IVR systems (Interactive Voice Response) is a business phone system feature that automatically plays prerecorded call menus or responses to inbound calls.
The callers can interact with these call menus by providing spoken responses or by entering in their responses on their keypads (known as DTMF tones.) By responding to questions, customers are automatically routed through a pre-selected call path that will help them to get relevant information and, in most cases, prevent them from needing to speak with a live agent.
IVR technology connects callers to appropriate departments, lets them check account balances and pay bills, makes it easy to schedule/cancel appointments, and more by interacting with artificially intelligent IVR menus that “learn” the best actions to take based on customer responses over time.
In this post, we’ll briefly cover the biggest benefits of IVR, outline the top features and pricing of the best IVR platforms, and provide you with best practices when setting up your Interactive Voice Response solution.
The biggest benefit of an effective Interactive Voice Response system is the high level of customer self-service it provides.
Given that 40% of customers would prefer to pursue a self-service solution as opposed to needing to contact an agent, implementing an IVR doesn’t only mean freeing up call center agents to focus on more complex issues.
It also means you’re giving customers what they want.
Additional key IVR benefits include:
- Increases First Call Resolution rates, which can decrease customer churn by 67%
- Provides customers with a 24/7 immediate response (75% of customers say a fast response is the most important customer satisfaction metric)
- Prevents customers from having to repeat themselves to multiple agents across multiple channels (55% of customers say that omnichannel consistency is one of the top factors influencing the customer experience)
- Significantly lowers operating costs, as studies show that improving IVR contaminants rates by 5-20% decreases the overall costs of running a call center by up to 30% within 6 months
- Simplifies and automates the billing process, leading to fewer late or missed payments. As of this writing, about 37% of customers use IVR systems to pay bills.
We developed basic criteria that informed how we selected which providers offer the best IVR systems for small businesses.
Influencing factors included pricing, customer reviews/experience, multi-industry applications, available features, and available customer support channels. Some providers on this list offer IVR APIs, while others offer IVR as a part of a cloud contact SaaS platform.
The providers selected are:
|Twilio||Studio: 1,000 free monthly flow executions, $0.001/flow execution afterward.
Autopilot: $0.04/voice minute, $0.001/text message $0.001/chat message
|Twilio AI Autopilot|
|Talkdesk||Three plans available from $65.00/user per month||Talkdesk IQ Virtual Agent|
|Five9||From $100.00/user per month||Visual IVR capabilities|
|RingCentral||Four RingCentral Office plans from $19.99/user per month to $59.99/user per month||Ability to create up to 250 IVR menus|
|Genesys||Three available Genesys Cloud plans from $75/00/user per month to $140.00/user per month||Over 80 pre-built and customizable micro-apps for better integration and industry-specific IVR|
Twilio offers a scalable IVR API solution that, according to its website, helps to decrease the cost of resolving one customer issue from $12.00 with a live agent to $1.00 with its IVR solution.
Because Twilio provided IVR via APIs, it’s easy to create a completely customized IVR system that admins can update frequently based on user feedback and analytics.
The provider offers several APIs that enhance the IVR experience. Twilio Programmable Voice lets you port existing phone numbers in and uses speech recognition, Natural Language Processing (NLP), and DTMF tones to provide self-service.
Its Autopilot feature uses conversational AI bots to let customers schedule appointments, sends out automated appointment reminders, and can even make product recommendations without the need to connect with an agent. Based on trigger words/phrases and touchtones, these AI bots can forward incoming calls to agents, answer FAQs, or route the customers to a multi-level IVR system.
Additional API functionalities include:
- Outbound automatic dialing
- Voicemail and answering machine detection
- Drag-and-drop call flow design
- SMS customer surveys to improve CSAT
- Personalized autoresponses/greetings
- Integrations with third-party CRM and business communication tools
- Forwards calls to different phone numbers per agent (office, home, smartphone, etc.)
- PCI-compliant payments over the phone with tokenization for added security
- Advanced routing capabilities (skills-based, idle time, round-robin, etc.)
- Text-to-speech in 26 languages
Check out our complete Twilio pricing guide for more information.
Best For: Twilio is best for companies with an existing contact center or business phone system that want to add more advanced and customized IVR capabilities into their call flow.
Talkdesk Studio is an interactive visual call flow design solution designed to provide caller self-service IVR at every part of the customer journey.
The Talkdesk IQ Virtual Agent features uses AI to provide recommendations to customers based on overall and caller-specific past IVR interactions.
Smart Note technology relies on NLP and speech recognition to automatically put all essential interaction information into agent notes. Further, the Smart Note tool provides live agents with “next best action” options to recommend to customers and provides options for shortcut solutions. This way, even if a caller needs to be connected to a live agent, Talkdesk provides your team members with all the information the caller interred into the IVR system. The customer won’t have to repeat their account number, personal information, and issue.
It also offers intelligent call handoff, conversational automations, and contextualized follow-up call scheduling/ticket management within the agent interface.
Talkdesk’s Guide tool is an AI self-service and agent knowledge base that uses NLP to determine the likely nature of the customer’s issue or request. Then, it makes recommendations to live agents or the customer based on relevant information in the knowledge base. Further, Guide automatically ranks the most popular and most relevant knowledge base articles for specific issues, increasing the likelihood of first contact resolution.
Additional capabilities include:
- Time-based calling rules (during, before, or after business hours)
- CRM customer data dips with integrated platforms like Salesforce
- Automated callbacks
- Queue management
- Pre-made call flow component templates
- Estimated call wait times
- Script adherence monitoring
- Escalation assistance
- Voicemail and voice transcription
- Real-time error checking
- Multi-level IVRs
Our Talkdesk breakdown provides additional information on products and pricing.
Best For: Talkdesk is best for high call volume companies with an extensive knowledge base that they want to leverage within their IVR system to boost customer self-service and first call resolution.
Five9 provides speech-powered and visual IVR solutions as a part of its inbound cloud contact center.
Its visual IVR in particular is its strongest feature, as it is specifically designed for a mobile-first customer service experience. It turns IVR into an interactive app-like experience as opposed to requiring customers to listen to often lengthy IVR prompts to get the information or agent they need. Visual IVR from Five9 makes completing surveys, scheduling appointments, getting product recommendations, and accessing basic support simple.
Additionally, Five9’s visual IVR comes with a call widget that is embedded on mobile and desktop website views, allowing customers to connect with a live agent at any time.
Of course, Five9’s contact center also includes speech-powered IVR that collects customer data via speech recognition and DTMF tones. Features like error prompts, confirmations, caller authentication, and automated bill payment over the phone provide a high level of customer self-service.
Additional IVR capabilities include:
- CRM integrations and CTI screen pops
- Advanced call routing and call forwarding
- Automated callbacks
- Post-call automated surveys
- Outbound IVR (appointment confirmations, order status updates, etc.)
- Drag-and-drop call flow design
- Intuitive script designer
- IVR scheduling
- Estimated queue wait time
Learn more in our complete Five9 review.
Best For: Five9 is best for digital-first contact centers that need a complete call center platform, not IVR as a standalone feature. It also works for companies that use phone IVR as a secondary IVR option, while website chatbots/visual IVR on other channels are preferred by both agents and customers.
Users can also add a DID (direct inward dialing) phone number for an individual IVR menu, meaning that, for example, your customer support IVR menu, your sales IVR menu, and your billing department’s IVR menu can all be accessed via their individual telephone numbers. This means shorter IVR menus for callers and access to immediate relevant help.
IVR menu prompts in RingCentral can be built via text-to-speech, self-recording options, or imported MP3 and WAV audio files. Call paths can be easily edited and updated in the Visual IVR Editor tool, and bulk changes can be accomplished by importing XML files.
IVR menu options can include call forwarding to directories or voicemail boxes, external transfers, an IVR sub-menu, extension listings, or connection to a live agent. RingCentral’s multi-level solution is an excellent and simple way to create numerous multilingual menus, which is especially valuable for businesses with a large number of international clients or a multilingual client base.
Our overview of RingCentral pricing and plans provides additional information.
Best For: RingCentral is best for SMBs that use IVR more as a way to direct inbound callers to the correct department or agent, and that use start-to-finish IVR self-service for only a few select interactions.
Genesys Cloud IVR software uses AI-powered voicebots, voice recognition, and open-ended questions to guide customers through a customized call flow while that still feels personal.
The default to voice responses also provides a deeper look into customer intent, and its infrastructure-agnostic, easy-to-use interface mean it’s ideal for a wide variety of businesses. As with RingCentral, one of Genesys IVR’s main goals is to eliminate the need for customers to sit through lengthy voice menu prompts.
Genesys users also have the opportunity to choose whether they’d like their IVR services to be hosted on-premises or in the cloud, unlike the purely cloud-based solutions on this list.
Admins can set forwarding and response rules according to phone number and customer name, ensuring that your most important clients get excellent service. Admins can also set rules according to current agent capacity level and the reason for the client’s call.
Best of all, Genesys offer a large selection of pre-built micro-apps to improve CRM integration an offer industry-specific IVR solutions.
Additional features include:
- IVR identify verification
- Omnichannel routing
- Personalized call menus
- IVR payment
- Library of premade voice prompts
- Access to public APIs
Learn more about features and user experience by reading our Genesys review.
Best For: Genesys is best for small businesses seeking a more personalized IVR experience, as well as those that prefer longer voice responses from callers as opposed to DTMF touch tones (for greater customer insights, personalization, etc.)
Plum Voice is a modern hosted IVR system that uses AI-powered conversational assistants to route calls, handle bill payment, answer support questions, and more.
Plum Fuze is the drag-and-drop call flow design and conversation app tool that allows users to create complex call forwarding rules without coding. It simplifies the IVR process even further through a library of pre-built application templates designed to speed up the resolution process and fit with industry-specific needs.
One of its most unique features is that its permission structures center collaborative development, meaning that your IT teams and support/sales staff can all contribute to the IVR call flow together. Its APIs allow for interoperability and integrations with CRM systems and payment gateways.
VoiceTrends from Plum Voice is its analytics and data collection feature, providing both love and historical IVR interaction data. You’ll receive insight about call volume, application performance, campaign/event tracking, and A/B testing results. All data is completely searchable, so it’s easy to find what you need and evaluate the effectiveness of your current call path strategy.
Plum Voice also offers professional services that you can completely design with their team members from the ground up, creating an entirely customized IVR solution that is PIC and HIPAA compliant.
For additional information, read our review of Plum Voice.
Best For: Plumvoice is best for companies that rely on IVR applications to better understand customer intent, interests, and trends, as well as for those needing an entirely customizable system.
Even the most efficient IVR platform will be useless if you don’t follow best practices.
Top tips to ensure your customers get the information they need and that the experience is seamless for agents and callers include:
- Keeping call menus brief
- Setting up alternative routing options if the first agent the caller was sent to is unavailable
- Frequently update call menus/IVR scripts to ensure information is current
- Always let customers switch to a live agent while interacting with IVR
- Allowing customers to receive an automatic callback as opposed to staying on hold for long periods of time
- Ensure pre-recorded voice prompts are clear and easy to understand
- Set up automated reporting/analytics to evaluate the effectiveness of your call menus and customer support
- Integrate third-party CRM tools to personalize the customer experience
In addition to IVR, the cloud contact centers mentioned in this post provide other features to increase first call resolution and agent productivity.
- Call barge/call whisper
- Ring groups
- Call hunting
- Call parking
- Call waiting
- Hot desking
- Priority call notifications
To learn more about how these virtual telephony features can improve the customer experience, as well as to explore other providers, check out our contact center software provider breakdown.