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Twilio

FrontRunners 2022

Twilio is the worlds leading cloud communication platform that enables you to engage customers across channels - SMS, voice, video, email, WhatsApp and more. Pay-as-you-go APIs allow businesses to scale communications reliably. ...Read more about Twilio

contactSPACE

contactSPACE is a cloud-based callcenter solution which helps small to large-sized organizations manage contacts and track agent performance. Its key features include dynamic call adaption, voice recording, call prioritization, ro...Read more about contactSPACE

4.82 (11 reviews)

Genesys Cloud CX

FrontRunners 2022

Genesys Cloud CX™ cloud contact center software transforms your customer experience. It connects data across teams, tools, interactions so you have actionable insights to address customers problems with ease on any channel, at any...Read more about Genesys Cloud CX

CloudTalk

CloudTalk is a contact center management solution that enables businesses to streamline communications with teams and customers using virtual call systems. It allows executives to manage inbound/outbound calls, extract interaction...Read more about CloudTalk

Squaretalk

Squaretalk is a cost-effective, scalable, and simple-to-use cloud communications platform that gives your sales and support teams tremendous tools to boost efficiency and productivity. Your sales and support representatives will ...Read more about Squaretalk

4.85 (53 reviews)

Bitrix24

FrontRunners 2022

Bitrix24 is an online workspace for small, medium, and large businesses. It features over 35 cross-integrated tools, including CRM, tasks, Kanban board, Gantt chart, messenger, video calls, file storage, workflow automation, and m...Read more about Bitrix24

XCALLY

FrontRunners 2022

XCALLY is an on-premise and cloud-based contact center solution that handles multiple channels including voice, chat, SMS, email, fax and others. It caters to inbound, outbound and blended call centers of all sizes. Primary featur...Read more about XCALLY

4.81 (93 reviews)

CALLR

CALLR is an IVR software that helps businesses stay at the center of relationships. Embed calls into the stack and become an indispensable part of every discussion, so teams can monetize, understand, and control transactions. Adm...Read more about CALLR

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Cyara

Cyara's automated CX Assurance platform helps brands to deliver flawless customer experiences with less cost, effort, and risk. Cyara supports the complete CX software development lifecycle, from design to functional and regressio...Read more about Cyara

4.33 (9 reviews)

3CLogic

3CLogic is a leading cloud contact center platform modernizing enterprise communications for employees and customers. Built on AWS, the solution provides advanced and scalable speech-enabled offerings for leading CRMs, including S...Read more about 3CLogic

4.31 (49 reviews)

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Humach

Humach is a cloud-based call center solution that provides plug and play customer service functionalities to businesses across various industry verticals such as health care, retail, financial services, consumer products and more....Read more about Humach

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Ytel

Ytel Contact Center is a cloud-based integrated marketing suite that caters to SMB call centers and businesses with dedicated phone support teams, helping them manage multi-channel communications. The solution offers features...Read more about Ytel

3.88 (25 reviews)

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RingCentral Contact Center

FrontRunners 2022

RingCentral's leading cloud contact center offers skill-based routing, agent management, real-time insights, and more to empower your employees to deliver better customer experiences. With the right tools, your agents can meet you...Read more about RingCentral Contact Center

4.27 (171 reviews)

9 recommendations

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PhoneBurner

PhoneBurner is an outbound call center solution that allows users to log in from their computer and make calls from the connected phone, using imported or admin-provided lead lists. The system offers functionalities that include p...Read more about PhoneBurner

4.82 (162 reviews)

3 recommendations

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LiveAgent

FrontRunners 2022

LiveAgent is an online Help Desk solution for e-commerce businesses at the small and midsize levels. The platform offers live chat application, ticket management, online self-service portals, and change and license management, all...Read more about LiveAgent

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Voxco IVR

Voxco IVR is an automated voice response survey system that streamlines the delivery of self-completion surveys to a broad audience. It can operate on an inbound, outbound, or a flexible mixed method basis. In survey mode, re...Read more about Voxco IVR

4.50 (2 reviews)

VoiceGuide IVR

VoiceGuide IVR by Katalina Technologies offers creation tools for inbound and outbound interactive voice response (IVR). The solution offers on-premise or cloud deployment and an open-source architecture for integration with other...Read more about VoiceGuide IVR

5.00 (2 reviews)

Ameyo

Ameyo is a customer experience management solution that helps businesses leverage their call center resources to improve customer satisfaction. The software is available both in cloud-based and on-premise deployment options. ...Read more about Ameyo

4.08 (83 reviews)

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Plum Voice

Plum Voice powers voice automation solutions to simplify can quickly answer your most frequent customer interactions over the phone. Our clients range from medium- to large-sized enterprises across a wide variety of industries. We...Read more about Plum Voice

4.77 (22 reviews)

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Kixie PowerCall

FrontRunners 2022

Kixie is a cloud-based interactive voice response (IVR) solution that helps users automate their sales processes. It can also be deployed on-premise. It offers users one-click dialing, call recording, call history, call coaching a...Read more about Kixie PowerCall

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Buyers Guide

Last Updated: November 21, 2022

 

Interactive voice response (IVR) systems are a foundational technology for inbound contact centers. They allow callers to complete tasks over the phone, either via voice response or numerical keypad input.

IVR software can dramatically streamline the performance of a contact center—particularly when used in conjunction with customer relationship management (CRM) software. But it isn’t the best fit for all business models. IVR systems offer complex, specialized functionality, and are packaged in different ways by different vendors.

That’s why we’ve written this guide to help you better understand which systems will work best for your needs. In it, we’ll cover the following topics:

What Is IVR Software?
Benefits of Using IVR Software
Common Functionality
IVR Systems vs. Auto-Attendants
Best-of-Breed Systems vs. Contact Center Suites

What Is IVR Software?

IVR software accomplishes two major goals:

  • It helps callers help themselves through “self-service.” These systems provide automated menus that allow callers to complete tasks without assistance from support agents.
  • In conjunction with an automated call distribution (ACD) system, an IVR system helps route callers to the right support agent when their needs can’t be met by self-service options. (An ACD system parks incoming calls in a queue until agents are available to answer, and then distributes calls to agents using rules that factor in agent skills, performance metrics, etc.) For instance, if a caller says or enters the numerical option for “billing” using the IVR system, they’ll be routed into the call queue (controlled by the ACD system) for an agent in that department.

IVR systems follow a branching menu structure known as a “menu tree.” The top-level menu may include options for, say, “support” and “billing.” If the caller selects “support,” they’ll be funneled into a submenu that contains numerous self-service options for support issues (e.g., instructions on how to reset a device). If these options don’t meet the caller’s needs, the caller will be routed to a support agent.

Branching Prompts in an IVR Menu Tree

Branching Prompts in an IVR Menu Tree

As mentioned, the IVR menu tree also assists in call routing through integration with ACD systems, which use callers’ spoken or touch-tone responses as they navigate the IVR system to route calls to the right agent.

Benefits of Using IVR Software

Customers may not know what the term “IVR” means—but they do know what they like and don’t like, and many perceive IVR technology as annoying and difficult to use. So why does your call center need an IVR system in the first place?

The answer is that IVR can cut down on the number of calls agents have to handle by enabling callers to resolve certain issues through self-service options. By reducing the overall number of calls your contact center handles, you can slash your top expense: personnel.

Moreover, even though consumers tend to dislike IVR technology, they probably aren’t thinking through the alternative: a drawn-out interaction with a support agent. When we interviewed call center benchmarking expert Bruce Belfiore about IVR design best practices, he noted that some consumers (particularly younger callers) prefer to avoid interacting with a support agent whenever possible. These callers actually prefer IVR and other self-service technologies.

Additionally, even if an IVR system isn’t able to fully meet a caller’s needs, it can still automate the initial steps of collecting information and routing the caller to the right group of agents. Without an IVR, these steps would need to be handled by human workers—increasing the number of transfers (and, most likely, the caller’s level of frustration) before getting the call to the right agent.

Simply think back to the times you’ve been bounced around like a ping-pong ball between multiple contact center agents who couldn’t answer your question, and you’ll quickly realize the value of IVR.

Common Functionality

The following list of IVR capabilities includes standard offerings of most systems. This list also includes more advanced capabilities offered by niche vendors or enabled via integrations with other contact center applications:

Visual IVR designer A drag-and-drop graphical user interface for designing IVR call flows (the branching menus through which callers pass as they select options for support, sales, billing etc.).
Automated speech recognition (ASR) Allows callers to speak responses instead of using touch-tone input. Frequently requires the use of third-party ASR software, though many IVR vendors partner with ASR vendors to deliver a complete solution. Some systems allow for voiceprint authentication (comparing audio data from a call with a model of the caller’s voice) to verify caller identity.
Text-to-speech (TTS)/common data speaker Text-to-speech enables the system to read information from databases out loud for customers (payment history, account balances, etc.), as opposed to simply playing recorded prompts. Also assists in the development of IVR menu prompts. A common data speaker is a more basic capability that only allows highly structured data, such as dates and numbers, to be converted into speech.
Multilingual support Enables the IVR menu structure to play prompts and recognize spoken responses in multiple languages.
Data retrieval from Web server Allows customer data to be retrieved from a Web server in order to verify response input (e.g., checking a spoken account number against a stored account number) and otherwise assist agents.
Computer telephony integration (CTI) Data collected from the IVR system (e.g., a customer’s name) is displayed on an agent’s screen to help the agent better assist the caller.
ACD integration Data collected from the IVR is used to prioritize calls within queues and to distribute calls to various agent skill groups (if the ACD system offers skills-based routing). Users can also enable options such as hold music and estimated wait times to keep callers on the line.
Customer satisfaction surveys IVR surveys can collect voice or touch-tone responses from callers about their levels of satisfaction with the agent or the IVR system itself. These responses are fed into contact center reporting tools for visibility into key performance indicators.
Outbound IVR/notification system Outbound notifications such as surveys, appointment reminders, and account alerts can be delivered to customers via voice, email, fax, SMS text, etc. Voice notifications include IVR self-service options that can help the caller resolve the issue (e.g., pay an unpaid bill).
Visual IVR Allows customers to navigate a visual representation of an IVR menu on a website or within a native app running on a desktop, laptop or smartphone. This is a new technology many vendors don’t yet offer, though a handful of niche vendors specialize in adding visual IVR capabilities to solutions from major contact center vendors.


Visual IVR designer in Five9

IVR Systems vs. Auto Attendants

Businesses frequently think they need an IVR system when they actually only need an auto attendant. IVR systems are sophisticated solutions that are offered on a stand-alone basis or as components of integrated contact center suites. Auto attendants, on the other hand, are standard components of office phone systems.

The basic difference between an auto attendant and an IVR system is: An auto attendant merely routes callers to extensions in a business’s directory, whereas an IVR provides callers with automated self-service options. Auto attendants also tend to lack advanced features such as speech recognition. Nearly every office with a phone system uses some kind of auto attendant, but in most cases, only contact centers use IVR systems.

You can consult our guide to auto attendants for more information on what they do and how they differ from IVRs.

Best-of-Breed Systems vs. Contact Center Suites

Vendors offer IVR systems two different ways: as “best-of-breed” systems sold on a stand-alone basis, or packaged within integrated suites of contact center applications.

Stand-alone IVR solutions are designed to be integrated with systems businesses have already deployed, such as:

By opting for a stand-alone IVR, organizations can avoid replacing the above systems, which frequently represent significant expenditures. PBX integrations allow IVR data to be used in call routing and enable call recording, among other capabilities.

Integrating an IVR and a standard business phone system can provide benefits, such as improved call routing. However, IVR systems usually need to be integrated with a suite of dedicated contact center applications in order to maximize those positive results.

In a contact center environment, data collected by the IVR can be pushed to agents’ computer screens or fed into reporting tools. The IVR integrates with the ACD system to provide sophisticated call routing. Finally, customers who don’t want to interact via voice have other options with a multi-channel contact center solution.