should see the filename appear below the “Prompt” heading.
- Unless you are getting fancy, leave all the Menu Options as default.
- Finally, down at the bottom of the settings change the “If no input …” setting to “1” and leave “End Call” if you just want to hang up on the caller once they’ve heard the message.
If you still want them to be able to leave a message you can change “End Call” to one of the other options such as “Connect to Extension” or “Transfer To Voicemail” – whatever is appropriate.
- Make sure you scroll back to the top of the page and click “OK” to save your new Digital Receptionist!
- Click on SIP Trunks and then select the trunk your calls come in on.
- Scroll down to the “Route calls to” section and take note of the current settings!
- The “Destination for calls during office hours” will probably be to an “Extension” and the actual extension, probably your reception number.
- Click on the extension number and scroll down until you find your new Digital Receptionist and select that.
Note: They aren’t listed in numerical order! You may have to scroll through the whole list to find it.
- If you think the outage might go past normal closing hours you can repeat this for the “Destination for call outside office hours” too.
- Scroll back to the top of the page and click “OK” to save changes
That’s it. Anyone calling in on the main number will now hear your new annoucement.
When the event is over, go back to the SIP Trunk and undo those changes by changing the extension back to the normal Reception number instead of the Digital Receptionist.
You can then probably go and delete that Digital Receptionist unless you think you might use it again.