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March 3rd, 2015 by The Modulis Team

Making the Most of Interactive Voice Response (IVR) Menus

Interactive Voice Response (IVR) is a common element of all modern VoIP PBX systems. In today’s work environment, 90 percent of corporate calls are answered by an automatic IVR system. Large corporations, banks, stores, and government agencies each generally deploy IVR systems to entertain unique incoming customer calls and queries. This automated system not only saves time and the cost of a live voice but also gives a good first impression to customers. IVR menus are the solution to fast and efficient customer service and assistance.

The Interworking of IVR

IVR is often referred to as the automated call menu you hear when you dial a large retail store, a bank, or a service related company. The automated response usually begins with a voice generated greeting followed by options like, “press 1 for Engineering, 2 for Sales, 3 for Complaints, or 4 for Operator Assistance,” for example. The Interactive Voice Response system uses Dual-Tone Multi-Frequency signaling (DTMF) when the caller selects an option from the telephone keypad. At this point, the PBX/telephony system processes the input accordingly.

A modern IVR system can understand the DTMF digit tones, and it is capable of taking speech input from the caller. With modern speech recognition technology, a user simply enters a voice command and the corresponding action is performed by IVR logic. Callers see examples of this on a daily basis in online ordering systems and user verification tools that rely on Interactive Voice Response to confirm a user’s identity.

IVR Industry Best Practices

There are a number of industry-best practices businesses can use for optimum results and customer satisfaction:

  • Prepare IVR recordings using the voice of a professional. A clear, high-quality voice gives incoming customers the best possible impression.
  • An IVR menu should not be too lengthy, complex, or boring. It should include few caller options. Too many options may cause confusion, or a valuable customer may become annoyed.
  • Include no more than 4-5 automated IVR menu options for customers. Keep it simple. Callers do not appreciate waiting on the phone to hear a long list of choices.
  • Place  menus at necessary call entry points only. Plan entry points where IVR is appropriate in order to save your workforce time on repetitive tasks. Most IVR menus will be deployed to handle the top five queries made by customers on a daily basis.
  • A good practice is to create a log of current IVR scripts and update them based on organizational needs. These scripts can then be modified often to include important announcements and to apprise clients of new product launches and changes.
  • Select positive hold music for your  recordings, as it will usually engage customers. An alternative to hold music is to play company advertisements, product launches, or other relevant information about the organization’s products, vision, etc.
  • Establish unique phone numbers for your business departments, with custom IVR menus. This way, you can segregate incoming calls and respond to calls more efficiently.
  • If you are using an Asterisk-based system, it is highly recommended to plan IVR menus according to your PBX configured time conditions.

Asterisk Based IVRs

Asterisk-based IVRs can be programmed as a powerful business solution, especially compared with proprietary systems. Asterisk-based IVR features include:

  • Audio Playback
  • Audio Recording
  • Keypress Data Collection
  • Database and Web Service Access
  • Calendar Integration
  • Speech Recognition
  • Speech Synthesis

IVR applications can be built using dialplan language or through the Asterisk Gateway Interface (AGI), and they can integrate with virtually any external system. The main benefit of an Asterisk-based system is the cost! Not only that, open source makes it easy for developers to add and enhance the feature set. In the case of proprietary systems, only the application vendor can perform the changes, and it often requires various software patches at a greater cost and more time.

Efficient IVR Solutions

There are many business scenarios where efficient IVR solutions can make a difference, saving companies in time and costs:

  • Hospitality Services/Hotels
  • Banking
  • Government Agencies
  • Hotline/Helpdesks
  • Telecom Companies
  • Travel/Recreation Industry
  • Tele-voting systems
  • Surveys/Market Research
  • Contact Centers (Automatic Call Distribution / Inbound Calling)

Companies have the option of deploying on-premise or hosted systems. Most of the modern PBX systems support IVR functionality, and unique IVR menu options can be designed based on company requirements. Modulis can provide both of these solutions to cater to your incoming or outgoing IVR needs. Our modern IVR systems are compatible with DTMF input and can process voice commands from the user with leading speech recognition technology. Startups and small companies can leverage the potential of an IVR system to look large, present a positive image, and provide excellent customer service.