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IVR Software

IVR systems interactive voice response

IVR Solutions

This section of our 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. 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.

IVR For The Faint Of Heart: Turnkey, Commissioned, or User-Friendly

By Andy Green

IVR applications can save your business a bundle by handling routine calls and keeping customers happily helping themselves over the phone. But if you aren't into programming your own IVR, you should check out the outsourcers and producers of turnkey apps.

Driven by commodity-priced communications servers and short application turnaround time (made possible with Visual Basic and a supermarket shelf of prepackaged ActiveX components), the IVR industry has brought solutions withinreach of just about any-size business. While wandering the aisles at this year’s CT Expo, I was drawn to many of the shiny IVR wares on display. My inner nerd was telling me something like: “So, I get Pronexus’ (Kanata, ON, Canada — 613-271-8989) VBVoice, buy a cheap NT box and some Dialogic cards, do a little VB programming, and plan to cash in on the pet rock revival that’s around the corner with my 800-PEBBLES number...” Fortunately, these IVR outfitters are not dependent on dreamy, strapped- for-cash writers for their business.

Most businesses have two choices: buy a turnkey system or rent a hosted IVR app. For the price of development and hardware, the service divisions of many IVR vendors can craft an app to solve a specific business problem, leaving corporate organizations free to worry about such minor activities as marketing, inventory, and production. They’ll deliver a turnkey system to your office; you supply the telco lines and the staff to manage it. Larger organizations, with plans for national marketing campaigns, have the option of renting an IVR from an outsourcer and letting their hosts worry about keeping the IVR well fed with telco lines and protected against outages.

A third, though less viable, alternative for many businesses: do-it-yourself. Buy a vendor’s software-development kit and let your staff loose on it. We’ve covered IVR app generators in the past, but this time around we’re focusing on tools that let you avoid your IS department. Yep, we actually found a few.


If your office, factory, or nonprofit institution already has a PBX, small key system, or next-generation comms server and ISDN or T-1 lines feeding into it and you’re considering an IVR for doing, say, a health-care enrollment or order-by-phone application, then your PBX vendor should be the first stop. Many have professional services divisions and can be your single source for additional hardware and IVR programming. Octel 200 and 300 owners can talk to Lucent Technologies’ Octel Messaging Division (Milpitas, CA — 888-886-2835) and get connected to one of the 15 Octel DesignPartner Program members (masters of the OctelDesigner, Lucent’s great IVR development tool). Lucent has stamped out five application templates covering a lot of business application ground, and the DesignPartners can customize the one that’s right for you. Otherwise, Lucent can direct you to a vertical-market specialist to develop something not seen before. Learn more about Lucent in the roundup. Toshiba (Irvine, CA — 800-222-5805) is another metal vendor with an IVR service division. It can put together an app that’ll run on its new Stratagy ES IVR platform. Vodavi CT (Norcross, GA — 877-486-3284) also does great work with its PathFinder platform.

What about the cost? Well, going this route, you take on the burden of paying for the hardware. Price depends on the number of ports and the type of components, with industrial-quality ones adding a premium. Fortunately, NT platforms bring hardware within reach. A four-port vanilla NT widget can be had for as little as $3,000. Toshiba’s eight-port Stratagy ES NT-based platform starts at around $16,000. If you want fault- tolerant hardware — dual power supplies and RAID — check out MCCT’s (Belmont, NH — 603-524-2214) Titan 1 in the roundup. This one will run you around $40,000, and it comes with a year’s worth of support.


If you want to focus on your business and let someone else worry about building and maintaining your IVR app, the IVR outsourcers are there to help. They have the hardware, the staff, and the port capacity to handle the highest-volume applications. You’ll pay for the cost of development and either a per-minute charge (around 20˘), a per-transaction charge, or a combination of both, depending on the application. For example, credit card authorization or stock execution is usually charged on per- transaction basis; order entry is usually on a per-minute basis. You’re also responsible for a monthly minimum payment, which is applied when the number of hits to your app falls below the break-even point. This is not an inconsiderable charge. For example, Syntellect Interactive Services (Phoenix, AZ — 800-788-9733), a venerable IVR outsourcer, charges between $3,000 and $5,000 per month. The minimum monthly charges really require a serious 800-number campaign or stock execution IVR system with a huge, built-in market.

In return, the outsourcers offer 24/7 data centers with redundant phone lines, fault-tolerant hardware, and the staff to monitor the application. Many offer additional services, such as transcribing voice responses from an IVR survey into a database or monitoring campaign success. A few, including Telserv (Portland, OR — 503-274-8240), let you surf into their data centers and check call statistics in real time.


Whether you go through an outsourcer or turnkey vendor, you’ll have to pay IVR development charges. You can acquire a basic credit card authorization or dealer locator IVR for a few thousand dollars. Costs have gone down because lots of businesses have been asking for similar applications. Both turnkey vendors and outsourcers have responded by productizing their solutions. With these off-the-shelf apps, you avoid paying for the hourly development costs. Instead, pay the lower, shrink-wrapped price and have them do the necessary customizations to personalize your application.

Custom IVR apps, on the other hand, can be costly. For an 800-number campaign that uses speech recognition and accesses your back-end databases, don’t be surprised if you get an estimate from an outsourcer that’s more than $50,000. Even if you decide to abandon the speech rec part, writing custom software to update non-ODBC-compliant databases keeps developers very busy and may put a few extra zeros on the end of your bill. IVR developers have repeatedly told me that non-ODBC is a curse. For you, that is.

If this has scared you into thinking you can do an IVR app yourself, you’re half-right. A nontechnical person would really have problems with many of the Visual Basic development environments, even ones with the easy drag-and-drop interface. If the thought of working with ActiveX properties and methods causes you to shriek, then most of the tools out there are not for you. They’re really for the development staff of the IT department, and these folks may even be challenged by these tools. However, we found two that may make IVR a reality for your small business. With SpeechSoft’s (Armonk, NY — 914-273-5560) CallMaster, entrepreneurs with an IVR idea may find the product’s spreadsheet-like interface reassuring and quickly develop an app. I’m also charged up about MediaSoft’s (Montreal, QC, Canada — 514-731-3838) Office Telephony 2000. This one has the professional GUI development environment, but you’re helped along the way by friendly wizards that appear whenever you add components to your menu tree. Check them out in the roundup. And good luck.$

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