What is Interactive Voice Response (IVR)?
Interactive Voice Response (IVR) is an automated phone call operating system that answers a call, asks qualifying questions to callers, and routes the call according to the answers.
IVR systems help businesses of all sizes, and most of us have probably heard an IVR when we’ve called a company for help or sales info, They can be as simple as, “Press 1 for sales. Press 2 for support.” Or much more elaborate. Some IVR systems have voice recognition technology, while others rely on touch tones from phones to provide information and route callers. IVR systems can even be set up so that callers’ questions are answered without having to wait for a phone representative to be available.
Who Uses IVR? How Is It Used?
Many industries use IVR. Most people might associate them with bigger businesses (like airlines, financial institutions, and medical facilities) or even enterprises, but small businesses use and benefit from IVR as well. Some businesses even use IVR for telephone surveys or polls about customer service experiences, new features that customers might want, and even how customers heard about a business.
Some IVR systems offer personalized prompts when the system recognizes a caller’s number. These personalized prompts improve the customer experience and help users accomplish what they called about.
Delta and American Express both use custom prompts, for example. Delta recognizes the caller’s number and, after confirming his or her identity, asks about the caller’s upcoming trips. American Express even recognizes when a caller started something in his or her online account, and asks if that caller would like to complete the process over the phone.
Personalized prompts don’t have to go as far as Delta or AmEx to provide a good user experience. Just the basic anticipation of caller needs is one of the great benefits of customized prompts with IVR.
Pre-recorded messages have many uses. Update callers about any changes they need to be aware of right away, like closures due to inclement weather or other important messages. Remind them about sales and other important notices. Pre-recorded messages can also just mean that a nicer voice provides the message to callers instead of a robotic tone.
Gather Information about Callers
If you need to qualify leads or get more information about callers before knowing where to accurately route them, IVR can help gather that data and perform call actions accordingly. If the number is new, the call can be sent to sales, while numbers recognized as repeat callers can be sent to support.
Faster Service During High Call Volume Times
Businesses with high call volumes may not have the enough phone representatives needed to handle the number of people calling. IVR ensures that the phone is answered when someone calls a business, instead ringing perpetually or sending a caller to voicemail. The IVR ensures that callers don’t feel ignored, can send calls to the department that will best suit a caller’s needs, and even keep callers in a queue until the next representative is available to take his or her call.
Route Calls to the Correct Department
Having an IVR means that customers can determine what department would best suit the reason for their call. When callers are directed the the appropriate department, there is a higher chance that whatever they’re calling about will be resolved quickly and adequately. There’s nothing more frustrating than calling a business for resolution to an issue, and being pushed from department to department, waiting on hold while call representatives try to figure out which area best suits the caller’s needs.
When no one is available at your business, an IVR can route people to information that may be available for them without having a call representative present. Many businesses can serve callers even after regular business hours with an IVR. If if the caller need certain information that a recording can’t provide, an IVR can lead them to the voicemail of the person who can handle the situation first thing the next morning.
IVR Best Practices
Businesses should ensure that they’re following best practices when using an IVR to ensure that calls go where they’re supposed to and that callers don’t get frustrated with the process. Businesses using IVR should ensure that they have covered all bases for why a customer is calling. Nothing is more annoying to caller than having to choose an option from an automated menu that doesn’t fit the caller’s reason for picking up the phone. Companies can think of IVR and as extension of a self-service experience. Once users have gone past what they can do on their own, companies need to know when to step in to ensure that users have the best experience so they stay customers.