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Ring groups

Ring groups are designed to direct calls to a group of extensions so that a person can answer the call. An incoming call will ring at several extensions at once, and the one who picks up the phone gets control of that call. At that point, he/she can transfer the call, send it to voicemail, or hang up.

Ring groups are my preferred call routing method. Does anyone really like those automated greetings? I don’t. We will of course, set those up because they do have some great uses. However, if you like your customers to get a real live voice when they call, you have two choices—either direct the call to an extension or use a ring group and have a few phones ring at once. To create a ring group, we will use the 3CX web interface. There are several ways to do this.

From the top toolbar menu, click Add | Ring Group. In the following screenshot, I chose Add | Ring Group:

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The following screenshot shows another way of adding a ring group using the Ring Groups section in the navigation pane on the left-hand side. Then click on the Add Ring Group button on the toolbar:

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Once we click Add Ring Group, 3CX will automatically create a Virtual machine number for this ring group as shown in the next screenshot. This helps the system keep track of calls and where they are. This number can be changed to any unused number that you like. As a reseller, I like to keep them the same from client to client. This creates some standardization among all the systems.

Now it’s time to give the ring group a Name. Here I use MainRingGroup as it lets me know that when a call comes in, it should go to the Main Ring Group. After you create the first one, you can make more such as SalesRingGroup, SupportRingGroup, and so on.

We now have three choices for the Ring Strategy:

  • Prioritized Hunt: Starts hunting for a member from the top of the Ring Group Members list and works down until someone picks up the phone or goes to the Destination if no answer section.
  • Ring All: If all the phones in the Ring Group Members section ring at the same time then the first person to pick up gets the call.
  • Paging: This is a paid feature that will open the speakerphone on Ring Group Members.

Now you will need to select your Ring Time (Seconds) to determine how long you want the phones to ring before giving up. The default ring time is 20 seconds, which all my clients agree is too long. I’d recommend 10-15 seconds, but remember, if no one picks up the phone, then the caller goes to the next step, such as a Digital Receptionist. If the next step also makes the caller wait another 10-20 seconds, he/she may just hang up. You also need to be sure that you do not exceed the phone company’s timeout of diverting calls to their voicemail (which could be turned off) or returning a busy signal.

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Adding ring group members

Ring Group Members are the extensions that you would like the system to call or page in a ring group. If you select the Prioritized Hunt strategy, it will hunt from the top and go down the list. Ring All and Paging will get everyone at once. The listbox on the left will show you a list of available extensions. Select the ones you want and click the Add button. If you are using Prioritized Hunt, you can change the order of the hunt by using the Up and Down buttons.

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Destination if no answer

The last setting as shown in the next screenshot illustrates what to do when no one answers the call. The options are as follows:

  • End Call: Just drop the call, no chance for the caller to talk to someone.
  • Connect to Extension: Ring the extension of your choice.
  • Connect to Queue / Ring Group: This sends the caller to a call queue (discussed later in the Call queues section)) or to another ring group. A second ring group could be created for stage two that calls the same group plus additional extensions.
  • Connect to Digital Receptionist: As a person didn’t pick up the call, we can now send it to an automated greeting/menu system.
  • Voicemail box for Extension: As the caller has already heard phones ringing, you may just want to put him/her straight to someone’s voicemail.
  • Forward to Outside Number: If you have had all the phones in the building ringing and no one has picked up, then you might want to send the caller to a different phone outside of your PBX system. Just make sure that you enter the correct phone number and any area codes that may be required. This will use another simultaneous call license and another phone line. If you have one line only, then this is not the option you can use.

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Digital Receptionist setup

A Digital Receptionist (DR) is not a voicemail box; it’s an automated greeting with a menu of choices to choose from. A DR will answer the phone for you if no one is available to answer the phone (directly to an extension or hunt group) or if it is after office hours.

You need to set up a DR unless you want all incoming calls to go to someone’s voicemail. You will also need it if you want to present the caller with a menu of options. Let’s see how to create a DR.

Recording a menu prompt

The first thing you need to do in order to create a DR is record a greeting. There are a couple of ways to do this. However, first let’s create the greeting script. In this greeting, you will be defining your phone menu; that is, you will be directing calls to extensions, hunts, agent groups, and the dial by name directory. Following is an example:

Thank you for calling. If you know your party’s extension, you may dial it at any time. Or else, please listen to the following options:

For Rob, dial 1

For the sales group, dial 2

For Zachary, dial 4

Solicitors, please dial 8

For a dial by name directory, dial 9

I suggest having it written down. This makes it easier to record and also gives the person setting up the DR in 3CX a copy of the menu map.

Now that you know what you want your callers to hear when they call, it’s time to get it recorded so that we can import it into 3CX. You have a couple of options for recording the greeting script. It doesn’t matter which option you use or how you obtain this greeting file, as long as the end format is correct. You can hire a professional announcer, put it to music, and obtain the file from him/her. You can record it using any audio software you like such as Windows Sound Recorder, or any audio recording software. The file needs to be a .wav or an .mp3 file saved in PCM, 8KHz, 16 bit, Mono format.

If you have Windows Sound Recorder only, I’d suggest that you try out Audacity. Audacity is an open source audio file program available at http://audacity.sourceforge.net/. Audacity gives you a lot more power such as controlling volume, combining several audio tracks (a music track to go with the announcer), using special effects, and many other cool audio tools. I’m not an expert in it but the basics are easy to do. First, hit the Audacity website and download it, then install it using the defaults. Now let’s launch Audacity and set it up to use the correct file format, which will save us any issues later. Start by clicking Edit | Preferences. On the Quality tab, select the Default Sample Rate as 8000 Hz. Then change the Default Sample Format to 16-bit as shown in the following screenshot:

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Now, on the File Formats tab, select WAV (Microsoft 16 bit PCM) from the drop-down list and click OK:

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Now that those settings are saved, you can record your greeting without having to change any formats. Now it’s time to record your greeting.

Click on the red Record button as shown in the following screenshot. It will now use your PC’s microphone to record the announcer’s voice and when the recording is done, click on the Stop button. Press Play to hear it, and if you don’t like it, start over again:

The 3CX IP PBX Tutorial

If you like the way your greeting sounds, then you will need to save it. Click File | Export As WAV… or Export As MP3…. Save it to a location that you remember (for example, c:3CX prompts is a good place) with a descriptive filename. While you are recording this greeting, you might as well record a few more if you have plans for creating multiple DRs:

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Creating the Digital Receptionist

With your greeting script in hand, it’s time to create your first DR. In the navigation pane on the left side, click Digital Receptionist, then click Add Digital Receptionist as shown in the following screenshot:

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Or on the top menu toolbar, click Add | Digital Receptionist:

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Just like your ring group, the DR gets a Virtual extension number by default, Feel free to change it or stick with it. Give it a Name, (I like to use the same name as the audio greeting filename.) Now, click Browse… and then Add. Browse to your c:3CX prompts directory and select your .wav or .mp3 file as shown in the following screenshot:

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Next, we need to create the menu system as shown in the following screenshot. We have lots of options available. You can connect to an extension or ring group, transfer directly to someone’s voicemail, end the call (my solicitors’ option), or start the call by name feature (discussed in the Call by name setup section). At any time during playback, callers can dial the extension number; they don’t have to hear all the options. I usually explain this in the DR recorded greeting.


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