Interactive voice response systems

Anyone who has ever worked at or called into a customer support center knows how busy these centers can be and how the high volume of calls can lead to long wait times and frustrated customers. Interactive voice response, or IVR, technology can help to alleviate high call volume and the long wait times associated with it while still providing customers the service they require.

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Interactive voice response systems allow callers to attend to some of their own routine customer service needs, such as paying bills, checking account balances or retrieving product or order information. Basically, these systems are designed to detect voice and touch-tone keypad inputs and then access or record, via computer interface, the appropriate information to respond.

This is different from an automated attendant (also autoattendant or AA), which is essentially just a filtering system used in place of a live receptionist to direct calls to the appropriate person or department. IVR systems, on the other hand, actually interact with callers to provide information and resolve simple inquiries, eliminating the need for a live agent. In most cases, a live agent can be contacted through the IVR system if personal service becomes necessary.

Why You Need an IVR Solution

IVR systems can improve both the customer and the employee experience. Customers with routine inquiries will be able to resolve their own issues quickly and efficiently, avoiding the long wait for a live agent. This, in turn, will ease the pressure on business phone lines and reduce the wait time for a live agent so that customers who require more in-depth service can get it faster, as well. As for the agents, they will be able to focus on the more complicated aspects of issue resolution and customer service, increasing their engagement with both the customer and the job. In a high-turnover industry like telecommunications, employee satisfaction is almost as important as customer satisfaction.

What to Look for in an IVR Service

IVR services can cover a variety of options. Some specialize in IVR platforms, providing the server, hardware and IVR software or operating system required to implement an IVR system. Others provide IVR applications—the specific programs that control the calls and responses. These services may create these applications, sell stock applications or do a combination of both depending on their clients' needs. Finally, some IVR services are consulting firms, offering expertise and guidance on a variety of IVR issues, including integration, configuration, application development, platform selection and more. Of course, there are also IVR services that offer the full spectrum of technology and support.

The most important consideration in choosing an IVR service is efficiency—both cost efficiency and time efficiency. Remember that the whole point of an IVR system is to reduce your costs and increase the speed and quality of your customer service. So, whether you use several IVR services for different aspects of your system or find one all-inclusive service, make sure that the platform, application and advice help your IVR system do what it is meant to do.

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