IVR (Interactive Voice Response) – A Brief Explanation

IVR (interactive voice response) is a telephony technology that allows users to interact with a database through phone keypad or voice commands. IVR automated systems save businesses money and employee resources, while making routine services and inquiries available to the public 24 hours a day.

Most of us use IVR systems daily to do things like check bank balances, manage credit cards, check for store hours or locations, or order prescription medicine. Human interaction is not required because the IVR system only allows limited access to the database, although an option may exist to be switched to a live operator during business hours. IVR systems are also used to report non-emergency problems to cable or utility services, and to schedule appointments with government or state offices; for example, the Department Of Motor Vehicles. Integrating text-to-speech (TTS) functionality, IVR systems can deliver dynamic information as well, such as weather, news, traffic or stock reports.

Campaigns, pollsters and survey takers also make use of IVR systems. In these cases, the system places outgoing calls. A recorded voice requests questions and requests simple answers, like "yes," "no," or "undecided." The IVR system may have limited to extensive built-in voice recognition, depending on the requirements of the application. Answers may also be directed through the phone's keypad. Press 1 for yes and 2 for no, for example. IVR automation makes it possible to reach far more people than through actually manning phones.

Commonly, IVR systems are installed in-house, however, there are also "outsourced solution providers," or OSPs. These IVR providers maintain the system on their own premises, integrating it through the client's network. OSP solutions have advantages and disadvantages. Obviously advantages include avoiding installation of a new IVR infrastructure, and an IVR-savvy staff to maintain the system. Disadvantages may include a feature-set or template that may not fit your business model as well as you'd like, and surrendered control over critical functions deferred to the IVR system.

Poorly designed IVR systems are often criticized by the public for not providing easy or helpful assistance. The goal design of any IVR system should be to get the customer what he or she needs in as few steps as possible while allowing for security and logistical needs. Search engines will reveal a multitude of links to IVR systems and solution providers to help you find the right IVR system for your business.