For many, calling into a contact center is a dreaded experience, with the thought of long queues and frustrating holds daunting. IVR technology removes a great deal of those grievances, allowing callers a streamlined, more personalized experience.
Gone are the switchboards and manual operators of the past. AI, automated menus, and speech recognition are the new standard, allowing businesses to save money and provide callers with a smooth experience. Contact centers no longer have to have a poor reputation; instead, they can be the customer resource they were always intended to be.
IVR, or Interactive Voice Response, is a gamechanger, there’s no doubt about it. Let’s break down everything you need to know.
What is IVR?
IVR is the technology that allows phone systems to route calls based on spoken word responses and touch-tone input. Inbound callers are categorized and grouped by responding to automated menus that then help connect them to live contact center agents.
Traditionally, call centers have utilized agents to manually route and connect incoming calls, leading to long wait times and queues that can frustrate customers and businesses alike. IVR systems help eliminate that problem by cutting out the traditional switchboard operator and allowing customers to direct themselves through an automated call routing process to get the information they need.
How does IVR work?
IVR works by combining existing physical phone system setups with VoIP technology to create a call routing system. This system is then supported by IVR software to help build out automated menus that direct calls to the appropriate departments, live agents, or databases as necessary.
For example, say there’s a cold snap and you need to contact your property manager regarding frozen pipes in your apartment building. Because the complex has so many residents, the maintenance hotline utilizes IVR to help prioritize issues and get residents the help they need as quickly as possible. When you call in, you are directed to choose whether or not your maintenance issue is an emergency by dialing 1 or 2. For non-emergencies, you are directed to leave a voicemail with your contact information and issue, but if the call is about an emergency you are directed immediately to a live agent in the management office. As simple as this IVR system is, it makes all the difference in organizing maintenance requests and retaining good response times.
These automated IVR menus typically utilize either voice recognition software or DTMF (dual tone multi-frequency) touch-tone keypads to communicate with customers. IVR systems often utilize ACD (Automated Call Distribution) software to help direct calls to agents from these menus.
Benefits of IVR
IVR systems greatly improve customer experience by providing a seamless routing infrastructure to efficiently connect them with the resources they need. Phone calls are connected quickly, saving both businesses and customers precious time and improving the relationship between the parties.
On the business side, a well-executed IVR system can be your call center’s secret weapon. IVR systems (rather than traditional live calling systems) can greatly reduce costs and improve the productivity of your contact center to the tune of saving $11 per call in an IVR environment. The automation provided by IVR also helps improve lead conversion by getting real qualified leads to your sales team faster.
Scalable & Easy to Manage
IVR-enabled contact centers are easily scalable, independent of the physical constraints of traditional call centers. You don’t even have to be a developer to get started! Twilio Studio provides a powerful drag-and-drop builder to help you create custom workflows and processes in your IVR system, no coding required.
Access Your Analytics
Software-based solutions like IVR also provide you with the ability to track your data and metrics, covering everything from CSAT (Customer Satisfaction) to Call Abandonment Rate and Service Level. These metrics are crucial in measuring the performance and success of your contact center and agents. This data also provides context for every customer interaction, allowing your agents to respond accordingly when they’re connected with callers.
Meet Customers’ Real Needs
Modern IVR systems can do more than direct callers to “press 1 for customer service.” IVR should allow customers to find the resources they’re looking for, quickly and with ease. Long holds to hear the status of an order or prescription should be a thing of the past, and waiting in exorbitant queues just to get redirected to a new department is no longer a necessary evil of call center environments. IVR systems are now more innovative than ever and provide flexible solutions for the diverse problems businesses face today.
In a case of pandemic ingenuity, developers Amber Case and Ben Greenstein created a choose-your-own-vacation IVR solution to help fill the need for travel. By using an IVR phone tree model, they were able to create an immersive imaginary experience for callers. Dropped off in the middle of an (imaginary) highway, callers choose where to go every step of the way by dialing numbers in corresponding menu options. Learn about how they did it by checking out their core files in Twilio CodeExchange.
IVR, Twilio Flex, and You
Modern IVR systems should be easy to build, deploy, scale, and iterate. Twilio’s IVR APIs are ready to help you build custom workflows and solutions and ship them as soon as possible. Once your IVR is built, you’ll be able to tweak and update it whenever necessary.
Whether you’re new to coding or are a developer by trade, creating intelligent solutions shouldn’t be rocket science. Twilio Studio’s drag-and-drop interface allows you to build without code, and Twilio CodeExchange provides coding samples to help get you started.
How to Get Started with IVR
Our Docs team has you covered with thorough tutorials on building IVR phone trees as well as screening and recording systems in several programming languages.
- To build a phone tree, check out these tutorials in 6 programming languages.
- To build a system for screening and recording calls, check out these tutorials in 5 programming languages.
No matter your telephony or API needs, Twilio's experts are here to help when you’re ready to build.