What is an IVR?

The term Interactive Voice Response (IVR) is often misunderstood and misused. I know, because I do it all the time. So what is an IVR, and what is not?

What is an IVR and how does it differ from an auto-attendant?

Let’s start with the good old auto-attendant. An auto-attendant, also called a call tree or call menu, is really just an automated way to route you to a department or person. It usually goes a little like this:

Press 1 for sales and then get a salesperson just beaming with excitement

Press 2 for services and get through to a helpful rep in the services department

Press 3 for finance and get through to a chipper accountant

Press 0 to speak to an operator who has no obvious emotions

 This is an auto attendant; you press a digit (sending DMTF) to the PBX and hey presto you get to talk to a live person.

So what is an IVR?

An IVR is a bit different and the “I” in IVR helps explain why. An IVR is Interactive – it’s not just that you as a caller interact with it, but it interacts with you.

If you call your favorite airline number, it may say “Hello Christopher”, and then you might be asked to enter some identifying information such as a PIN or last 4 of your account number. You may then be told you have an upcoming flight today and if you want to make a change to that flight. This is a true IVR…and we can add a new abbreviation – VRU – Voice Response Unit.

You may not realize it but here you have three interactions with the IVR:

  • On first dialing into the IVR, it attempted to look up your caller ID
  • Authentication – entering a PIN, or last 4 digits of your account number
  • If authenticated it asks you if you want to change your flight

The IVR system is responding to your inputs, and looking up data you provide, as opposed to just routing the call to a live body.

You will have noticed above that the IVR world is full of acronyms and potentially unfamiliar terms. So we have written another post covering some of the most frequently used.  Click here to read it now.

If you have any questions please drop us a comment below or send us an email.

Chris has been working in UC/CX for 20 years. He’s passionate about project excellence but also believes a project is only worth doing if you have fun doing it.

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