Interactive Voice Response Systems Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

Interactive Voice Response Systems

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A telephone off the hook with a voice saying 'please hold the line'.

A mouthful, wouldn't you say? IVR is the acronym for the computer you talk to when you ring up the bank but the live bodies don't answer. The computer with the soothing voice that's ever so glad to give you an account balance, or a credit application rejection, or the number to call another IVR, or a message to say that, while we're horribly busy with other customers, we desperately want to talk with you as well, so be a love and wait and your call will be answered in turn.

Did you know that:

  • IVR is designed so that the most frequently asked questions are dealt with first for two reasons, namely quick customer satisfaction and lower "handle time", which equals lower costs.

  • IVR in the financial services industry can offload up to 75% of the normal call volume handled by live bodies. Why 25% of you want to speak directly with a surly, sensory-deprived, 22-year old chained to a desk with a headset is utterly and completely beyond me.

  • If you press "0", even when they don't tell you to, it usually works.

  • They can capture your telephone number, and the time that you called, and the fact that you hung up because you were tired of waiting, and they usually do nothing with that information.

  • The wave of the future1 for IVR is speech recognition technology. This means a set of prompts will be constructed that are built around "I" statements rather than "We" statements, and ask you to tell us that your name is Zeus Quinn, rather than have you spell it out on a touch-tone keypad that has no Q or Z. The recognition algorithms are quite good; they're based on linguistic parts of speech, so it doesn't matter much if you speak Farsi or are from Alabama or both, the recognition success rates ride around 97%.

1Which means the next six months.

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