Interactive Voice Response: Definition & Examples | Uniphore

Interactive Voice Response: Definition & Examples | Uniphore

7 min read

It’s no secret that consumers today increasingly expect brands to provide immediate resolution and offer the ability to solve issues themselves. As a result, companies are turning to technology that removes the need for human agents to handle simple tasks and eliminates long hold periods that frustrate customers. And the technology that’s making it possible: interactive voice response. 

When implemented effectively, interactive voice response (IVR) can boost customer satisfaction and brand connection, simplify contact center operations, reduce waiting times and help businesses meet their key performance indicators (KPIs). The technology is especially effective during high call volume periods, assisting customers to quickly find the answers they need without speaking to a human.

Effective IVR systems are helping businesses to provide customers with quicker, more effective responses. And with the advent of enterprise-grade generative artificial intelligence (AI), IVR software is more capable than ever. When generative AI is trained on open-source and enterprise-specific data, it improves accuracy and explainability, helps agents access real-time information and protects data privacy—the holy grail of enterprise CX solutions.

What is Interactive Voice Response (IVR)? 

IVR is an automated system that engages callers by quickly discovering the information required to solve frequently asked questions or carry out repeatable tasks. Utilizing IVR means callers can achieve self-service by accessing a menu of options and navigating it via spoken and/or written input. An IVR solution that allows a user to interact in multiple ways is called a multimodal IVR.

How Does IVR Work?

IVR uses pre-recorded or AI-generated voice messages and a multimodal interface. This enables callers to navigate menus of options using either their keypad or speech recognition and access information without speaking to a live agent. If the IVR can’t access the information the caller wants, it can route the customer to the most appropriate call agent.

Where Is IVR Used?

Telecommunications: Telecom companies often rely on IVR software to manage low-value, high-effort customer service calls. These include basic account, billing and even technical support queries that don’t require live agent support. 

Finance: Banks and financial services can use IVR systems to help customers quickly carry out basic tasks without speaking to a person. Using an IVR, customers can check their account balances, update their account details or amend their investment portfolios. 

Healthcare: IVR technology plays a crucial role in boosting patient satisfaction. It can help healthcare organizations manage appointment scheduling, monitor patients, compile patient satisfaction surveys and complete pre-treatment questionnaires. It can also help patients quickly re-schedule an appointment, access their test results, post-discharge information and medication schedules.

When Is IVR Used?

IVR systems are typically used by organizations that receive lots of calls from customers. They can also be deployed when companies are experiencing higher volumes of incoming traffic or during hectic periods.

Holidays, in particular, can have higher call traffic, and many agents won’t want to be in the office, so using an IVR can help customers solve simple issues and minimize queue times. Additionally, if the IVR can’t solve a customer’s problem, it can take their details for an agent to call back when they’re available.

A woman sitting at an outdoor table by a camper van, enjoying the sunlight and browsing through examples of Interactive Voice Response systems.

Improving Your Customer Service with Interactive Voice Response

IVR systems offer a wide range of benefits for organizations that receive high volumes of incoming calls, including: 

It’s Available 24/7

The most significant benefit of IVR may be that it’s always available. An IVR system doesn’t get tired, need to take a break or go on vacation. As a result, IVR systems are available around the clock, so you can utilize them whenever call agents are unavailable or during busy periods. Additionally, customers know they can contact you whenever they need to, even if it means leaving a message for a future callback. 

Improves Customer Service Quality 

An IVR helps you to enhance the quality of your customer service and reduce frustrating friction points in your customer journey. An IVR system presents clear options to customers, enabling them to quickly navigate to their specific issue on their own—no long hold queues or lost connections involved. It also helps you to route a caller to the most appropriate or relevant call agent, which increases your chance of first-time resolution and boosts customer satisfaction.  

Saves Time and Money 

IVR systems can be hugely cost- and time-effective. Using an IVR enables you to reduce agents’ call volumes and saves time and money during off-peak hours. It can minimize the need to overstaff during nights, weekends or holiday periods. 

Limits Human Error

Effective use of an IVR system helps to reduce errors across your customer service team. It takes the responsibility away from people to action all customer requests, take notes from every interaction and route calls to the most appropriate agent. 

Increases Agent Effectiveness

Providing self-service options to customers offers the added benefit of removing menial tasks from call agents. As a result, your employees spend more time working on challenging customer issues, as opposed to simple and repetitive tasks like updating account details or resetting passwords. Giving agents challenging work is crucial to maximizing their effectiveness and keeping them happy, making them more likely to deliver better customer service. 

Enhances Agent Training

AI technology can help you equip call agents with real-time data while they’re on calls with customers. It can also monitor every call to summarize the conversation and collate actions and promises, which saves agents time, improves accuracy and boosts customer satisfaction. Call center managers can use this data to better understand customer demands and enhance training for call agents and sales representatives. 

Improves Security

IVR systems that utilize voice recognition can use the technology to quickly verify the identity of a caller. This is crucial to ensuring that a person is who they claim to be, without a call agent going through the laborious process of asking a caller to confirm their address, date of birth or secret questions. It’s also vital to protecting sensitive customer data, such as social security numbers, account information and medical data. 

A man using a smartphone and working on a computer in a modern office setting with an Interactive Voice Response system.

IVR Dos and Don’ts

With those benefits in mind, it’s also vital to consider a few best practices when implementing an IVR system. 

Keep the Menu Options Clear and Short

An IVR system needs to help customers solve their challenges easily and swiftly. But providing callers with a list of options that is confusing, unclear or overwhelming will damage brand satisfaction. Designing an effective IVR system requires understanding customers’ needs and keeping menu options short, clear and straightforward. Conversational AI can help by analyzing customer calls to identify common queries and understanding contextual nuances that can influence the customer journey. 

Provide Live Agent Options 

Offering self-service capability is crucial to boosting customer satisfaction, but it’s also vital to provide the option to speak to a live agent where necessary. Sometimes a customer won’t be able to find the menu item they need through an IVR, or the issue may be too complex for the system to solve itself. In that situation, you need to provide the option to speak to a call agent who can investigate the case further. 

Use Natural Language Prompts

Natural language prompts can help callers to solve challenges as quickly as possible. To achieve that, prompts must be clear to help callers understand the option they require. For example, an open-ended welcome like “How can we help you today?” can confuse callers and run the risk of them providing a vague response that the IVR doesn’t understand. A better approach is to provide callers with a clear list of options based on typical customer challenges. 

Use Calls to Train Agents

As mentioned above, historic customer calls can help you train your agents. The data from these calls is crucial to helping agents understand challenges they may face in live situations, the types of issues people will call about and help them solve problems more quickly. 

Don't Keep Callers on Hold

IVRs are designed to prevent callers from being put into a lengthy hold queue. So, an IVR system must assist customers in solving their issues as quickly as possible and avoid the risk of frustrating hold music. 

How to Make an Interactive Voice Response

An IVR system needs to be mapped to the specific needs of your customers, from helping people achieve self-service to routing calls to the most appropriate agent. To create an IVR system that meets your requirements, consider: 

Boost Your Customer Service With IVR 

An effective IVR system can help you transform customer service, empower callers to solve their own challenges and keep customers and call agents happy. A successful IVR must utilize conversational AI and natural language-based speech recognition to capture customer intent, boost customer satisfaction and agent performance and increase self-service success rates.

Uniphore’s X-Platform helps you to solve your biggest enterprise challenges. Our AI technology enables you to unearth customer intent, solve issues quicker than ever by providing callers and agents with real-time information and enhance operational efficiency across the business.

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