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.
IVR technology makes phone a powerful business tool
by Michael Zirngibl
From the April 16, 2004 print edition, Washington Business Journal
Your small business may have the best products, lowest prices and smartest people, but it all goes for naught if potential customers don't believe your company has the market heft to put it all together. In today's sink-or-swim business environment, small companies must be aggressive in raising the profile of their brand, establishing their credentials and making their presence felt in their market sector.
While small companies can choose to pour precious dollars into these endeavors, there are a lot of quick, inexpensive and effective ways to achieve the same results with affordable new technologies -- and a good dose of common sense.
For a small company, a telephone is more than a phone: It is the front door of your business. How a phone is answered and how a call is processed is an instant measure of a firm's efficiency and tone.
With the right combination of new call-handling tools, even a garage-based startup can project professionalism and competence from the get-go. In fact, today's intelligent phone systems incorporate, accommodate and augment such a wide range of key business processes that interactive voice response (IVR) technology is having a leveling effect similar to that of the Web. By using pay-as-you-go phone tools offered by application service providers (ASP), even the smallest business can appear bigger, more substantial and more professional.
Companies can use ASP-provided IVR to tap into a few features and functions, or a lot of them, depending on specific needs -- without a capital investment in an on-site IVR system.
A recent survey by Datamonitor demonstrates what those who implement IVR solutions already know -- on a cost per contact basis, IVR provides substantial benefits to organizations and customers at a cost far below that of more traditional means of communication. Compared to a cost-per-contact exceeding $9 for traditional telephone assistance, IVR solutions average $1.10 per contact.
Here's a few of the most significant applications of IVR technology:
One of the key advantages of IVR is that it can free companies from maddening human resource-intensive tasks, particularly repetitive functions such as routing callers to the right person, delivering answers to frequently asked questions and providing the status of a customer orders. IVR can take the pressure off small staffs by winnowing away the grunt work, and still provide callers with options that let them reach the appropriate people to address more pressing issues. Answered phones help keep customers on board, too. Restaurant-goers looking for a reservation, for example, move on to the next directory listing when phones go unanswered. IVR can answer the phone -- and take that reservation.
- Virtual receptionists. Can't afford another person just to man the phones? With IVR technology, small companies can deploy lifelike-sounding "receptionists" with voices keyed to various types of businesses. These virtual receptionists, by prompting the caller, can provide voice-activated transfers to the proper employees and departments, furnish voice mail notification to employees; and provide after-hours services without the cost of keeping late-shift employees on the clock.
- Customer service. One of the most common complaints heard at small businesses is "I spend so much time doing customer service that I don't have any time left for [fill in the blank]!"
Marketing and advertising. Day-to-day core business activities can drain both energy and operating capital at small companies, often leaving marketing and advertising as afterthoughts that are either poorly tended to or even ignored. But IVR technology can make affordable toll-free numbers work for you. Companies can bolster advertising and marketing efforts by offering prospective buyers additional information, and use information collected from inbound calls to identify and qualify callers as sales leads, and to build detailed reports on ad respondents.
Commerce applications. Even when there's a real, live human being manning your end of the phone line, order-taking and transaction processing is at best a tedious process. Why not automate it? IVR services can do the work by taking detailed orders, soliciting and recording credit card information and processing transactions.
Information portal. In the days before the Internet and interactive messaging, every small town had a locally sponsored phone number you could call to get the time and temperature. That simple but useful idea is back with a vengeance. Small businesses today use IVR technology to create bona fide information portals that can deliver "heads-up" services from which customers can retrieve tips and breaking information related to your products, services or industry -- anything from news blurbs to investor advice to today's closing market averages.
Strategic branding. Just because you are using automated voices doesn't mean they have to sound mechanical. IVR systems feature a wide range of personalities for virtual receptionists, ranging from young and hip to staid and serious, all geared to match your business type and tone - and to reflect your brand. Companies can use templates, or tap professional talent to record new, customized prompts. And, as a company grows and expands the functionality, usage and reach of its IVR system, it can use this kind of phone-driven branding to continue to develop the company's public persona.
On your way
Because ASPs offer Web-integrated IVR, these systems are easily configured and managed. And because the service is relatively inexpensive, a five- to 10-person company can conduct a broad range of business processes without having to hire additional staff, while freeing up existing employees.
It can be done. By integrating some low-cost IVR technology into your phone system, your company not only will look bigger and better, but it actually will become more competitive as it begins to match the efficiency and sophistication of larger companies. Best of all, it will free up time and resources, leaving you more time to be creative and to develop and grow your company.
Michael Zirngibl is President and Co-Founder of Angel.com, based in McLean.
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.