What is Interactive Voice Response or IVR?

Interactive Voice Response (IVR) is a telephony system that helps companies and organisations resolve frequently asked questions and other basic tasks automatically and offers users an easy way to interact. A good solution for handling large volumes of calls.

IVR and its types of system use.
Communication Team

Telefónica

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This automated system allows users to interact with the company’s customer service through a configurable menu and allows users to record personalised greetings and prompts, in real time, to enhance the customer service experience.

What is IVR?

The IVR system combines pre-recorded messages and text-to-speech technology. In this way, users of any telephone answering service can interact by voice or using the numeric keypad, and be attended to, providing and receiving information, without the need for a human agent on the other end.

If the IVR is unable to retrieve the user’s information, the programmable menu has options that provide assistance in redirecting the message. This system is composed of telephony and computer technologies, therefore, it is able to optimise the call flow, reduce waiting time and improve the customer experience. For example, you can choose the language in which you want to be answered or the type of query you want to make.

Since the 1990s, interactive voice software has evolved significantly. Thanks to the development of Artificial Intelligence and natural language processing, NLP, the options for users to call and interact with telephone systems has grown. NLP works to make machines understand written and spoken words. So much so that the most advanced automated telephone systems do not use tone dialling, but a system that allows the user to verbalise the message directly into the phone. The system also understands the query through speech recognition.

How does interactive voice response work?

To function properly, the interactive voice response system uses a TCP/IP network to achieve internet and intranet connectivity. In addition, it needs to be connected to a database capable of supplying the most relevant data. At the same time, it needs to be linked to a web server to host the various applications that connect to the software, such as the contact centre. From here, one of three types of IVR systems is designed:

  • Tone dialling: is the transfer of a numerical combination to access information. It is often used to transfer the call to a specific section of the switchboard. It is also used to request specific information, such as the opening hours of a commercial establishment.
  • Directed dialogue: This system provides interlocutors with a series of predetermined responses and prompts. For example, the sender is often asked to choose the location or opening hours of an establishment. In this case, the interlocutor must interact verbally by expressing the required option.
  • Natural language processing: this is the most advanced alternative. It uses voice recognition to understand the user’s indications. In this case, it gives more general answers, and the speaker is responsible for specifying all the data.

The benefits of implementing an IVR system

Opting for interactive voice response technology offers multiple competitive advantages to organisations of all types and drives automation. Most importantly, it improves a company’s customer service, as enquiries are routed to the appropriate call centre, reducing waiting time and streamlining clarification resolution processes.

These systems are highly cost-effective and efficient, as they not only reduce call volumes, but also improve access to information during off-peak hours, such as evenings, weekends and public holidays.

In addition, by deploying the elements of the automated telephone system effectively, human errors in the customer service process can be reduced. On the other hand, with the incorporation of these tools, security is increased in the process of verifying a person’s identity. This is particularly useful for sensitive personal information such as medical results or bank details.

Types of use of IVR systems

Automated telephone systems are used in a wide variety of sectors, especially in organisations with high call volumes, through call centres, including:

  • Healthcare institutions: these tools in the healthcare system are used, for example, in pre-treatment questionnaires, satisfaction surveys, medical outcomes and specialist appointment management.
  • Academic centres: Interactive voice response systems can help parents and guardians get updates on students’ academic performance.
  • Banks: This technology can also be used for various functions in the banking sector. For example, providing data on accounts, balances or loans.
  • Customer call centres: Many companies have their own customer call centres with IVR systems. These centres are configured to handle large volumes of data through configurable menus.

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