What Is an IVR Call?


A good IVR system is the first point of contact between callers and your company. When an IVR call goes well, it boosts customer satisfaction, but that’s not all. It also makes life easier for call center agents, it makes business more productive for you, and it does plenty more.

Anatomy of an experience

Call centers were born in the early 1970s. Callers would either have to ask for a specific person or explain their problem and then wait. The person who answered their call had to work out who the caller should talk to and then get that person on the line.

It didn’t take long to realize that it would be far more efficient if there were some way to collect information from callers so they could be swiftly routed to the correct person. At first, this job was done by dedicated employees.

Today, these calls can be managed using an interactive voice response system, or “IVR” system. An IVR call center presents callers with a set of choices. As callers navigate those choices, they either have their problem solved quickly or they get routed to a live agent who’s best suited to deal with their issue.

What happens in an IVR call?

When a caller rings through, the IVR system goes to work, presenting a dialogue to the caller that controls the flow of the call. The IVR speaks to the caller and collects responses either through touch-tone choices or voice recognition.

In some situations, the IVR system can deal with a caller from start to finish. Callers might be able, for example, to use voice recognition to quickly find an account balance. If they need more personalized service, the system transfers the caller to a live agent.

Because the IVR system gathers important information about the caller and their reason for calling, it can choose just the right agent to deal with the caller’s needs.

How do IVR calls help?

Shouldering agent burden: An IVR system helps agents in two important ways. First, the system can handle a lot of simpler issues, meaning agents don’t need to bother dealing with them at all. Second, the IVR system helps manage periods of high call volume, offloading calls it knows are not a priority at the moment.

Satisfying customers: The IVR system never needs to sleep and never takes a day off. Customers can reach the systems at any time, getting their basic questions answered even outside of regular business hours. IVR systems also let customers deal with their issues without having to speak to a person if they don’t want to.

Increasing resolution: Because the IVR system learns about the call before transferring it to an agent, it’s easier to ensure that the right agent is working on a call. This makes it a lot easier for agents to resolve issues; pleasing them, you, and the caller.

What to track on IVR calls

If you have an IVR system, there are four metrics you should track to make sure you’re getting the most out of your IVR calls.

Average time: How long does the average customer spend navigating the IVR system? Too long and you’re wasting time while customer satisfaction goes down. Too short and you’re not getting the information you need.

Displacement rate: How many customers are able to completely process their call without having to talk to a live agent? The higher this number, the more efficiently your IVR system is working.

Drop-out rate: How many customers go out of the IVR and need a live agent to help them? The higher this number, the less efficient your system is.

ASR recognition rate: This metric tells you how well the system is recognizing customer speech. A good IVR call understands customers’ speech, and hence their needs, and then takes care of them quickly and efficiently.

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