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What is Interactive Voice Response?

Most call centers offer the option to speak to a real person rather than a machine.
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  • Written By: Ken Black
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 13 August 2014
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Interactive voice response, or IVR, is a type of telephone system that interacts with most users through voice commands. Most people have some experience with interactive voice response systems, simply by calling a large corporate business. As the costs have come down, even many smaller businesses are beginning to use the technology.

When calling into a call center, it is usually fairly easy to determine if you are speaking to an actual person or recorded message. If the message gives you options, then you are using an interactive voice response system. As you give information, you get a voice response.

Most interactive voice response systems are handled in one of two ways. Either the caller inputs information through the telephone keys or through voice recognition software. If using telephone keys, the interactive voice response software is able to determine which key is pressed by using that key’s specific dual tone multi frequency (DTMF). Each telephone key produces a high frequency and low frequency tone and those never change. Therefore, it is simple for the software to recognize which key is pressed. More companies are beginning to go to voice recognition software instead of the keypad, as the technology becomes more affordable.

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The advantages of an interactive voice response system mainly deal with the cost savings involved. Callers can be directed to certain places of need without having to worry about hiring and paying a receptionist or telephone operater -- or at least not as many. Thus, even paying tens of thousands of dollars for the system is cheaper than perpetually paying someone to do the same job year after year. Also the systems are becoming more intuitive and are becoming better able to direct callers to areas of interest without demanding prescribed responses from the caller.

There are some disadvantages to interactive voice response systems as well. Many do not like talking to computers through an automated system. They would rather talk to “real people.” Others may have problems speaking that make it difficult for the voice recognition software to understand what they are saying.

For those who do not like dealing with an interactive voice response system, there are a couple of different options. Usually, pressing “0” will connect to a live operator. Sometimes, in voice recognition systems, saying “representative” will also bypass the automated system. While these strategies will not work all the time, they work in a great number of cases. Be aware, though, just because you will be connected to a live person does not necessarily mean your issue will be resolved any more quickly.

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