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Definition: IVR


(Interactive Voice Response) A telephone switchboard that recognizes the spoken word. An IVR is an automated attendant plus voice recognition. Callers may have the option of responding by pressing the keypad or by speaking words or short phrases. Applications include tech support, bank-by-phone and flight-scheduling. See automated attendant.

Handle the Easy Questions
IVR systems allow callers to get needed information 24 hours a day. 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, IVR does not replace the agent, but keeps them from constantly having to answer the same simple questions.

IVR Systems Can Be Lacking
Even 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 have been unable to recognize simple "yes" or "no" answers for every user, even when speaking clearly. Worse yet is when a caller asks something the system is not pre-programmed to recognize. Gone are the days when a human switchboard operator was expected to answer the phone.

The System
Most IVR systems reside in PCs equipped with specialized PCI 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.