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IVR Systems

June 20, 2018

11:27 am

What is IVR?

IVR (Interactive Voice Response) technology allows callers and computers to interact over the phone through an automated voice system.

While it has many applications, its fundamental purpose is to collect information from a caller. Based on a particular touchtone or simple voice command, the system routes the caller to the right menu, operator, or sales agent. That friendly automated voice you hear when you call a business? That’s IVR at work.

Simple IVR systems may rely on pre-recorded stock greetings and commands, while more sophisticated technology gives you a broader range of selection, from completely customizable menu options to versatile audio choices.

The type of system you choose will most likely depend on the size of your business. Bigger, multi-faceted brands typically require dynamic IVR systems, while smaller companies may benefit from more streamlined options.

Whatever you choose, most companies find that implementing an IVR system results in time-efficiency and savings.

Uses:

  • Phone banking
  • Phone surveys
  • Tele-voting
  • Call centers

Phone banking

Increasingly, banks are allowing customers to complete simple transactions over the phone. Rather than visiting the local branch, a customer simply has to call in and interact with the automated system.

Through a series of prompts and menus, the system can accurately identify the customer’s needs and direct him accordingly. For people who need to access info such as account balance or make a transaction outside of normal business hours, IVR phone banks provide real value to banks and customers alike.

Phone surveys

Automated IVR phone surveys can be useful for a variety of businesses. They’re a good way to source customer feedback, which can then inform future brand decisions.

Retail companies, for example, can follow up with recent customers about their shopping experience. Meanwhile, brands that offer in-person customer support can receive feedback on the customer’s phone experience by using IVR.

They can program the system to transfer him to a customer satisfaction survey, either automatically or with permission.

Additionally, some IVR providers offer systems that can be manipulated to assess product knowledge testing among employees, patient satisfaction surveys, or customized for your own use.

Tele-voting

While tele-voting has become popularized due to reality television contests, IVR voting is designed to handle more complex services.

Rather than just asking a person to vote for one thing or another during one particular window of time, IVR systems can be customized to deal with each call individually.

They can present different options based on the calling party’s number, the called number itself, date, time, and more. The IVR service can be dynamically designed to address the requirements of the specific contest.

Call centers

For companies with multiple locations, IVR eliminates the need for individual call centers. Instead, one system can handle the demands of all of your customers, whether they’re located in different areas in a particular city, state, or throughout the country.

When someone calls in, he can choose from a menu of options and, if necessary, be automatically directed to a specific location.

Similarly, if you run a large business with a complex infrastructure, customers may have any number of questions when they call.

Dynamic IVR systems can interact with the caller and present different options depending on his individual requests. This ensures that everyone’s needs are met.

Benefits:

  • Reduces costs
  • Company efficiency
  • Improves customer service
  • Greater access for employees / customers

Reduces costs

IVR systems are like virtual assistants. With their ability to answer and route calls, they eliminate the need of a receptionist, or can at least allow your current receptionist to absorb other duties instead.

In addition, with centralized software, you don’t need as much hardware (and in the case of cloud-hosted services, little to no hardware at all). IVR consolidates many of your phone expenses into one low-cost solution.

Boosts company efficiency

Next to costs, efficiency is perhaps the most valued benefit of IVR systems. Agents and employees can spend less time on the phone overall, and more time on other important tasks.

They’ll no longer have to wade through the general, introductory questions asked by a caller. Rather, the system can accommodate these queries and direct the call to the appropriate menu, department, or live agent.

For businesses with heavy call volume, IVR services can handle multiple lines at once. They can address the requests of many people faster than a backed-up call center of live operators.

Improves customer service

With a versatile IVR system that can handle multiple commands, customers will have an easy, pleasant experience on the phone.

By smartly optimizing the system to offer clear, simple options, your callers can be quickly directed to the right place. They won’t have to endure irrelevant menus or get sent to the wrong department.

Good IVR services will direct the customer to the right person, or resolve the question solely through automation, creating a satisfying customer experience.

Greater access for employees / customers

An advanced IVR system can be programmed for call forwarding, which means you don’t have to be tied to the office to receive or make important calls.

The service can put you in touch with customers or clients on your cell or separate, remote landline. It can even patch the call through to a separate IVR service.

Providers:

  • Voxeo
  • PlumVoice
  • Genesys
  • inContact
  • SmartAction
  • VoiceCTI

Voxeo

Unlike some providers’ proprietary IVR platforms, Voxeo’s Prophecy system is based on open web and IP standards, meaning it can be used on its own or integrated with other applications.

You can buy the platform for use at your work site, or pay a monthly fee to use it in a separate hosting facility. If you prefer to use it in conjunction with your existing web infrastructure, the platform can be easily integrated.

PlumVoice

A leading provider in IVR services, PlumVoice offers on-site as well as cloud-based IVR systems. In other words, you have the option to have the hardware yourself, or use the cloud to run the system from a remote location.

Both services offer the features of standard IVR systems, though on-site hosting allows for full integration into your company’s existing telecom systems.

Genesys

Genesys offers robust IVR services, and it prides itself on its Inbound IVR Solution program. Designed to put the customer first, Inbound allows a business to integrate the system with other CRM (customer relationship management) software and databases, which culls caller data and enables the system to anticipate the caller’s needs.

Additionally, it allows you to capture data and easily optimize the service.

inContact

inContact offers 4 main IVR services: customer service, business consulting, professional services, and training.

For companies looking to improve their call center performance, you can expect IVR features and benefits such as automatic call-back for customers who don’t want to wait, access to customer data, and automated speech recognition.

SmartAction

Completely cloud-based, SmartAction sets itself apart from the competition with its proprietary Intelligent Voice Automation software.

It’s an artificial intelligence engine that creates compelling, natural conversations, and it’s programmed to continually learn and improve its language abilities. Some common applications of the software include call routing, order-taking, surveys, billing inquiry and more.

VoiceCTI

For small to medium-size businesses that experience an above-average call volume, Voice CTI offers its IVM Telephone Answering Attendant System Bundle.

The system acts as a virtual assistant, providing answering services, voicemail, credit card payment options, and more. If your small business doesn’t have the resources to handle all of your incoming calls, Voice CTI may be a good option.

Examples of businesses using IVR software:

Michigan Basic Property Insurance

Michigan Basic Property Insurance seeks to provide affordable insurance to any property owner, no matter the location.

Previously, its call center was populated by live agents who were frequently inundated with calls pertaining to the same general inquiries regarding bill pay, account info, and policy changes.

Answering callers’ questions was a time-consuming task. However, by implementing an IVR system, MBPI was able to reduce operating costs by redistributing some of the basic, repetitive workload of the operators to the automated service.

Champlain Local Health Integration Network (LHIN)

Champlain LHIN’s hip and knee replacement program sought to provide better access to services pertaining to hip and knee replacement surgeries among local patients. Using an intake service, patients could choose which hospital and doctor they wanted for their operation.

LHIN desired to measure the success of their intake service based on customer feedback, but their manual, pen-and-paper forms were time-consuming and often ignored by patients.

By replacing the forms with an outbound IVR system (patients received calls with automated surveys), they significantly improved their response rate among patients, and implemented changes much faster than before.

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Richard Parris is the Managing Editor of TechCo.

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