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predictive dialers and crm software
computer telephony software predictive dialer

Automatic Call Distribution
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predictive dialers and crm software

Interactive Voice Response
Toll Free Services
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IVR Systems
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Voice Response Unit
IVR Design Program
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IVR systems interactive voice response

IVR Interactive Voice Response

This section of our technical library presents information and documentation relating to IVR and interactive voice response software as well as automatic call answering solutions. Business phone systems and toll free answering systems (generally 800 numbers and their equivalent) are very popular for service and sales organizations, allowing customers and prospects to call your organization anywhere in the country. Our PACER and Wizard IVR systems add another dimension to our call center phone system solutions. An Interactive Voice Response (IVR) processes inbound phone calls, plays recorded messages including information extracted from databases and the internet, and potentially routes calls to either in-house service agents or transfers the caller to an outside extension.

Developing an IVR Design to Produce Organizational Results

by Louie Gazzola

Consumers have expressed dissatisfaction with Interactive Voice Response (IVR) self-service applications, despite the high penetration of IVR’s and reliance on this technology.  Some industry analysts blame the techno-challenged consumer for creating this negative environment.  But with the number of cell phones, personal digital assistant (PDA’s) and personal computers in our community, this excuse is questionable.

A Customer's experience can vary greatly when conducting common self-service transaction.  This is based on the industry the customer is calling and the callers own personal preference.  The common elements that irritate customers are:


     IVR options that are not clear and therefore result in uncertain selections that do not satisfy their needs 


     The number of options offered on a single menu level that result in a lengthy script


   Being requested to input information that is asked to be repeated once connected to a live agent 

With voice systems not performing efficiently call centre’s can be ineffective resulting in their organization not being as competitive as they could be.

Why Implementing Self-Service Systems:

Depending on your organizations service and products, self-service IVR can handle 5% to 80% of customer enquires without needing the assistance of an agent.  Financial institutes have had the greatest success with IVR applications and range between 60-80% of overall customer enquires.  Organizations that  require individual service or their IVR is not linked to their Customer Information System (CIS) for real time information have reported usage as little as 5%.  Based on your industry and where your customers are in the automation life cycle, IVR’s usage could be both a unique customer satisfaction tool and a cost enabler. 

A successful IVR application needs to satisfy customer needs.  Therefore each organization, based on their customer profile, products and services, need to determine how they wish to use this tool. 


      7/24 access to information, is a positive feature providing that CIS down time is minimum and account information is real-time.


      Information is more quickly accessible then waiting for a live agent, providing that the IVR structure and menus are well designed.


      Ability to screens calls to correct agent group, for centre’s that have multiple queues.


      Reduce Data entry by agent when presented a call from the IVR, providing that customer information such as customers account, phone number and transactions required can be transferred to an agent.

Along with improved customer satisfaction and competitive advantage, reduce staffing requirements by offloading simple/short calls from queuing to an agent is a cost benefit of implementing an IVR system.  The business cases used to cost justify the purchase of an IVR system needs to include all impacts on the current call drivers and business processes. 

When calculating Return on Investment (ROI), a reduction in call volume of 10% does not equate to the same percentage reduction in staffing requirement.  Average Handle Time (AHT) for the more complicated calls is longer, therefore by removing these calls from an agent queue overall number of calls handled is reduced and AHT is increased. 

The impact of a 10% reduction in call volume calculates to just over a 5% decrease in workload and staffing requirement.


Call Volume

% of TTL Call Volume

Average Handle Time

Workload       (in Mins)

% of TTL Workload

Short Calls






Lengthy Calls






TTL Volume






There is also an impact on agent productivity by removing short calls from an agent queue.  The remaining calls are more complicated which increases the complexity of the calls and increases the stress level.  As the work activity becomes more complex, an agent ability to handle these calls efficiently is decreased.  This results in longer agent controlled gaps between calls, and a decrease in agent productivity.  


What should the IVR Design look like?

The main function of the IVR is to allow customers to interact with other systems in your organization.  If your organization is not giving out personal information, you may wish to review other options other then an IVR.  Voice Mail, has been used very successfully in providing generic messaging and directing callers to specialized agent queues.  Once you have decided which kind of system you require to meet your business needs, the overall design of the system should follow the same principals.

A few principals to remember during the design of the IVR menu structure is:


Keep the format consistent and do not use industry jargon


If using repeat and default to live agent keys; offer these options on the main menu.


When using repeat, return to previous menu, return to main menu and default to live


agent keys options throughout the menu levels, advice the caller of these options


when once they have drilled down to the second level of menu options.


Follow the KISS principal remembering that your audience will have a range of


knowledge and experience with using your service.

Depth and length of menu structure should be uncomplicated so that customers can self direct themselves from one option to another without hanging up and redialing.  A design rule that has been very successful is the 3 and 3 rule.  This results in 3 options per menu level with each level going down 3 sub menus (this would equate up to 39 options offered). 

Managing IVR Performance:

For centres that rely on IVR options to offload call volume, system down time results in call volume spikes, increasing queue times, agent costs and reducing customer satisfaction. 

In most centre’s, agents statistics are critical element that are reviewed daily to ensure that goals are achieved.  If your IVR is a critical part of your business plan, the system key business indicators need also to be reviewed and targeted for success on a daily basis.  Some of the key metrics for IVR success are:


     Transaction failure rate – This can be defined as the % of the time that the CIS is not available and the caller defaults to an agent.


     Transactions attempts - How many menus are searched till the customer finds the application they require to complete their transaction.


      Abandoned Rate – Customers that hang up prior to making an automated selection to fulfill their request result in an additional call at a later date or a loss opportunity.


      Call length – A well structured IVR menu allows customer to promptly complete their request, but a high % of short calls may not add value to the customer enquire just adds cost to the call centre.


      Customer delay time - Dead air, which is the result of long waits from the host or internal IVR transfers may result in customer abandonment and defaults to live agents

Customers get very frustrated after a few seconds of silence or delays, while prolonged silences increases toll charges and will cause customers to lose faith in the IVR and default to a live agent. If a customer experiences this dissatisfaction a number of times in a variety of IVR systems, they will not attempt to use any self service features.  Therefore it is important to ensure that your organization’s IVR is structured in a way that is user friendly so that it is regard as a competitive advantage.   

There is not much an organization can do about other IVR systems.  It is important to be conscious that your customer may have had a poor experience with another organization’s IVR.  Therefore a call centre should be aware of this negative experience and provide education and choice.  Once your IVR is implemented, it needs to be monitored and updated to ensure that both the design and performance indicators meet your current customer needs. 

Louie Gazzola has over fifteen years of progressive customer service management experience and ten years of planning & implementing technology-based solutions. He founded Advanced Contact Centre Solutions (ACCS) to provide an independent objective perspective on contact centre technology and workforce management issues. You can reach him at 604.765.2276 or at

Wizard Simplifies Development

DSC provides IVR software including our IVR wizard development tool for creating interactive voice response applications. Our IVR software lets you increase IVR development productivity by providing a visual development environment. IVR applications can be defined in minutes using this sophisticated, yet easy to use development tool. DSC also has available a comprehensive IVR software library known as our IVR Wizard Software Development Kit. This optional package is available for programmers and systems adminstrators who wish to manage IVR programs fromLinux IVR, Unix, or Windows IVR operating environments.

Data collected by your phone ACD (Automatic Call Distribution) or IVR (Interactive Voice Response) systems can be passed to your existing PC, Unix or Web applications through our phone software. The PACER predictive dialer can automatically call your customers and pass only connected calls to your agents. With our computer telephony software, your telephone and computer work together to provide cost-saving benefits.