What is IVR?

Understand interactive voice response systems and how they can help your business


What is IVR?

Understand interactive voice response systems and how they can help your business


What is IVR?

Understand interactive voice response systems and how they can help your business


What is IVR?

Understand interactive voice response systems and how they can help your business


Your contact center is at the core of your customer support efforts, which is why you’ll want it to have everything it needs to give your callers a helpful and stress-free experience. But that can be challenging for customer service teams that deal with high volumes of incoming calls. That's where a good IVR solution can really make a difference.

IVR can transform the way call centers operate by keeping call queues short and cutting down the amount of time callers have to wait for assistance - which results in improved customer experiences and optimized call processing.

Want to know more? Read on:

What is Interactive Voice Response (IVR)?

What is Interactive Voice Response (IVR)?

What is Interactive Voice Response (IVR)?

What is Interactive Voice Response (IVR)?

Interactive Voice Response (IVR) is a call center technology that helps callers access information or experts to resolve their issues. There are two ways IVR technology can work for customer service:

Self-service Call-based routing
Help incoming callers access pre-recorded information and guided services (e.g., payments) without needing to speak to a live agent.Help incoming callers reach the right agent or department via options using their telephone keypad or via speech recognition.

Having an IVR system incorporated into your omnichannel customer service strategy ensures all incoming calls are handled professionally - even if a live agent isn’t immediately available. Callers can help themselves navigate through simple tasks or wait to be routed to a live agent based on their individual customer needs.

That means happy customers and lower chances of call abandonment.

Most basic IVR systems allow businesses to carry out some, if not all, of the following functions:

  • Playing audio messages and pre-recorded messages (personalized messages, prompts, business hours, etc.)
  • Caller data collection
  • Automated customer support and self-service options
  • Call prioritization
  • Automatic call routing/automatic call distribution (ACD)
  • Managing callback options

8x8's contact center solutions are designed to empower agents and reduce frustration among callers. By automating simple tasks and routing calls more accurately, our communications technologies leave your reps free to focus on more complex customer calls and tasks.

That means improved workflow, increased agent and customer satisfaction, workforce engagement, and retention (not just of customers, but of employees too!)

That’s bound to be a major plus for your company’s image.

How does interactive voice response work?

Most of us have experienced IVR technology from a customer's perspective. Think of the last time you called a customer service hotline. Your experience probably looked like this:

  1. Your call connects to the call center.
  2. You're greeted by the IVR system's automated receptionist.
  3. You're invited to choose from a series of options using your phone's keypad or through voice recognition.
  4. You'll either (a) complete a task (e.g., a payment) with the automated system's guidance or (b) choose to talk to a live call center agent.
  5. If a customer service representative who can help you is available, your call will be routed to their line; if no reps can take your call, you'll be placed in a call queue.

This is a fairly common experience, especially when you're contacting larger organizations. And nowadays, with contact center software becoming increasingly accessible, even small businesses can employ this for their customers.

For growing organizations, a simple IVR menu is a great way to streamline your processes and demonstrate professionalism. With 8x8, you’ll have access to a scalable contact center solution complete with IVR, intelligent routing, call recording, analytics, and more.

The technical stuff

So we’ve discussed how IVR works in broad strokes. But what about the technology behind it? Here's what you need to know -

Interactive Voice Response systems are essentialy a type of computer telephony integration (CTI for short). CTI encompasses any technology that coordinates interactions that need a business phone and a computer system to work together.

In the case of Interactive Voice Response, its basic components include:

  • A TCP/IP network for internet connectivity
  • A database storing real-time information
  • A server (web-based or via an IVR application) to host the software

With 8x8, setting up call center software with IVR functionality is quick and easy. Our holistic contact center solution not only includes IVR, but seamless integrations with some of your favorite apps and tools.

For example, our Salesforce CRM integration allows 8x8 users to combine the very best in customer relationship management with flexible, scalable contact center software.

Examples of interactive voice response

Examples of interactive voice response

Examples of interactive voice response

Examples of interactive voice response

It’s time for some real-life examples. We’ve already mentioned that IVR can be used to:

  1. help customers enjoy self-service options or
  2. route calls to live representatives

But did you know that IVR technology now offers even more extensive customer self-service options to incoming callers? In the past, IVR tools could only provide instructions that require callers access resources outside the call. That's not the case anymore.

Typical self-service options these days include the ability to do the following during a phone call:

  • Pay bills and fees over secure third-party payment gateways
  • Check bank or account balances, outstanding bills and/or fees
  • Set pin numbers
  • Change account passwords
  • Access account information
  • Look up product/ service information via an IVR directory
  • Make monetary transfers and/or small payments

That’s great news - not only because more consumers want self-service options, but because it saves customer service employees time and resources that could be better spent on more complex client queries and administrative tasks. That means better customer and employee experiences all around.

Why use IVR systems?

Aside from the direct advantages of adopting the use IVR as part of your customer service strategy, businesses enjoy many other benefits. These include:

1. Increased first contact resolution

Interactive Voice Response technology can help improve first contact resolution rates. First contact resolution (or first call resolution) is a customer service metric that measures the percentage of customer inquiries resolved upon first contact with your business.

Having effective IVR in place boosts first contact resolution rates because incoming callers are:

(a) less likely to abandon their call because waiting times are too long, and

(b) more likely to be routed to the most appropriate agent or department

IVR technology ensures callers are matched with representatives who can actually help them and provides the resources they need to resolve issues quickly and easily by themselves.

2. Increased customer service efficiency

IVR technology increases customer service and agent efficiency by ensuring callers get what they need. Based on information they provide, intelligent interactive voice response identifies the best resources from the get-go.

That means call flows become more streamlined and efficient - and the time you save from avoiding endless call transfers can be invested elsewhere.

8x8 helps service teams achieve better customer experiences and boost their self-service options by incorporating AI into their IVR capability. You'll be able to reduce wait times with more efficient call handling and processing, using advanced features like Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) and Natural Language Processing (NLP) to capture data and run detailed system analyses.

3. Reduced operational costs

Interactive Voice Response systems help bring down operational costs in a number of ways.

First, your IVR tool can replace a traditional in-house receptionist with an automated attendant for your contact center. This means that even if you do like having a live receptionist, you can have them focus on calls outside of customer support and you won't have to hire extra people to handle the high volume of customer queries.

Second, because IVR systems make call handling vastly more efficient all around, operations will be spending less time and money on low-value activities. In most cases, the return on investment (ROI) for IVR software is considerable.

4. Improved customer experiences in the long-term

IVR tools are very intelligent. Even a basic IVR system can provide useful answers to callers and direct calls to the right experts. You get even more advantages with advanced solutions.

This is especially true of 8x8’s communications software.

Our solutions allow businesses to automatically capture and report customer insights with built-in reporting and analytics tools specifically designed to analyze the customer journey. Your agents will benefit from the latest in conversational AI technology. Plus, you’ll be able to create a bespoke IVR path that meets the needs of your unique customer base, thanks to our intuitive drag-and-drop IVR interaction designer.

IVR phone system best practices

If you’re thinking about using an IVR platform for your own customer service strategy (or you’re in the process of calibrating your contact center's call handling procress), then listen up.

There are a few things you need keep in mind to ensure you’re offering the best interactive voice experience possible. Following these best practices allows callers to get their queries answered quickly and conveniently.

Let's check them out -

1. Remember: self-service is great, but don't forget to provide a live agent option

Yes, it’s true that customers love having the option to help themselves (mostly because it saves time). But there are limits.

Self-service is designed to deal with simple requests and tasks such as checking caller information, making payments, and the like. For more nuanced and complex queries, you still need to make live agents available for your customers.

Your IVR system must provide the option to speak to a live associate. Ideally, customers should be given this option at various stages throughout their IVR call journey. This way, you can accommodate any confusion they may have as they navigate through the voice response menu.

2. Don't overdo call recording notices

Think about the last time you spoke to a customer service professional. Chances are, you'll hear a notice informing your that the call is being recorded for x, y, or z purposes.

This is, of course, a legal requirement. But there’s no need to go overboard. As tempting as it may be to remind callers that you're recording the conversation every so often, too many notifications can put them off. So let's keep them to a minimum.

3. Offer more than one language option for callers

Use more than one language in your IVR options for expanded outreach and greater client satisfaction. In our increasingly global marketplace, multilingual calling options are more important than ever.

Even if your business doesn't operate in more than one country, it’s stiill a great idea to offer options for callers who don’t share your primary language. This ensures that every caller receives the highest level of personalized service.

4. Keep things simple

It can be tempting to offer your callers every option possible. But in reality, this is guaranteed to do one thing and one thing only - confuse them!

IVR is best kept simple. As a general rule, try to make sure you can list your main options in 20-30 seconds. Longer than that, and you risk having your callers forget their choices. What a nightmare!

A simple greeting with equally simple menu options is the way to go. This is the key to an efficient and effective IVR experience.

With 8x8, you can design your ideal IVR menu with a range of options for intuitive self-service experiences based on your business needs and customer journey maps. Want to make changes as your strategy evolves? No problem. You’ll be able to adjust caller options while maintaining all of your call processes with little to no reliance on IT.

5. Consider investing in IVR tools with robust voice recognition technology

It's not always convenient for callers to use keypads. That's why you need to invest in a solution that can offer alternatives.

Advanced IVR uses voice recognition technology to help customers interact naturally with your IVR software.

Pick an IVR solution that uses Natural Language Processing (NLP) as well as Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR). This allows customers to speak with your automated system just as effectively as they would with a live agent.

The most important thing is to ensure that customers have enough time to respond to your automated, pre-recorded messaging. Some IVRs will let callers interrupt automated messages with the help of speech and voice recognition technologies.

It’s also worth incorporating error correction in your IVR system. We all make mistakes when interacting with automated systems. Sometimes customer mistakes can leave IVRs confused or ‘stuck’ on a particular command. A great way to avoid this is by prompting customers with pre-set rephrase options.

6. Avoid making customers repeat information

Last, but certainly not least, avoid making customers repeat information they've already provided through your IVR if they're transferred to a live agent. This happens a lot, and it’s both frustrating for your customers and wildly inefficient for your workflow.

Make sure that all the information a customer provides to the IVR is supplied to the live agents. This way, you’ll get the job done more quickly, and your callers won’t have to repeat themselves.

The contact center of the future

The contact center of the future

The contact center of the future

The contact center of the future

IVR is fueling the future of the contact center. With IVR technology, you'll reduce costs across your operations, improve customer self-service options, and boost agent efficiency.

Our integrated contact center solutions offer advanced IVR solutions at scale - and it's easy to implement.

So, what are you waiting for?

Discover 8x8’s IVR and CCaaS solutions today by signing up for a demo.