IVR – short for Interactive Voice Response – is a technology that automates interactions with telephone callers. Enterprises are increasingly turning to IVR to reduce the cost of common sales, service, collections, inquiry and support calls to and from their company.
Historically, IVR solutions have used pre-recorded voice prompts and menus to present information and options to callers, and touch-tone telephone keypad entry to gather responses. Modern IVR solutions also enable input and responses to be gathered via spoken words with voice recognition.
IVR solutions enable users to retrieve information including bank balances, flight schedules, product details, order status, movie show times, and more from any telephone. Additionally, IVR solutions are increasingly used to place outbound calls to deliver or gather information for appointments, past due bills, and other time critical events and activities.
To deliver or leverage IVR, an enterprise requires:
IVR platforms are the “server and operating system” hardware and software platforms on which IVR solutions run.
IVR platforms at a minimum provide the ability to play and record prompts and gather touch-tone input. IVR platforms may also offer the ability to recognize spoken input from callers (voice recognition), translate text into spoken output for callers (text-to-speech), and transfer IVR calls to any telephone or call center agent.
IVR applications are programs that control and respond to calls on the IVR platform. IVR applications can either be developed by an enterprise, by an IVR development shop, or by companies that offer canned IVR applications.
IVR applications direct the IVR platform to prompt callers, gather input, and transfer callers to other phones. IVR applications also call on existing back-end database and application servers to retrieve records and information required during the course of a call.
Back-end servers are existing enterprise servers on which the required customer or corporate data can be found.
Back-end servers can include databases, mainframes, Java or other application servers, and third party information services and solutions.
Telephony infrastructure includes telephone lines, call switching equipment, and call center Automatic Call Distributors (ACDs).
Telephone lines for IVR can be standard analog lines, digital T1, or digital ISDN lines. These lines are connected on one side to the IVR platform and, on the other, to call switching equipment including Telco switches, Voice over IP gateways, and corporate PBX’s; or in some cases, directly to call centers via an ACD.
IVR Experts include employees and consultants who know IVR technology and challenges well.
Ideally, IVR teams should include one or more members who have experience with IVR integration, configuration, reliability and redundancy, application development, and IVR solution deployment management.