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IVR Systems

What is an IVR System?

Interactive voice response (IVR) is a call center software technology that acts as an automated first point of contact for human callers.

When a person calls in, a recorded voice reads out menu options corresponding to common customer queries or reasons why they might need help. Selecting an option will either:

  1. Trigger another automated response
  2. Notify the caller that they will be routed straight through to a human agent
  3. If no agent is available, place the caller in a queue until someone can take their call

Customers can select an option by either punching numbers into the phone’s keypad or speaking. The system recognizes these commands and can deliver in-depth information based on it, including answers to frequently asked questions, account balances, and operating hours.

How Can IVR Systems Benefit Your Business?

Every day, your call center agents have to field customer calls of varying complexity and value to your business. Not all of these calls need a dedicated human response, particularly if they’re simple requests for information that could be answered on a website. Even if the requests are more complex, you can save time by pre-screening and routing them to the most qualified agents for the subject.

That’s where IVR comes in handy. An IVR system is a smart way to reduce call volume without sacrificing the high level of service your customers expect from your company.

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IVR in Large Businesses

Here are some of the big businesses IVR technology has helped:

Executive Health Resources

Healthcare compliance company Executive Health Resources found that using IVR, they give callers a choice between getting a call back later or being connected with a qualified physician advisor when they called for advice on compliance-related issues. This enabled them to provide 24-hour turnaround on requests from their clients, which include more than 2300 hospitals and health systems.

Scripps Newspaper Group

Scripps Newspaper Group turned to IVR to help manage complaint calls and vacation stops and restarts at its multiple newspaper offices throughout the US. By implementing IVR, the company was able boost its capacity to handle 10,000 calls a day. Scripps estimated the switch will save the company $1.5 million each year.

IVR in Small Businesses

IVR technology helps plenty of small businesses deliver round-the-clock customer service and reduce call loads. With IVR absorbing many of the calls, they can operate with fewer employees and channel resources into their growth.

Lifebooker

Online concierge service Lifebooker.com uses IVR to manage more than 200 confirmation calls per day. The website, which specializes in booking spa appointments in real time, found that IVR not only automated the process of sending bookings to spas, but it also had the scalability to grow with the business.

Advantages of Using IVR

Businesses that receive lots of incoming call traffic from customers can find it challenging to keep up as they grow.

An IVR can handle the most basic calls by answering common questions and directing customers to the appropriate departments. This allows you to reduce the number of salaried or hourly employees dedicated to answering phone lines each day.

In addition to cost savings, you can also give customers immediate assistance precisely when they need it. If they need help on a weekend or in the evening, an IVR can answer many of the questions they might have and during business hours, customers won’t be forced to wait for a live operator.

Potential Drawbacks

One common complaint about menu-based phone systems is that it’s too easy to get lost in many layers of options. If you lean too heavily on IVR, you risk subjecting your customers to death by a thousand automated responses.

IVR menus can also be frustrating to navigate. If a customer finds the system doesn’t understand the information being recited repeatedly, that customer will soon want to speak with a live person, so be sure to offer that option.

Software Providers

There are lots of IVR software options on the market today, many of which are cloud-based. Here are a few to consider:

  • RingCentral - With prices starting at $24.99 per month, RingCentral works with traditional IP-based phones and through an app installed on a user’s smartphone.
  • Callfire - In addition to IVR, CallFire offers text messaging, voice broadcast, and a cloud-based call center starting at $99 per month. A pay-as-you-go model is also available.
  • Five9 - Five9 can integrate with a business’s CRM solution to create a contact center. Pricing is provided on a customized basis.
  • InContact - InContact’s solution features IVR, Automatic Call Distributor (ACD), and workforce optimization tools. Customers pay only for the services they need.

Next Steps

When used smartly and sparingly, the benefits of IVR technology far outweigh the downsides. By choosing the right IVR-enabled call center software for your company, you can improve productivity and reduce operating costs without sacrificing great customer service.