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Definition: IVR

(Interactive Voice Response) A telephone switchboard that recognizes and speaks natural language. An IVR is a voice-based user interface for a telephone conversation with a computer that combines voice recognition with an automated attendant system. Callers may have the option of responding by pressing the keypad or by speaking words or short phrases. IVRs are widely used by large and small companies alike. See automated attendant, voice response, agent and user interface.

Handle the Easy Questions
IVR systems allow companies to dispense needed information 24 hours a day without having the expense of employees around the clock. They are also used as a front end to call centers in order to route as many calls as possible away from costly human agents. In such cases, an IVR system does not replace the agent. It keeps them from constantly answering simple questions such as credit card balance and next payment date.

IVRs Can Drive You Crazy
Automated attendants without voice response (press 1 for sales, etc.) can be frustrating when the menus are too brief or confusing. However, when voice is added to the mix, it can be downright aggravating. Some of the most widely used IVRs are unable to recognize simple "yes" or "no" answers all the time. Worse yet, when a caller asks something the system is not pre-programmed to recognize, it may request irrelevant input, drop back to the beginning or take off on some erroneous tangent. Unfortunately, the days are long gone when a human operator is always expected to answer the phone.

The System
Most IVR systems reside in PCs equipped with specialized expansion cards that connect to the telephone system to switch the calls. Systems can be networked on LANs and come with software that lets the developer create applications quickly. Most allow for the building of call flows by dragging and dropping icons of functions. See IVVR, voice portal, ASR, ACD, CTI and V-Commerce.