At the most basic level, Interactive Voice Response (IVR) is a way to automate an interaction that takes place over the phone.
Originally, IVR functioned as a way to direct calls, prompting a caller to select an option that correlated with the reason for their call and routing them to the appropriate person or call queue. While successful in reducing costs, being deployed as an automated attendant in this way earned IVR a bad reputation, and labyrinthine menu options did little for customer satisfaction.
Over the years IVR evolved into a tool with increased functionality that made it ideal for self-service. IVR technology can now integrate with databases, CRMs, and other systems. This means that a whole host of processes can be automated using IVR.
What can IVR do?
An IVR interacts with telephone systems the same way a web browser interacts with the internet. The range of applications of an IVR is equally as broad as those of a web browser. Just like a web browser can input, request, and present information, dynamically in real time, so too can an IVR. Any task that relies on speech and text or numeric input can be automated using IVR. A wide variety of use cases illustrate this point.
Communications Platform as a Service
Today, IVR has advanced to the point where software platforms reside in cloud-based systems that can handle a wide variety of tasks. The introduction of the cloud and more robust features pushed this technology past the IVR threshold, and into the emerging Platform as a Service (PaaS) realm. Because these systems are designed to handle a range of communications needs (e.g. voice, SMS, MMS, social media), a more accurate term to describe this breadth of services is Communications Platform as a Service (CPaaS). IVR remains a central application among the many available with a CPaaS.
Benefits of IVR/CPaaS
Improved Customer Experience
Research suggests that 40% or more of customers prefer self-service options over speaking to a live agent. Not only is a CPaaS solution highly customizable so companies can create positive customer experience, but it picks up a call before the first ring–every time–twenty-four hours per day, seven days per week, 365 days per year. This allows callers to accomplish tasks on their timetable. Automation also helps reduce average hold time, and call analytics help clients optimize their application to best serve their customers.
Employing live agents to handle customer transactions is much more expensive than automation. Therefore automating payment processing, for example, allows a company to focus its agents on customers that require live help, reducing the cost of customer support. Furthermore, opting for a hosted IVR means that you don’t have to worry about investing in or scaling your own on-premises hardware for your automation needs.
Benefit from multiple development and deployment options. Use Plum Fuse’s rapid application development tool or take advantage of the power of VoiceXML in the Plum DEV platform. Like HTML, VoiceXML is an open standard based on XML, so it’s not tied to a specific vendor.