What is IVR, or Interactive Voice Response, and how can it help a small business?

September 12, 2023

Explore other posts on these topics:

If you’ve ever called a customer service hotline, you’ve likely interacted with an interactive voice response system. While it often functions inside of a contact center solution, IVR technology’s market alone is worth billions and is steadily growing.

You’re surely wondering: “What does IVR stand for, and how can it benefit my business?” Discover how IVR can help you significantly enhance how you service your customers.

Key Takeaways:

  • IVR is a technology that lets callers interact with an automated system instead of a human agent.
  • IVR systems are quick and allow customers to utilize popular self-service features.
  • IVR programs increase your company’s speed, efficiency, and cost savings.
  • You can easily program your IVR system yourself with a user-friendly dashboard in your contact center software.

A Brief IVR Meaning

IVR means “interactive voice response” and is a technology that allows callers to communicate with an automated system to handle routine interactions. The system offers a menu of choices, and the caller responds with a voice or keypad input. 

The IVR program then fulfills the individual’s request or forwards the person to a human agent when necessary. As artificial intelligence capabilities grow, IVR systems are able to manage even more sophisticated requests and transactions.

How You Can Use IVR 

Organizations commonly use IVR systems to automate basic customer service, sales, and support processes. This assistance leaves your agents and employees additional time and energy to focus on more critical assignments.

An Intelligent Automated Assistant

Businesses often initially use IVR functionality to assist with call routing. Instead of hiring a receptionist to accept and forward calls, IVR automation lets your callers reach an individual or department on their own.

The IVR program also provides essential information to callers as they proceed through the menu tree. For example, you can program your IVR system to tell callers about your business hours, mention hold times, and alert them that you will automatically record the call.

Advanced Customer Self-Service

More than ever, customers want self-service options with the brands they do business with. What is an IVR system able to do to enhance self-service?

IVR lets customers access account details, check the status of orders and balances, and look up information about your company. You can also have callers fill out surveys and lead forms quickly and securely.

This feature is particularly useful when clients want to learn about sensitive information and prefer not to speak to a human. If you’re in the legal, financial, or medical fields, an IVR system gives you an easy way to share private information with clients with the automated program.

Other industries that benefit from IVR include:

  • Education: Families can check grades and degree progress.
  • Insurance: Policyholders can file claims or check document status.
  • Food service: Customers can make reservations, check delivery status, and find out wait times.

Your clients can also make account changes using IVR, such as updating a password or PIN.

Additionally, over-the-phone payments are possible when you integrate your system with a third-party payment gateway. An IVR system is so effective that it’s now one of the most popular self-service channels today.

How Interactive Voice Response Works

When a caller dials your business’s phone number, the IVR system greets them with a pre-recorded message. The software then presents them with a menu of options. 

Dual-Tone Multi-Frequency Keypad Inputs

The caller might respond by pressing a number on their keypad. DTMF signaling is the technology that interprets the keypad inputs from a customer. The system can then use intelligent call routing to forward the caller to the correct party.

Natural Language Processing for Speech Recognition

If you enable speech recognition, your IVR platform listens to the caller’s verbal responses and forwards the individual accordingly. This feature is perfect for users who want additional accessibility or hands-free operation.

More advanced IVR technology takes advantage of artificial intelligence to listen to longer phrases. Customers can now be more conversational with the system. Instead of always waiting for the program to provide a list of options, the caller could jump straight to whichever department or action they want.

People now expect AI to make their lives easier. As an automated solution, IVR and AI are a natural fit that improves the customer experience. As your NLP system interacts with your customers, it improves in accuracy and performance over time for a better customer experience.

Easy-To-Program Menus

You might feel intimidated at trying to create an IVR menu. In the past, programming an IVR  service could be time-consuming and difficult. The process required specific software that you personally integrated into your communications platform. 

Then, you’d have to set up and support the infrastructure for the servers and your database. You’d generally have to hire specialists to install and maintain this complex technology.

However, working with a modern cloud contact center provider makes installing IVR tech easier than ever. For example, when you subscribe to a contact center as a service with Intermedia, your IVR features come as part of the package.

Not only do you have access to top-notch IVR technology, but you can also set up or update the system yourself in a matter of minutes. That’s because Intermedia’s Easy-IVR solution is a user-friendly system for programming menu options.

You’ll have the choice of recording the greetings and menu options yourself, or you can allow lifelike text-to-speech AI to read the messages you input. This text-reading feature makes quickly updating and adjusting your IVR menu even easier!

5 Benefits of Interactive Voice Response

The reason so many businesses invest in IVR solutions is because it provides multiple advantages. Consider just a few.

1. Increased Efficiency

With an IVR phone system in place, your business can automate routine customer service inquiries, freeing up employees to focus on more complex issues. You’ll boost your efficiency and productivity in no time.

2. Improved Employee Experience

IVR functions do not replace your valued team members. Instead, the technology makes their lives easier because they do not have to spend time on low-level queries that IVR solutions can handle. Agents are less likely to get overwhelmed as they handle a more reasonable number of calls.

3. Cost Savings

IVR technology can be a cost-effective solution for all businesses. Instead of hiring additional staff to handle customer service inquiries, your IVR system can easily handle a large volume of calls.

4. 24/7 Availability

An IVR phone system opens the door to round-the-clock availability, even outside of your regular business hours. You can especially benefit from 24/7 access if you have branches that operate in different time zones or customers in different parts of the world.

5. Data Collection and Analysis

IVR solutions can also collect data on caller behavior and preferences, which helps you improve your products and services. By analyzing call data, you can identify areas for improvement and make data-driven decisions.

The Ways IVRs Enhance the Customer Experience

Your IVR system doesn’t just benefit you and your team. Your customers experience multiple advantages, such as the following items:

  • More personalized service: IVR can recognize incoming numbers to let agents know who is calling or offer unique messages to the caller.
  • Fewer call transfers: Callers don’t have to bounce between agents and departments because they can reach the right person from the start.
  • Increased security: Callers don’t have to share or confirm confidential details with a person but can handle those transactions with the automated system.
  • Quicker resolutions: Self-service features and speedy access to the appropriate agents help callers resolve their queries more rapidly.

IVR is a win-win for your company and customers alike!

How IVR Integrates With Other Apps 

You can connect your business productivity apps to your IVR system. What is IVR software able to do when it integrates with these programs?

One advantage is that your customer relationship management software can cooperate with your IVR system to collect essential customer data. This information can help your IVR program determine which agent is best to help your caller and also automatically update your CRM.

Another useful integration is connecting your back office programs to your IVR system. This capability quickly provides account, shipping, and transaction details to callers without them having to wait for an agent.

Interactive Voice Response FAQ

What Is an IVR Menu?

An IVR menu is a list of options that the automated program presents for your callers to navigate through the IVR system. The customer either inputs a dial tone or speaks a response. 

What Do Companies Use IVR For?

Businesses use IVR services to save time for agents and customers. Customers can serve themselves in many cases or get to the appropriate agent more quickly. IVR systems are a cost-effective way to improve the employee and customer experience.

What Is an IVR Call Flow?

An IVR call flow is the layout you create for your IVR menu that allows callers to reach a specific department or handle basic transactions. You determine the prompts for callers and the inputs they can provide to move through the IVR menu in a flowchart format. Another name for the call flow is a phone tree. 

Contact Intermedia for the Easiest Way To Start Using IVR Now

Your IVR system works as part of a cost-effective and customizable contact center solution. Talk to our team at Intermedia to determine which CCaaS plan with IVR is right for your team.

Rob Oscanyan

Rob is Director for Product Marketing for Contact Center as a Service here at Intermedia.

September 12, 2023

Explore other posts on these topics: