IVR: Interactive Voice Response

Contact Center Feature Highlight

By Robin Wilding
Updated: April 18, 2011

Interactive Voice Response (IVR) is a new technology created for contact centers that is designed to greet and direct callers based on their needs. One of the more famous IVRs is Emily, the IVR for Bell, a huge communications provider. Emily was created to be the IVR for Bell as the company chose to put a human voice to the face of their company—instead of the alternative Stephan Hawking-like voice.

IVRs can customized beyond the voice though, as you can program them to use an array of voice input/output and touch-tone keypad selections based on the prompts of your choosing. Response options available with IVRs include voice, fax, callback, email and other types of media.

Interactive Voice Response technology has become increasingly popular within specific verticals, especially: telephone banking, telephone-based voting systems, credit card company services, travel company flight confirmation services, mobile phone Pay As You Go top-up services, phone-based dating services, phone polling services that handle large call volume like American Idol, and more. IVR is also commonly used by small companies, in order to enhance their appearance with the professional tone of the service by looking larger than they are. Also, companies that require 24/7 phone support but don't want to pay 24/7 staff requirements find the feature incredibly useful. While IVR is most popular within certain verticals many different companies use the technology in order to save on contact center staff.

Common tasks of IVR systems include:

  • Simple order entry
  • Outbound routine calling (example: scheduled dentist appointment)
  • Simple banking and stock transfers and account balances
  • Contact center forwarding
  • Survey and polling
  • Detailed call routing
  • Selective information lookup for movie schedules, name directories, etc.

IVR Systems

The major components of any IVR system are: telephony equipment, software application(s) and database(s). The combination of these three elements allows the telephone system to interact with the database via software that recognizes user commands via voice prompts and touch-tone keypad prompts.

IVRs are designed to handle a large call volume, which gives the technology a higher return on investment as opposed to staffing multiple contact center operators.

History of IVR

Interactive Voice Response has been around since the 70s and is often used as an umbrella term that catches IVR systems, automated attendants and Voice Response Units. Now while the technology has been around since the 70s, it has come a long way; previously IVRs were out of reach for the average company and were only used by large corporations. The technology has improved its features and been brought down in price enough that even small to medium sized companies are using the feature within their customer contact centers. 

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