IVR Software Solutions
This section of our EasyIVR technical library presents information and documentation relating to IVR Development and custom IVR software and products.
Business phone systems and toll free answering systems (generally 800 numbers and their equivalent) are very popular for service and sales organizations, allowing customers and prospects to call your organization anywhere in the country.
Our PACER and Wizard IVR phone systems are just a few of our call center solutions.
What Is IVR?. An Interactive Voice Response (IVR) processes inbound phone calls, plays recorded messages including information extracted from databases and the internet, and potentially routes calls to either inhouse service agents or transfers the caller to an outside extension.
Contact DSC today. to learn more about our IVR outsourcing services and IVR application development software.
Unlock The Mystery Behind IVR Development And Integration
BY BOB VILSOET, AMERITECH
Integration of Interactive Voice Response (IVR) applications has come a long way. The integration of voice, data, and host database information on voice response units (VRU) has been around for quite some time now, and many of the hurdles have been tripped over, understood, and overcome. To ensure that IVR applications are fully addressing customers’ (and your company’s) needs, call center managers need to consider multiple issues, including: development platforms, integration trends, accommodating business issues, database integration, voice recognition, software configuration management, and application design concerns.
Development platforms are getting much simpler to program. Originally, you needed a communications programmer to write a device-specific line driver to interface with your specific device. This typically meant writing an X.25 driver to communicate to a switch and an SNA 3270 communications program to interface to a host application and emulate agent activities with a programmatic interface. After the communications software was completed, a programmer would create the application and modify it when changes were needed. Companies using IVR technology were dependent upon the programmers to make the changes in a timely and accurate manner, and since systematic testing was never included in the development process, callers were often disconnected when transferred or were transferred to the wrong location with no way to get back without placing another call.
As vendors grew more experienced at creating voice response applications, they wrote code that enabled the call center manager (or a technical person within the call center) to modify the scripts after significant training. To calm the fear of programming from the purchaser of the equipment, vendors employed such euphemisms as “configuring the system” or “modifying the scripts.” Vendors covered much of the error condition handling more thoroughly in the underlying application. This resulted in a steadily increasing stream of revenue for vendors because they were now able to charge for the hardware, software, and initial application development, as well as training, technical support, and professional services.
Application programming has become much more efficient through the use of pulldown lists, icons, and logic. Programmers can use these tools to create an application relatively quickly, turning what used to be a time-consuming process into a relatively quick job. A new IVR application can now take the customer from a day to several weeks to develop, test, and verify — thus realizing a significant improvement in speed. Significant tools are available to help debug the script, and some IVRs have an online tool that graphically highlights the progress of the test call. However, your screen needs to be big enough, and you need to isolate the path on your screen. This is an excellent tool to speed development and testing of a script. Minimally, all IVRs have the ability to log messages into a log file to verify the path of the call. There are programmatic tools to help the developer trap and handle error conditions, which is a significant improvement over lacing the C program with “printf” statements.
The trend of simplified application programming — which first occurred in call centers in the area of switch development — is paralleled in most technical environments. The switch routing algorithms and database updates are now done by the call center manager; this alleviates the dependency upon the IT staff’s schedule and resources, and offers the additional benefit of affording call center managers control over their own destiny. Other components following this trend are IVR and workstation applications, the latter enjoying perhaps a slight lead over CTI server applications.
Consolidated reporting is just at the beginning of this trend. Soon, consolidated reports will be created and maintained by call center personnel instead of relying on vendors and report development consultants. Professional services, aimed at assisting the development reports, will always be necessary for strategic reporting initiatives and planning, but not necessarily for implementing the actual reports.
No matter how much of the integration of any of these components is placed into the hands of call center personnel, there will still be the opportunity for vendors to lend their professional expertise. A call center’s technical solution often includes a multitude of components (these may include a switch, voice response, CTI, network, workstation application, and database and host integration) and more often than not the vendor is the only one who can tackle the potential problems. A vendor has people on the staff that have installed many systems, seen many different uses for the system, and spoken to numerous call center managers about how to use the system.
ACCOMMODATING BUSINESS ISSUES
High turnover in the call center causes changes to be made periodically to the databases within the IVR, or the databases that the IVR accesses. Although this is more of a procedural issue than a programmatic one, facilities need to be designed and implemented, and training must be done, so that call center personnel have the ability to easily modify the databases to incorporate changes. In the example of an insurance company, if an adjuster leaves his position, the database would
need to be modified quickly, so that assignments go to a different adjuster. The changes could be entered any time to the database but with an execution date and time that could be checked automatically by the VRU application. While this increases the complexity, the flexibility of the system is also increased. Mistakes can also occur when callers who use the telephone keypad to enter information do so incorrectly. Both the script and the applicat i o n n e e d t o b e patient and polite with incorrect data entry. Consider how you would route a caller after invalid data entries have occurred a number of times. For example, it may not be the best call flow to disconnect the call when it timed out twice in a row for five seconds, or when incorrect information is entered more than once. Development needs to be done in conjunction with the user because what is intuitive for a programmer is not always intuitive to a call center administrator and can certainly pose a hurdle to a caller.
Bob Vilsoet is director of systems integration for Ameritech’s Call Center Solutions. Ameritech serves millions of customers in 50 states and 40 countries. Ameritech provides a full range of communications services, including local and long-distance telephone, cellular, paging, security, monitoring, cable TV, electronic commerce, online services, and more. For more information, visit the company’s Web site at www.ameritech.com.
Call Center and IVR Services
Database Systems Corp. (DSC) offers both inbound and outbound call center services that automatically answer phone calls and broadcast phone messages. Our inbound call center processes phone calls using our award winning interactive voice response (IVR) system that answers calls without an operator.
Non profit organizations and businesses alike can reduce costs and improve service by using our inbound call center phone service and outbound voice messaging center.
Database has been developing call center solutions since 1978 including our phone answering software - thus we are uniquely positioned to manage your call answering campaigns saving your organization both time and money.
Contact DSC today. to learn more about our IVR services and IVR application development software.