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IVR Interactive voice response


What is IVR?

Interactive voice response or IVR is an automated business phone system feature that interacts with callers and gathers information by giving them choices via a menu. It then performs actions based on the answers of the caller through the telephone keypad or their voice response.

The choices of the caller decide the actions of the IVR — it can provide information or, if the issue is more complex, route callers to a human agent who can better handle their needs.

If you ever called a business phone number and had been answered by an automated greeting, which proceeded to interact with you via some pre-recorded message, then you know what an IVR is.


What is the use of IVR?

Normally, are used by companies or contact centers to route calls based on the choices made by the caller. Through these choices, it can determine if the caller wants to contact the billing department, the technical support team, or simply wants to talk to a human operator.

It’s also used to provide information like promos, updates,

or other important information or instructions.

One example is to inform callers that the system will record calls and will ask if they want to proceed.

Traditionally, it was only used to organize call queues of call centers. IVR systems, however,

have come a long way since they were first developed and are now often

used for the automation of simple processes to provide self-service options to callers.

This is to resolve simple customer needs and queries that are normally handled by call center agents.

Some examples of processes that can do now include:

  • Inquire about account balance
  • Access account information
  • Set PIN numbers or change passwords
  • Look up information (product price, directory, etc.)
  • Fill up lead forms and surveys
  • Make small payments or transfer funds

How does an Interactive Voice Response work?

In the past, IVR technology was a real pain to set up.

The requirements are not only expensive but making them work together used to be pretty complicated. In fact,

traditional IVRs needed the following before they could work:

  • IVR software. This is separate from the main communications platform (on-premise or cloud-based phone system) and needs its own set of hardware to work. It needed a telephone service (PSTN or VoIP phone system), 
  • A database (to pull information from) 
  • Its own infrastructure to support it including several servers.

The interactive voice response or interactive voice response software hads to be installed in a separate computer and you needed a telephony card,

which is special hardware that lets you integrate hardware components to a computer, to get it to work.

And to top it all off, it also required a specialist to configure and set it up because it was a complicated piece of technology,

usually with its own proprietary programming language.

Of course, that’s all in the past. The only ones who think these are still cool are call center software providers stuck in the past.

Modern cloud contact

center solutions like

Webpagesmedia have IVR or interactive voice response automatically

integrated into their system, also described as voice portals.

databases, and servers—are handled by the provider in the cloud.

This means there’s no more need for separate software, in-house infrastructure, or specialists whose only job is to maintain and manage the interactive voice response.

That should significantly reduce costs compared to traditional IVRs.

Since it’s integrated, it also works wonderfully with other essential features like automatic call distribution (ACD).

Here’s how a simple interactive voice response works with the other features of your call center:

  • Once a call is received and greeted by the auto-attendant of the ACD, your IVR kicks in and presents the caller with the phone menu.
  • The caller interacts with the IVR phone menu. Callers are presented with a series of options.
  • Most IVR systems use dual-tone multi-frequency tones or DTMF tones to interact with your caller,
  • which is just the technical way of saying that it uses the caller’s telephone touch-tone phone keypad.

    Newer cloud contact centers have also adopted voice response through speech recognition in their IVR features, which allows callers to interact with the system using their own voice.
  • As the caller navigates the menu, their query or purpose for calling can be resolved through the IVR self-service process. If not, the call will be sorted into a category by the IVR.
  • This is the qualification phase, which will then trigger the skills-based routing feature.
  • IVR allows the system to identify the agents that have the skills to handle the caller’s needs.
  • The ACD then routes the call to an available qualified live agent.

The transitions between each feature are seamless.

What is Interactive Voice Response menu?

The IVR menu is the response system that helps customers navigate the IVR experience.

It can be used by the caller by pressing the touch-tone dial pad or via their voice, whichever one is programmed into the IVR.

You’ve probably encountered it a million times. Think “press 1 for customer service or press 2 for technical help.”

if you know those lines, then you’re familiar with what a basic IVR menu is.

It’s also called a phone tree because it can have many levels (or branches, if you will).

One option can lead to 2 or 3 more options, depending on how deep you program your IVR.

Of course, the recommendation is to keep the IVR menu or phone tree as simple as possible.

But it still depends on the needs of your organization.