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SoftwareMedia Blog | August 20, 2014

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Say Hello To Interactive Voice Response

Say Hello To Interactive Voice Response

Love it or hate it, interactive voice response (or IVR) has become common place in today’s modern business world.  Sure, we all like actually talking to a human being over a machine, but IVR technology is actually saving time, resources and potentially keeping costs down for the consumer.  IVR systems are easily available and can be all too easy to set up, but are they the right solution?  Let’s look into this a little further.

What is IVR?

Before we get too far into this, let’s talk about what exactly interactive voice response is.  Most of you probably have experienced IVR when calling some any type of call center and the automated voice tells you to give a verbal command to direct you towards the proper department.  This is an IVR system.  The automated systems that can give users their credit card balance, medical information or even due dates on a library book are all using interactive voice response technology in an attempt to enhance the customer experience The technology was actually born in the 1960s, but took off in the 90s when it became much cheaper and less complex to manufacture and is now common place among many major corporations.

Why IVR?

The benefits of using an IVR system are numerous.  Think of it this way, how many times have you had to wait 20 minutes calling customer service just to have a simple question answered?  With an automated machine capable of handling most simple to even moderately complex situations, wait time can be dropped to next to nothing.  This saves the consumer time and eliminates the need for staffing expensive call centers by the company itself.  In the long run, this cuts corporate costs and could trickle down to better deals for the consumer.  One single IVR system can literally handle thousands of calls at a time, directing each caller to the correct area or providing the needed information without even transferring to an agent.  Additionally, IVR allows companies to offer services 24 hours a day.  While certain call centers require private information which many individuals are reluctant to give to a person over the phone, many will feel more comfortable giving that info “anonymously’ to an automated system.   These are just a few of the potential benefits available.

The Critics of IVR systems

As any new technology will, IVR has its handful of critics.  But what exactly are the issues that people complain about?  The problem appears to be caused by improperly set up or poorly designed systems, rather than the technology itself.  Yes, the personal touch of customer service is not necessarily there but for most simple issues an IVR used in business phone systems can be set up to make life easier for everyone involved.  Additionally, many have felt the frustration of needing a certain issue resolved, but the option is not provided by the automated system.  Again, this can be fixed with a more highly developed IVR system.  The biggest issue currently is that designing a good system simply takes a lot of time, and many companies are not taking the time required to make a truly efficient IVR system.   As the technology improves, and more and more companies adopt IVR systems it should become a more fluid interaction.

Is it worth it?

While there is no computer that can truly replace the human touch of customer service, IVR systems offer businesses a way to cut costs all the while saving time and resources.  By following simple guidelines along with proper planning of the IVR system; not only will the customer be served efficiently but the business will run more smoothly.  One should expect an IVR system for one phone line to take somewhere around 100 hours to setup with IT professionals.  IVR can be the right solution for any company – from a mom and pop shop to a retail giant.  What do you think, any positive or negative experiences worth mentioning?  Leave a comment!

Lindsey Mcmahon is a freelance writer on topics related to technology and small business advice. She shares her thoughts and advice on various business-related blogs.

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