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What's An IVR? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Michael Keilhofer   

The IVR (Interactive Voice Response) system in todayís world is, in essence, an intelligent communications Server that offers a myriad of voice and data services.

Consumers have become more comfortable utilizing the time and cost saving IVR systems to deal with large corporations.  As a result of their ongoing acceptance, new IVR related applications are constantly being developed.

Advancements in speech recognition technology have made IVR systems like the ours easier to use and even more profitable for companies that utilize the latest features.  Companies can save on unnecessary human costs and let the IVR handle routine calls that includes information such as business hours of operations, replay of standard corporate policies and contact information.  As IVR technology has evolved, many call centers have learned to successfully offload operator specific calls to more sophisticated IVR applications.

Corporate cost-cutters love IVR applications because the Return On Investment (ROI) is immediate.

The T&S IVR contains all the basic features.  It can easily answer and handle inbound calls, place outbound calls, play and record audio files, collect DTMF digits and talk to ODBC compliant databases. 

Some of the standard IVR inbound calling features that can be easily handled by the T&S IVR include, but are not limited to, the following applications:

  • Checking order status
  • Catalog/literature request
  • Airline status information
  • Data collection and surveys
  • Store locator services
  • Online ordering w/out live agents
  • Lead capture for direct marketing

More importantly, the T&S IVR is much more than the traditional IVR.  The IVR can read standard XML and CSV files, generate text-to-speech (TTS) and can interact with other applications on a wide range of PCs using TCP over Ethernet.

The T&S IVR has additional options which makes it stand out from plain Jane IVR apps.  The T&S IVR can even read a web page and extract desired information from the page for use within its logic. 

The special options and features of the T&S IVR makes it extremely flexible and state-of-the-art.  Itís amazing ability to dynamically (on the fly) change its call handling logic according to the individual scripts itís executing offers users significant advantages.   The dynamic call handling logic can also be instantly adopted according to information contained in the database or files or based upon input from the phone caller. 

Different scripts can be executed based upon just about any pre-defined criteria.  Even the T&S IVR scripts can be dynamically loaded. 

Inbound Calls

To understand the power yet flexibility of the T&S IVR consider the various options available for handling Inbound Calls.

During a typical automated attendant call, the T&S IVR simply answers a call and then instantly determines the extensions desired by the inbound caller.  The IVR automatically transfers the call to the desired extension.

This simple Auto Attendant IVR application can be taken to an entirely more sophisticated level with the T&S IVR by adding a dial-by-name option triggered by either first of last name of the dialed party. Even more significantly, the application can allow the called extension to instantly screen inbound callers and then re-route undesirable calls to Voice Mail, the operator or a different pre-determined extensions without every allowing the inbound call to arrive at their phone extension.

Not only are these sophisticated auto attendants already available with the T&S IVR, the following additional options are provided:

  • Automatic call screening based upon caller identification (ID).
  • Do-not-disturb (DND) settings with optional timed expiration.
  • Caller ID determination with displayed description of the caller based upon specific Caller ID information.
  • Option to create any number of IVR menus organized according to work groups (e.g. sales, support, billing)
  • Ability to collect and automatically forward information to the desktop PC based or destination extension.
  • Generation of detailed real-time logs with customizable information collected from caller or database.

Easy IVR monitoring and administration via desktop toolkit that shows all call activity.

Logging of all IVR events including excessive bad menu selection or missing audio files.

Besides the IVR options listed above, the IVR contains superior web based management plus real time desktop tools for maintenance and administration.

The possibilities are endless and fantastic for selling to a wide range of potential customers.  Remember that all of these features will provide an instant ROI for most sized companies utilizing the features for their workforce.

Outbound Calls

There are many reasons why a business might make outbound calls.  These reasons can range from reminding citizens of an impending political vote or requesting that people take phone surveys. 

The hottest application for 2006 is Reminder Services. A reminder is a specific use of an outbound call used, for example, to remind someone of an appointment.

These outbound services can range from Appointment Reminders to a myriad of applications including bill payment reminders and waiting list change notifications.

BusyMinders consists of three key components:

  1. Web Based Interface
    The Web interface is utilized to specify calling schedules, the media to be played when call is answered and the delivery options to determine if confirmation is required.

    Calls can be configured as an appointment reminder or as a message to convey information such as change in business hours, special sales events or news about an upcoming political referendum.

  2. Desktop Windows Application
    This application performs automatic exportation of customer data to the IVR.  The program mediates between the designated database and the IVR CO-ordinate scheduling and data export.

    Once this application is initially configured, no more manual intervention is usually ever required.

  3. IVR Enhancement Module
    This module provides an enhancement to the standard T&S IVR application.  The enhancement allows the IVR to place reminder calls according to the data imported to its database tables and the configuration if appropriate and determined by the Web Based Interface.

    Calls can be configured as an appointment reminder or as a message to convey information such as change in business hours, special sales events or news about an upcoming political referendum.

BusyMinders Module

Currently BusyMinders only supports ODBC compliant databases for automatic importing of data.  However, support for CSV files that can be generated either from spread sheets or manually can be done via a web interface which allows the user to upload the CSV file and request the IVR to import that file into its callout database.

It is important to note that outbound calls on the T&S IVR are not limited to using the BusyMinders module.  IVR scripts can still be created to perform a wide range of specialized outbound functions.

Calling Capacity

The T&S IVR comes equipped with 4 ports and can easily be increased to 8 with the addition of a daughter card.

Each Port can be used to independently answer inbound or place outbound calls. Furthermore, each port can perform a different function.

As an example, one port could be used for outbound notifications with the other three ports used for inbound calls.

The number of calls each port can handle depends on the amount of information being provided to the caller and the amount of information being collected. But on the average, calls to an IVR utilize approximately one minute.

From a business case viewpoint, if you assume that 4 ports are used to make outbound reminder calls or notifications with the average call time of one minute and calls are made from 9 am to 9 pm, then 4 ports can generally perform about 2,880 calls per day.

For a standard business week thatís 14,400 calls.

An 8 port IVR using the same formula can generally perform 5, 760 calls a day or about 28,800 calls per week and a 24 port IVR can generally perform 17,280 calls a day or about 86,400 calls per week. Want a 96 port IVR that can do 345,600 calls per week?

The IVR takes no lunch breaks, has no sick time, does not complain, and is always on time for work.

With outbound calls, these numbers can vary according to the percentage of people called that are on the phone or donít answer and whether or not confirmation if required for each call.

From an Return On Investment standpoint, how many humans would it require to make that many calls on a daily basis?  What would the hourly rate for each human cost?

As you can quickly see that even if the time on your calls doubled that the return on investment is high and the IVR would pay for itself very quickly.

Do Not Call Lists

The BusyMinders module includes the ability for called partyís to easily put themselves onto the do-not-call list which will prevent them from receiving future calls.

Telephone numbers may also be manually added to the do-not-call list utilizing the easy-to-use Web Interface thatís included as part of the BusyMinders module.

Whatís Next

Listed here are some of the exciting planned enhancements you can look forward to for 2006:

  • Compliance with the VXML 2.1 specifications.
  • New module for both inbound and outbound surveys that can be managed easily via a Web Interface.
  • Addition of handling CSV files in the Windowís based export program.
  • Screen pop module allowing any caller collected or database information to be displayed on a Window clientís PC.
  • Speech Recognition with the ability for a vocabulary to have up to 500 words.
  • New Linux based version of the board that will allow up to 16 IVR ports.
  • PC based audio management tool that allows you to record your message, trim silence and extraneous noises, change its volume, and install it on the IVR.
  • The IVR Developerís Kit gives you the information to develop highly specialize applications.  There are virtually no limits to what you can accomplish. 
  • When it comes to the Elite App IVR a little bit of scripting really does goes a long way !

Summary

For 2006 many companies are looking long and hard at the many benefits of offloading standard business calls that might unnecessarily chew up valuable and very expensive people time.  With increasingly savvy companies recognizing the fast ROI benefits of IVRs, the T&S IVR custom applications can be utilized for increased new sales opportunities.

The T&S IVR offers many features that are not only flexible, but exceptional.  Many of the T&S IVR features are not available in competitive products.

Last Updated ( Monday, 02 October 2006 )