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IVR Phone Tree

IVRs (interactive voice response) are automated phone systems that can facilitate communication between callers and businesses. If you've ever dialed your credit card company to check on a balance after responding to a series of automated prompts, you've used an IVR. Learn how to build an IVR in minutes using Twilio's powerful TwiMl API.

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About this application

Extra Terrestrial Phone Home
Service

This Ruby on Rails sample application is modeled after a typical call center experience, but with more Reese's Pieces.

Stranded aliens can call a phone number and receive instructions on how to get out of earth safely, or call their home planet directly. In this tutorial, we'll show you the key bits of code to make this work.

To run this sample app yourself, download the code and follow the instructions on GitHub.

Let's get started! Click the right arrow above to move to the next step of the tutorial.


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Respond to the Phone Call

To initiate the phone tree, we need to configure one of our Twilio numbers to send our web application an HTTP request when we get an incoming call.

Click on one of your numbers and configure the Voice URL to point to our app. In our code the route will be /ivr/welcome.

Configuring a Twilio Number


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Respond to the Twilio request with TwiML

Our Twilio number is now configured to send HTTP requests to this controller method on any incoming voice calls. Our app responds with TwiML to tell Twilio what to do in response to the message.

In this case we tell Twilio to Gather the input from the caller and we Play a welcome message.


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Where to send the caller's input

The gather'saction parameter takes an absolute or relative URL as a value - in our case, the menu route.

When the caller has finished entering digits Twilio will make a GET or POST request to this URL including a Digits parameter with the number our caller chose.

After making this request, Twilio will continue the current call using the TwiML received in your response. Any TwiML verbs occuring after a <Gather> are unreachable, unless the caller enters no digits.


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The Main Menu: Process the caller's selection

This route handles processing the caller's input.

If our caller chooses '1' for directions, we use a helper method defined below, twiml_say, to respond with TwiML that will Say directions to our caller's extraction point.

If the caller chooses '2' to call her home planet, then we need to gather more input from her. We wrote another method to handle this, list_planets, which we'll cover in the next step.

If the caller enters anything else we respond with a TwiML Redirect to the main menu.


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The Planet Directory: Collect more input from the user

If our caller chooses to call her home planet we will tell her the planet directory. This is akin to a typical "company directory" feature of most IVRs.

In our TwiML response we again use a Gather verb to receive our caller's input. The action verb points this time to the planets route, which will switch our response based on what the caller chooses.

The TwiML response we return for that route just uses a Dial verb with the appropriate phone number to connect our caller to her home planet. We set those numbers using environment variables.

Where to next?

That's it! We've just implemented an IVR phone tree that will delight and serve your customers.

If you're a Ruby developer working with Twilio, you might enjoy these other tutorials:

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Did this help?

Thanks for checking out this tutorial! If you have any feedback to share with us, we'd love to hear it. Tweet @twilio to let us know what you think.

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