First off, we can say that both of these data structures are quite often referred to as IVRs. Let’s have a look at some of the main differences between the two in the Q-Suite.
- Entry point – The initial entry point of the auto-attendant needs to be a Menu type node, ie. an audio file plays with a greeting message and will instruct the caller on how to proceed using DTMF options. A dialplan can also have a Menu component as the first node, but it is not required or necessary. Perhaps you want to do a database lookup to see if the caller’s phone number already exists in the system prior to reaching the menu or maybe you want to have a standalone audio file play. This can be accomplished.
- Multiple DTMF key input – In an auto-attendant, if numerous multi-key inputs are available, you will need to hardcode those options into the auto-attendant. For the dialplan, you can use a DTMF component which will capture and store the user’s input into a variable and the administrator can program the desired routing based on different types of comparisons.
- Data capturing – This is simply not an easily attainable task for an auto-attendant. A dialplan, however, can use various components to acquire customer input and can then write that information accordingly to the caller’s account or record.
- Routing and transferring – The auto-attendant has the capability to route to any type of pre-defined PBX location, such as a ring group, extension, or conference room. It can also route to any dialplan that is available. A dialplan also has the means to route to any of these options as well, but can also transfer to end points like CTI queues, which provide a richer feature set than standard PBX queues.
Overall, auto-attendants and dialplans are very similar. They both contain the same types of basic logic that deals with callers being routed to the appropriate places. In a strictly PBX implementation, an auto-attendant will likely fulfill all of your needs. If you are more concerned with the contact or call center aspect, it would be highly beneficial to leverage the robust and plentiful feature set that the dialplan can provide.