Unfortunately small and medium-sized business call centers tend to be breeding grounds for inefficiency.
Faced with limited budgets, companies pare back call-center staffing, putting even more demands on personnel who are inundated with routine incoming call requests.
Interactive Voice Response systems offload many of the mundane functions that are performed by call-center employees. Customers are greeted by an automated IVR system that enables them to dynamically interact with the company and perform basic tasks without the assistance of a live representative.
Before you take the plunge to an IVR solution, you should know that these applications aren't right for every business. Companies that experience a low volume of calls will find it hard to justify the expense. But for other companies, IVR technology presents a viable alternative to increased staffing.
IVR Systems Overview
An IVR system is a proven workhorse when it comes to call management. Depending on your system features, inbound callers can interact with your company through their phone keypad or through voice commands. Companies who adopt an IVR solution work closely with their dealer to create a streamlined "tree"–the hierarchical array of menu items, voice prompts and options that are designed to successfully perform customer requests. IVR dealers are quick to point out that the technology also has applications for outbound calls. It's possible to design a system with interactive features for outbound customer service or follow-up functions.
Purchase Considerations for IVR Systems
IVR systems are usually a lot more sophisticated than a simple prerecorded message. Systems that take advantage of all the available features offer full integration with CRM, order tracking or other existing business applications. But initial startup equipment and software aren't the only things you have to consider. Ongoing maintenance of the system is a necessity, and if your IT department isn't prepared for it you could face significant challenges on a go-forward basis.
To help small and medium-sized businesses that lack IT departments, some providers offer hosted IVR systems in which the server and software resources are located at the provider's data center. Inbound calls come into the data center and are then routed to your office. Although these systems require a monthly service fee, they provide a latchkey alternative for companies who aren't capable of handling their own in-house maintenance needs.