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What is IVR? All Questions Answered

Dylan de Koning

Dylan de Koning

2 March 2022

What is IVR? All Questions Answered - Voquent

If you want to boost the quality and success of your IVR or implement a new IVR system, look no further. 

You’ve probably encountered IVR systems countless times. When calling a business, if you have been asked to press 1 for customer service, 2 to make a payment, and 3 for more options, then you’ve used IVR before. 

In this blog, we will be exploring some of the most frequently asked questions regarding this system.

Get ready to discover the biggest IVR mistakes, the best voice to use and the answer to the most important question of them all – What is IVR?


Don't put this on hold! Find your perfect IVR voice-over to optimise your call routing experience.



What is IVR?

IVR (Interactive Voice Response) is a fully automated telephone routing and menu system. It allows the caller to give specific information to a business without speaking to an agent. This can also be used to receive more information from the customer, so the company knows which agent to pass them to as a form of call routing. Voice recognition software and DTMF tones (selecting specific buttons in response to the provided menu) are the standard ways the customer inputs this information into IVR systems. 


Call routing is the primary function of IVR. This system is efficient for any business which communicates on the phone. However, IVR is most used in the banking, medical, and surveying industries, requiring more information than conversation. 

In short – it's about connecting callers with the right person in your organisation, automatically, with the perfect voice guiding them.


What is the best voice for IVR?

There isn’t a one-voice-fits-all option when it comes to the best voice for IVR. Industry and intention must be carefully considered to discover the best sound for your system.

Customer service is frequently used for complaints, so a calming voice may be beneficial. If Your IVR system is used for outbound sales calls, then a convincing voice might be the right choice for you.

You need to match the sound of a person to the purpose – even with AI voice-over.

Many of us would like to think we don’t make cultural assumptions in this day and age. This may be true consciously, but subconsciously we all do, and this plays a role in the best voice for IVR too. For example, callers have more trust in a Scottish accent than they do for any other accent based in the UK.

This is why there are so many call centres based in Scotland for international brands. When it comes to accents, clarity and understandability are essential. If you select too niche of an accent, customers may not fully understand the IVR messages. 

The best voice for IVR may be multiple voices. If your company is global, offering callers the opportunity to have the IVR system in the language of their choice is an incredible opportunity that will serve all potential customers. The menu’s script will need to be translated into multiple languages with accuracy and recorded by native voice actors worldwide to make this a reality. 

The most important advice on the best voice for IVR is simple. Choose a real one. 71% of people prefer the sound of an authentic voice rather than listening to that of an artificial voice. Putting together the perfect voice that sounds as though it's real is what counts.


What is IVR used for?

Interactive voice response systems are usually the first thing the customer hears when calling a business. The company will provide vital information that the customer must understand before the call, such as data protection regulation information. The business will usually also inform the caller that the call is being recorded for training purposes if this is the case. 

A high-quality IVR system puts customer service into the customer’s hands. It allows the caller to choose their preferred method of communication. This may be selecting the option to talk to an agent or bypassing this to input information themselves. Efficiency is essential to your business and helpful for the customer too. 

Using the IVR menu, customers can inform a business of sensitive data. Callers will input account information, make payments, and change passwords without sharing this data with an agent.  

IVR use also benefits the business. The messages given to the customer can include any information that the company wants to push. This includes new products and services that the caller may be interested in. 


How does IVR work?

The IVR system will allow the caller to choose their preferred version of customer service by making choices in the IVR menu. 

89% of callers prefer voice recognition. IVR systems will either use DTMF tones or voice recognition to allow a customer to share information with your business. This may be a request for customer service help, making a payment, or updating the details on their account. Classically, IVR has used DTMF tones which allow the caller to make their selections using the buttons on their phone. This method is simple and is less likely to encounter the same technical problems that voice recognition can. However, as voice recognition software improves with time, this option becomes ever more popular with callers. 

Some companies will choose to design and house their IVR system themselves. Others will choose to use a remote option. Connecting remotely to a third-party IVR system is now easier than ever, with cloud connections and renting the service becoming an especially popular choice for smaller businesses. 

Call routing is the primary function of how IVR works for your business. After calling the company, the customer is then met with the IVR menu. This will start with one question to which they must respond. Their answer will then prompt the following question and so on until the system can take the caller to the correct agent who can handle their query. Alternatively, the IVR system will take the caller to the self-service option if this has been made available. 


What is an IVR menu?

An IVR menu will help navigate the customer to the correct option. The menu is similar to a family tree, with branches leading off other branches. 

To select specific options, the caller will either use the numbered buttons on their phone or be asked to say their choice out loud. 

Referring to the graphic above, say the caller wants to bypass the options and talk to an agent. They will make the call before the IVR system gives them the first three options: press 1 for finance, 2 for sales, 3 for more help. The customer will then select 3 and be connected to the agent

If the customer is looking for the finance department, they will select 1. The IVR menu will then be more specific and ask which of the two options within that department they would like to connect to. The caller will select the best option, and the IVR menu will have successfully taken them to the correct destination for their query. 


What is IVR payment?

IVR payments allow the caller to pay bills by inputting card information over the phone. This system is simpler and faster than waiting on hold before verbally telling an agent all the details. It also runs 24/7 to accept payments at the caller’s convenience, outside of usual business hours. 

Offering this service will often involve a third party to fulfil regulations. To be PCI (Payment Card Industry) compliant, your business must run this IVR payment service within the PCI rules. PCI compliance includes encrypting the caller’s payment information so it’s not accessible to your company. This allows the caller to feel secure that their data is safe, and a potential data leak will never expose their payment information. 

If PCI compliance is not met, your business will be subject to fines. 


What is outbound IVR?

Just like IVR is the process of an automated voice navigating the customer to a business, outbound IVR is the same process in reverse. Companies can benefit from using outbound IVR for marketing, prospecting, and updating clients or customers. 

Outbound IVR will deliver automated messages to your target market. After recording your message with incredible voice-over services, the IVR system will then make outbound calls on your behalf. This is an excellent way to inform customers of your new product or ask them to participate in a survey. 

As well as phone calls, outbound IVR can also be set up to send text messages, emails, and in some cases, even social media. The system can also use the data collected from previous customers to personalise the message. For example, you can send previous customers one message and new contacts a variation of the same message, including a first purchase discount code. 

To make personalisation a possibility, all message variations will need to be worked out in advance. These variations will need to be recorded as individual audio files for different customers. Alternatively, some IVR systems will make use of AI voice. This will make personalisation easier. However, the charm of a genuine voice representing your business will be lost. 


What is Visual IVR?

Visual IVR gives callers the option of extra self-service, which is not possible to deliver over a traditional phone call. The customer will access the visual IVR through a digital platform such as the company website on their smartphone. They will input the necessary information to attempt self-service by answering questions – narrowing down the options with visual cues and typing rather than voice messages. 

This service is especially beneficial to customers with hearing difficulties. 

80% of people would use visual IVR if they had the option. If the caller selects the wrong choice on the phone, they may have to start the call all over again.  Visual IVR more frequently has a back option which saves time. The visual IVR option also allows customers to move through the menu at their own pace, often faster than the voice reading messages aloud. Once the correct agent for their query has been found, that agent is one click of a button away for direct access.


What are the benefits of IVR for a business?

  • IVR has a long list of benefits for your business. The main reason for implementing an IVR system in your company will be to reduce costs. When a certain amount of communication can be handled by IVR, fewer agents are needed. IVR generally will not wholly replace agents, but it will reduce the number of calls that require one. 
  • A professional image is a crucial benefit of IVR systems. Smaller businesses can easily go without, but customers expect some level of IVR when contacting larger companies. A smooth customer service experience is necessary for reducing call time and resolving problems. IVR will help make the process easier for the customer and benefit your company’s image. 
  • IVR allows agent specialisation. The opportunity to have your agents specialise in different areas is a benefit of IVR as staff will be more capable of resolving queries. Having all staff prepared to answer all possible inbound calls is overwhelming and reduces agent morale. The IVR system will route customers to the most qualified agent in the area of concern. This also creates a better experience for your customers, who know that their call has been directed to the most appropriate destination. 
  • Branding is an overlooked benefit of IVR. Especially for larger companies that employ many call center agents. Each time a customer contacts a business like this, they will meet a new person, voice, and tone. However, establishing a consistent brand identity is possible with IVR. Callers will always hear the IVR system initially, which can re-introduce the brand, message, and tone with each call. Who and what your business is will then become a more precise picture to customers and clients. 
  • Multiple language options will allow more successful expansion and localization. Not only can you offer IVR in multiple languages to target global markets, but customisation will enable callers to preset and save their language choice before the next call. Attempting to offer customer service to speakers of any language with live agents is near impossible without a considerable budget and multiple international premises. An IVR system simply needs to have the same recorded messages in various language options to make global expansion a reality. 



What are the benefits of IVR for the customer?

  • Efficiency is one of the main benefits of IVR. Most people will have experienced calling a business only to be passed from agent to agent. This wastes both the caller’s and the business’s time. A high-quality IVR system will quickly route your customer to the best contact. 
  • Similarly, another efficiency benefit of IVR is giving the option of self-service. There is no time spent on hold when the caller doesn’t need to wait for a live agent to resolve their query. They may just want to update their account or pay a bill and waiting in the queue is frustrating. 

  • 24/7 availability is another significant benefit of IVR. Providing your customers with a constant self-service option is exceptionally convenient outside of working hours. This will also benefit businesses by reducing the number of calls and lowering hold times during regular work hours. 
  • Accents and a lack of clarity in some voices can make phone conversations difficult for customers. However, IVR lets your company select an easy-to-understand brand voice. It is crucial to choose an exceptionally clear speaker for this role so there are no errors in communication for your customer.
  • Measuring customer satisfaction is another critical benefit of IVR. Most IVR systems will ask the caller to complete a customer satisfaction survey at the end of their call. Customers completing this survey will help your business improve the IVR design, which will continue to improve the system for the caller. 



How much does IVR cost?

Many factors will determine how much IVR costs. Whether your IVR system is in-house or hosted is one major decision that affects the price. 

Building IVR in-house will cost more upfront, but you will own the system. Having the system hosted externally is often free upfront but will include monthly fees. The fees can range between $5/month and $150/month depending on which company you choose to host the IVR, and each will have various pros and cons. The number of callers your business receives at one time will also affect pricing for hosted options. Careful consideration should be taken when deciding which one of these is best for your business. 

Some IVR companies will offer a one-time payment option. These prices typically range between $800 and $10,000 and ultimately depend on the number of calls per hour your business requires. 

It is also crucial to remember that the more complex an IVR you need, the higher the price to design this system.

IVR cost may seem steep, but the potential savings are endless due to fewer agents and added self-service options. 


What are the biggest IVR mistakes?

When it comes to the biggest IVR mistakes, there are many

  • Often one of the main IVR mistakes is that the system is boring. Endless menus leading to submenus and so on will frustrate the caller. This often leads to customers taking the live agent option as early as possible rather than attempting self-service. Keep menus concise to avoid this. 

  • The use of complicated jargon should also be avoided. Navigating the menu should be easy for the caller, and this requires a simple script. Customers will also ignore self-service if they don’t understand the complex menu process or the messages they hear from the system. 
  • When your business changes, the IVR should too. A common mistake is for businesses to expand and shift without updating the IVR script or menus. Their IVR system then becomes outdated, not offering the most suitable options or, worst-case scenario, offering options that are not available anymore. 
  • It is worth adding a survey option at the end of an IVR call where customers can rate the service and provide feedback. Not measuring satisfaction is an unnecessary IVR mistake. This process will allow your business to improve services and satisfy the caller even more in the future. 
  • Upon the first implementation of an IVR system, some companies will try to completely replace their agents by attempting to create an all-knowing system. Without rigorous testing, this complex IVR is likely to fail. A more successful process would be to create a simple IVR system that can handle some queries before expanding the IVR services once the first version is perfected. 
  • Long hold times are debatably the biggest IVR mistake. The more callers your business can satisfy with self-service, the better. This will result in fewer customers requiring an agent and reduce average hold times. 
  • Poor quality voice recordings are another crucial IVR mistake. Difficulty in understanding the recorded messages will void all benefits of IVR. Thankfully for you, our professional voice-over services can help. Browse perfect voices for IVR, choose your favourite from our extensive database, and we will provide you with high-quality audio and a fast turnaround. 



How to improve IVR

Some of the most important ways to improve your IVR system were detailed in the previous section in terms of what to avoid. However, the following is a list of different ways to enhance your IVR even if you aren’t committing significant mistakes. 

  • Tailor IVR for those who need it most. Your IVR system will likely not handle all customer queries, so creating a system with maximum benefit for your callers will improve the service. Discover your customers’ IVR wants and needs and design the system to service these essential functions using feedback. 
  • Keep the menu simple. It is less frustrating for callers to listen to the menu when the options are short. Nobody wants to listen to lengthy explanations only for their choice to be stated last. To avoid this, streamline the questions asked, starting broad and then becoming more specific as the caller moves through the menu rather than listing all in-depth options immediately. It is also worth putting the most selected options first on the menu. This means fewer callers must listen to all menu options.
  • Offer a callback. Sometimes customers will try to use the self-service option, but their query might be too specific for the IVR to handle successfully. Other times the caller will reach the queue for an agent but not have the time to wait. Providing the option for an agent to give the customer a callback is exceptionally convenient when there are enough agents to offer this service. The IVR system will also pre-determine which agents are best to call back. 
  • Provide regular updates on hold time. If your telephone service does include lengthy hold times, it is essential to update the caller on where they are in the queue. The customer will be frustrated after only a short time on hold. However, this will mellow if they know a rough estimate on how long it will take. 
  • Make your IVR system sound like your brand. Generic IVR systems contribute to customer frustration. Sonic branding is overlooked, and an IVR system is an excellent opportunity to implement sound in your business’s brand
  • Easy systems for the customer, not the company. If customers have suggested that the IVR system is not as helpful as it should be, the problem may lie in the design. Make sure to design the IVR system for how the caller will want to use it, not based on the internal systems the business agents already use. This is context the caller doesn’t have and will complicate the system from their perspective. 



So, there we go. Hopefully, I will have answered most of your IVR-related questions in this article. From ‘What is IVR’ to ‘How to improve IVR’, the process of implementing an effective IVR system in your business can be confusing, but ultimately very beneficial for both you and the caller. 


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Dylan de Koning

By Dylan de Koning

Dylan de Koning is a narrative writer, script reader and film buff from Scotland.

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