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IVR systems interactive voice response

IVR Solutions

This section of our technical library presents information and documentation relating to IVR Solutions 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. The PACER and WIZARD IVR System is just one of many DSC call center phone system features..

What is IVR Software?. 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 services and IVR application development software.

Telephony 101: Giving Voice to Your Network

By Joe Hernick

The lines between voice and data infrastructures are starting to blur -- learning how to intergrate and support telecom devices and technologies is a must.

Remember when telecommunications equipment was someone else's problem? No more. With the line beginning to blur between voice and data infrastructures, IT managers and administrators must know how to integrate telecom devices into their networks.

Digital switches and digital transmission have opened the floodgates for more voice traffic over existing phone lines, better sound quality and simplified management of the public switched voice network. DTMF (Dual-Tone Multifrequency) has increased network capacity and paved the way for a myriad of telephony software applications, such as automated voice access to your bank balance and your airline reservations.

Support and management of these telecom technologies is likely becoming part of your job description. But if you're one of the many IT wonks who still have only a basic understanding of the voice side of the shop, you need an introduction to key telephony devices and technologies to avoid any potential pitfalls in your CTI (computer-telephony integration).

PBX: The Heart of Voice Traffic

Today's PBX generates the required signaling information for calls outside the organization, passing the connection through a voice trunk and up to the local telco's CO (central office). The obvious advantage is that it lets you avoid intra-office tariffs and reliance on a LEC (local exchange carrier) by aggregating calls into digital trunks. And it's easier and cheaper to manage one PRI or T1 than multiple analog lines from the local CO.

Over time, PBXs have evolved from monstrous electromechanical beasts to refrigerator-sized proprietary boxes to modern rackmounted chassis. Most of these devices run ACD (Automatic Call Distributor) applications that provide advanced call management for inbound calls. ACD apps can direct calls to hunt groups, for example, so if the first line is busy, a call will roll to the next one or to voicemail or a VRU (Voice Response Unit).

With VoIP (Voice over IP) modules now widely available for PBXs, you can upgrade a traditional PBX with VoIP and run your voice traffic over your IP backbone (see "2003 Survivor's Guide to Digital Convergence"). PBX vendors are also offering IP-only PBXs, which means you no longer have to install hardwired extensions when you add new users and handsets.

VRU/IVR: Talking Back

VRUs are essentially voice computers that customers use to interact with a company's systems. Just as a browser is your interface to the Web, your phone keypad serves as the user interface to the VRU. Like PBXs, VRUs were once vendor-specific solutions running their own operating systems on proprietary hardware. Today's VRUs rely on standard server hardware and OSs with IVR (Interactive Voice Response) applications, such as those from Syntellect running Windows 2000.

When you reach a business' automated voice system and press "1" for a name directory, you're interfacing with the VRU's IVR application. The IVR guides you to whatever information you're looking for, such as the extension for Joe in accounting.

The ACD transfers calls to an IVR app, which holds the call until the customer either completes the session or opts out by choosing to talk to a human being. The IVR app responds to the caller's queries using its internal data or by connecting to external databases. IVRs can be powerful tools for business--the more calls they can handle, the fewer call-center staffers you need. On the flip side, a poorly written IVR app can cause serious (and potentially costly) customer-service problems.

Advanced IVR applications let users conduct transactions such as bank balance transfers and provide write updates to back-end databases.

CMS: Accounting for Your Calls

With a CMS (Call Management System), administrators can track inbound and outbound call volume, average time on hold, length of calls, IVR opt-outs and other call minutiae. This detailed reporting reveals trends in customer call volume, which is crucial for planning line capacity and staffing and for developing IVR applications. CMS reports may be used to pinpoint inefficient call paths, usually evident when users opt out of the IVR app to talk to a service rep, and detect call volume trends, like the fact that volume is highest at noon on the first Monday of every month.

You can use this information to adjust your work flow and business processes, and update your IVR applications. And management can measure a call-center agent's performance with daily and weekly metrics, such as time to answer, call duration and transfers. Older CMS apps interfaced to PBXs and VRUs over serial connections, but newer ones, such as Avaya's CMS, use IP.

CTI: Caller ID

Computer telephony integration applications automatically pull caller information from the ACD and capture the caller's interactions with the VRU and associated databases. They then send the data to a call-center representative's PC or terminal screen, enabling the agent to greet the caller by name and immediately access that person's account information. The net result: shorter call time, which drives up efficiency at the call center and improves customer service (see "Go With the Flow: How IVR Handles a Customer Call," at left).

Contact DSC today. to learn more about our IVR services and IVR application development software.