What is Interactive Voice Response (IVR)

Every business wants to put customers first. After fielding thousands of inquiries a day, however, contact centers have learned it’s necessary to prioritize customer requests. Whether it’s segmenting calls by urgency or agent expertise, filtering inbound queries can make a big difference in both quality of service and bottom line.

One of the best ways contact centers can sort customer service requests is with interactive voice response (IVR) software. An IVR is an automated system that answers incoming calls and provides instructions to customers, who are then able to interact via keypad or voice recognition to speak with an agent or troubleshoot issues.

For contact centers, the benefits of a quality IVR system include reducing costs and boosting overall efficiency. Customers can complete many basic functions of daily customer service, such as paying bills, checking business hours, and general account inquiries, through an IVR. This is partially due to the way an IVR can interpret customer requests, convert speech to text, and retrieve simple, real-time information from a database. Even more encouraging is that, in many cases, customers are familiar with using an IVR and don’t view it as a hindrance to their overall satisfaction.

An interactive voice response system, for instance, can empower consumers to answer their own questions, sometimes in a way that’s faster than connecting with a live agent. Recent studies suggest that consumer desire for a more self-guided customer service experience is growing, and that’s especially true for Millennials and Generation Z. This is a trend that works in favor of a contact center’s productivity, because even if a dozen calls are resolved through an IVR each day, it’ll add up to big savings over time.

One of the other powerful ways interactive voice response can assist a contact center is in conjunction with automatic call distribution software. With good integration between the two systems, a customer can describe the reason for the call to an IVR, for instance, via voice commands or keypad options. If it’s using voice recognition, for example, the IVR then converts speech to text, interprets the customer’s data, and transfers him or her to the best agent available with the help of an ACD. A truly quality IVR will also share information freely with the ACD, so there’s no need to repeatedly request things like account numbers, phone numbers, and other data from customers.

Whenever an IVR gets a bad rap from customers, it’s usually due to overly generic and time-consuming prompts. That’s why contact centers should design their IVR to be simple and user-friendly. Despite the growing desire for self-service options for customers, nobody wants to spend five minutes listening to a menu of options, then another few minutes hearing the next list of choices, and so on. Information needs to be condescend, easy-to-understand, and direct. Otherwise customer frustration will set in, which will eventually reach the ears of your agents and leave a nasty impression. Luckily, a good IVR system allows for customizable scripts, music, and basic configurations through easy-to-use software.

When executed correctly, an IVR can be an unmatched tool to achieve better contact center productivity, efficiency, profit, and customer satisfaction. To learn more about inContact’s IVR solutions, go here.