Interactive voice response technology is a great way to provide access to rich online resources without requiring users to invest in anything more than the telephony equipment they already have. Even the most basic feature phone is compatible with almost all IVR menus, thus making this an extremely accessible development platform. Companies that are planning on introducing their own menu will want to keep a few pointers in mind.
Gathering All the Necessary Tools
Before anyone starts to develop an IVR, they’re going to want to invest in voice talent so they’ll have professionally made messages that the system will read out whenever a customer gives it a phone call. It’s easy to get locked into using a simple synthesized voice that can rapidly generate almost anything you need dynamically. While this might seem convenient, it can actually be annoying to clients who call a hotline. The old deck talk-style voices that were once popular can be difficult to listen to, especially if they’re dialed through a long-distance connection.
Unlike conventional landline long-distance services, mobile calls are heavily compressed. Many people find that they already sound somewhat tinny, so adding to this is never a good idea. A much better way to deal with the problem is to work with a commercial voice broadcast service that uses high-quality voice samples. In most cases, these will still incorporate some kind of dynamic subroutines, but they’re not anywhere near as troublesome as classic implementations of the same technology would have been.
Well-designed broadcasting protocols may even sound as good as talking to a real person, provided that the script they’re working with is carefully engineered. Once a script is in place, the next step to designing an effective system is more technical.
Coding and Deploying an IVR System
Script authors should carefully consider all of the potential reasons that someone would call a hotline. Once they do, they’ll want to fill in each message concisely. Never make any potential voice message last for more than 30-60 seconds. Customers may find it difficult to listen to a piece of information all the way through otherwise. Interpreted programming languages like Ruby on Rails have become the most popular ways of coding these kinds of menus, but it’s theoretically possible to use a compiled one if one so desires. Precompiled binaries tend to execute more quickly than most other technologies would.
Markup scripting is another avenue that’s within the realm of possibilities. A version of the popular extensible markup language is available that can help businesses use existing coding skills when they want to write a voice menu. Engineers can use this to author more sophisticated interactive content that’s easily updated in the future. Say that someone’s business model changes at some point in the future.
A few alterations to the questions and answers encoded in the XML text are all needed to keep the IVR system up-to-date in this context. That makes it a highly attractive option for growing companies that expect at least some changes in the near future. Nevertheless, all options must be checked for compatibility before anyone chooses to use them.
Considering Your Business Requirements
Information technology department staffers who have elected to work with a dedicated broadcasting service will want to be certain that any solution they pick is compatible with the IVR platform their service provider uses. Compatibility concerns aren’t too big of a problem because these services generally offer their own tools, but they can be an issue for those who plan on doing everything in-house.
Accessibility is often a much bigger consideration since some customers will need support for dual-tone multi-frequency signaling. Fortunately, most packaged IVR solutions do offer this, and it supports nearly every modern DTMF-capable phone. A few even include baked-in support for pulse signaling, although few customers will ever actually need that in a production environment.
Small business owners, in particular, stand to enjoy huge gains from deploying an IVR system. By combining ease of use and constant customer access, these phone menus have made a real impact in the space.