What is an automated attendant?

An automated attendant is a system that allows callers to be automatically transferred to an extension without the intervention of an operator. An automated attendant offers a simple menu system that allows callers to direct themselves to various extensions and resources. A caller navigates through a system by pressing a touch-tone key on his phone keypad. Asterisk recognizes the pressed key and responds accordingly.

Sometimes, the term Interactive Voice Response is used instead of automated attendant. However, these two terms are distinct – IVR refers to a complex system designed to take input from a caller, process it (e.g. looking up data in an external system such as a database), and return a result. The purpose of an automated attendant is simply to route calls.


Some of the routing options commonly used in auto attendants are:

  • transfer to extension
  • transfer to voicemail
  • play message (i.e., “our address is …”)
  • go to a sub menu
  • repeat choices


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