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Interactive Voice Response (IVR)

Interactive voice response (IVR) is a phone technology system that enables the identification, segmentation, and routing of callers to the most appropriate workflows and/or agents to handle their issues.

IVR is a scalable and cost-effective system to answer incoming calls, gather voice messages and and help inbound requests to the right agent or a self-service option. This is because it uses pre-determined prompts and responses, and does not require hiring additional agents to scale.

However, IVR is not a substitute for additional agents, as it can only handle the most common and basic requests. Many IVR conversations result in customers escalating the call to an agent.

Despite this, IVR is frequently used for businesses with a large customer base, and it can allow customer service agents to deal with more pressing or complex issues.

In recent years, chatbot systems have also become popular, the analogue of IVR for text-based conversations.

IVR System Customer Support Benefits/Drawbacks

The primary benefits of IVR are that it is cost-effective and scalable.

The drawbacks, however, are not people do not like going through prerecorded workflows, as they can be time-consuming and severely constrain the inquiries that a customer can make. Frequently a menu of options will be presented, and the customer is asked to select from that menu. This is because IVR systems must run automatic speech recognition (ASR) in order to parse the customer's intent or desired option.

Interactive Voice Response Best Practices:

When implementing an IVR system, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Keep the prompts and lists of options short. This reduces the customer effort required to reach a particular option.
  • Keep the menu options up-to-date -- like with other knowledge bases, IVR systems must be regularly updated.
  • Have a fallback in one of the early menus so that the customer can escalate early if desired.
  • The automatic speech recognition system should be tested to make sure it works for various speakers and under different conditions.

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