Interactive Voice Response – IVR

What is an Interactive Voice Response System?

Interactive voice response (IVR) systems are automated voice responses interacting with a user. A caller typically engages with an IVR system by listening to a menu and responding by selecting a number on his phone to trigger a series of appropriate systemic responses.

Based on the caller’s answers, the IVR system will either request additional information to proceed with the call or direct the user to an agent for further assistance. Call center automation has therefore become more accessible to organizations by integrating conversational IVR into their system, enabling employees to focus on complex activities rather than mundane tasks.

IVR systems are mainly used to manage inbound calls and carry out outbound notifications such as reminders for clients to complete a process. 

How Does an IVR System Work?

Traditionally, IVR systems are rooted within the integration of computers and cellphones. A simple IVR system only needs special hardware (e.g., telephony card) and IVR software to connect a computer to a phone line. The IVR software is necessary to pre-record the messages dictated to users and ensure a seamless interaction with clients.

Dual-tone multi-frequency signaling is what enables computers to understand user responses based on their keyboard selections. 

Other more advanced IVR systems can even leverage speech recognition to interact with callers instead of simply using the “touch-tone” technology. Therefore, instead of directing the user to respond by pressing a key on his/her phone, the software will offer the option to say the response aloud, e.g., “for further assistance, press one or say ‘support.'”

Improving IVR with Artificial Intelligence 

IVR is an interactive technology that is capable of drastically reducing costs and improving customer experiences. Nevertheless, if the technology aims to remain relevant in today’s business arena, artificial intelligence (AI) will need to step in and add support to its development. 

 AI has an incredible ability to handle natural speech and language patterns that are very different from IVR’s capabilities. The main difference between them lies in the fact that IVR’s main ability is to recognize ‘expected answers’. The way an IVR is built is by developing the software’s own basic grammar set and then attempting to predict every possible response to a stimulus. 

AI, on the other hand, focuses on the speaker’s intent and strives to understand the path of a conversation instead of the possible predictable answers it may include. Overall, AI can bolster IVR’s potential by enabling it to interact with users in a more natural way and understand the purpose of the call.

 IVR and AI are in fact very well suited to one another because both share a common purpose. While AI seeks to provide machines with the ability to learn like a human, AI gives users a way to interact with a computer in a human-like way. 

Once AI is integrated within IVR systems, not only will the system be improved, but their operating together towards this common purpose will be what greatly impacts overall developments within customer service centers.

The Benefits of Interactive Voice Response Software 

There are many reasons as to why people would like to leverage IVR’s:


  1. More efficient customer service
    Customers will experience a more seamless process with IVR as it allows them to specify the purpose of their call, enabling the system to direct them to the right people for assistance at a much quicker rate. 


  1. Minimizes frustration with fewer holding times
    Calls are answered on the spot with pre-recorded messages when using an IVR system. Immediately tended to customer calls, and swiftly transferring them to adequate departments creates a much more seamless customer journey and drastically diminishes waiting times. 


  1. Personalization
    An IVR system’s capabilities can surpass merely directing customers to specific departments and using their native language. By using caller ID, they can also be adjusted to offer personalized greetings for each caller.


  1. Minimizing the amount of errors
    The risk of human error increases whenever a high volume of calls is involved. An IVR system can reduce the frustration caused to customers when dealing with these errors as the entire system becomes automated. 


  1. Decrease in costs
    Using an IVR enables customers to be tended to around the clock without ever needing to pull agents away from their work. Therefore, customer queries can be taken care of without additional staff support, lowering overall labor costs.

Despite the various benefits of having a good IVR setup, simple mistakes can cause a poorly constructed system to bring more frustration into your business. 

Common Mistakes When Integrating IVR

Complicated call flow

Having customers listen to an entire list of irrelevant options can ruin their overall experience, especially if it’s an incredibly long list. By overcomplicating the menu, customers can end up interacting with your IVR for far too long. For this reason, options should be clear and concise, allowing callers to quickly and easily choose which one is most suitable to them. 

Overflow of information 

 When beginning the call, it is best to refrain from asking callers to provide all of their information in one go. Retrieve customer details gradually throughout the interaction to not overwhelm them with a sudden influx of inquiries. 

Low agent availability

 No matter how well-constructed your IVR menu is, there should always be an option to speak to a live person at some point. ‘Hiding’ this option from callers or taking it away altogether can create a lot of frustration as people may have particular requests that cannot be dealt with by an automated system.

IVR Use Cases

No matter the size of your business, a well-integrated IVR system will help you tend to an expanding customer base and high volume of customer calls. 

  • Call centers
    Call centers tend to experience a high volume of incoming calls, which require many agents’ time. With the use of IVR, call centers can more efficiently handle this enormous influx of inquiries.


  • Extended business hours
    Seeing as self-service is part of an IVR’s capabilities, the system can take care of any calls coming in outside of business hours. 


  • Assistance with scheduling appointments

    No matter how well-constructed your IVR menu is, there should always be an option for scheduling appointments and speaking to a live person at some point. ‘Hiding’ this option from callers or taking it away altogether can create a lot of frustration as people may have particular requests that cannot be dealt with by an automated system.

IVR systems can not only remind customers about upcoming appointments but also help schedule and change them. 

IVR for sales
Before directing customers to a sales representative, the caller can learn about any special offers the moment they call. If a customer would like to make a purchase, the system can also help customers place an order by assisting them in filling out a form through the use of their phone keypad.

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