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An attendant console is a telephone station that is generally part of a private branch exchange (PBX) or Centrex or other private telephone system. An attendant console generally is a regular PBX telephone station with one or more additional modules each bearing numerous buttons that can be programmed to be associated with particular lines in the private telephone system, or with particular specialized functions.
The attendant console provides control for many call management features and answers and routes incoming calls. A common example for the use of an attendant console is as follows:
- A caller dials a firm's main telephone number,
- The attendant (receptionist) answers,
- The caller asks for a particular individual or department,
- The attendant checks the status of the called party's line by looking at the appropriate button on the attendant console, and either:
- Puts the call through - if the line is idle - or,
- Offers to route the call to voice mail.
Other uses might include placing the caller in queue to connect to the called party when the called party's line goes on-hook. Increasingly, the attendant function of a phone system is handled by an auto-attendant.
The attendant console may also be sent other calls that the PBX may not otherwise know how to handle, such as direct inward dialed calls that are not associated with a valid extension. The attendant console typically has no restrictions about the types of calls that may be made from it so the attendant may complete calls for restricted extensions. This is typically the case where a phone is placed in a public location, such as a lobby, but is set up so that it cannot dial long distance or international calls. Callers using the public phone must dial the attendant, who can complete the call for them.
In larger PBXs the attendant console may also be used to perform certain administrative tasks. Smaller systems may have all programming of the phone system done from the attendant console. As the attendant typically knows more about the phone system than other users, the attendant console may be used to alert users to a problem with the phone system. As an example should a Definity ECS PBX have a problem, such as a hardware failure, it may activate an alarm light on the console so the attendant can call for repair.
Trunk groups may also be assigned a button with an indicator light so the attendant can monitor their use. If nearly all of the trunks in a trunk group are in use, the light illuminates. The attendant may push the button forcing all calls that would normally use the trunk to be routed to the attendant console, thus allowing the attendant to decide how to ration the remaining free trunks.
Some users buy PC-based software that integrates to the PBX to streamline operations, from providers including Fidelus Technologies, Amcom Software, Inc. and Scantalk, Inc.