Picture a traditional call center. Chances are, your go-to mental image is that of a phone bank staffed by dozens of workers fielding calls. However, for many companies that need the responsiveness of a call center, this is no longer true. Technology has made leaps and bounds and many businesses are relying on virtual call centers as well as interactive voice response (IVR) technology to accomplish their goals.
What is interactive voice response?
If you’ve ever been placed on hold for an inordinate amount of time, you likely know just how frustrating it can feel. While interactive voice response isn’t a cure-all for these types of holdups, they are a definite step in the right direction. IVR technology is essentially telephone automation that interacts with callers, gathers pertinent information, and then routes them to the most appropriate representative.
It works by employing prerecorded responses to common audio prompts. Depending on the system, it also has the capacity to record caller voice prompts for later use. More rudimentary IVR systems rely on keypad input to navigate the menus but are still a great method for reducing overall call times and speeding up the customer service process. More advanced IVR applications are relying on artificial intelligence to further improve the overall call experience, though widespread application of AI is still a ways off.
Common uses of IVR
MovieFone, the automated number you’d call to get the showtimes for local theaters, is one of the most widely known applications of IVR technology but, in and of itself, it was fairly rudimentary. However, as the tech has developed, its use has become much more widespread. Plenty of industries are making extensive use of IVR technology. The healthcare industry, in particular, has employed IVR to greatly improve the customer service process and streamline what were once lengthy calls.
Another industry that has utilized interactive voice response is the financial sector. With IVR, it’s easy for traders to make exchanges, check balances, and review accounts. Sales teams are also able to use IVR to allow prospective customers to fill out order forms and answer product interest surveys — something that the marketing industry is using, as well. It’s also widely used in general office environments, especially on teams that have smaller representative bases. Its applications for office call forwarding and routing have expanded the capabilities of small call teams greatly.
Benefits of IVR tech
The immediate benefits of interactive voice response are fairly obvious: time and money savings. In business, those are two very precious commodities. Plus, in today’s age where customer response can make or break your reputation, it’s a savvy way to generate and maintain brand loyalty. It’s also a sensible method for answering common customer inquiries that don’t require critical thought to answer, such as business hours, directions, and the like.
On top of this, an IVR is essentially a 24/7 service application that can handle customer needs at all times of the day. Even if, say, you operate during standard business hours on the West Coast, a customer calling at night in New York City would still be able to access pertinent info without a member of your staff working around the clock to assist them.
IVR technology can be an asset for almost any industry, as it expands customer service capabilities greatly. Though the tech is still rapidly developing, the future looks incredibly promising. Plus, with the advent of AI integration, its utility is only going to continue to expand, touching on more industries and assisting more customers.