I started working in the IVR industry in 1995. At that time, it was a little embarrassing to tell people what I did for a living. They really didn’t understand what Interactive Voice Response meant, and I would invariably have to explain, “You know, ‘Press 1 for Checking; Press 2 for Savings.’” And then I always got that look, quite often followed by, “Oh, you make those things—that nobody likes.”
It has been over 15 years since those days, and I am proud to say that I get that response a lot less often. And, I am proud to say I STILL work in the IVR industry. The technology and its acceptance have come a long way, perhaps in part as a result of better and smarter technology.
Years ago, I saw an episode of Seinfeld in which Kramer somehow managed to have the “movie phone number” pointed to his phone. He was answering calls and trying to inform people what movies were playing, at what time, and at which theater. When he realized he could not identify the touch tones, he decided to ask the caller, “Why don’t you just tell me the name of the movie you’d like to see?” While making for a funny scene, when I think back on that episode, it reminds me of a couple things. First, the ability to call an IVR system in order to find out what movies are playing, as well as the time and location, is pretty cool! AND, with IVRs today, we really can have the caller simply tell the system what movie they would like to see!
In addition to new and different applications, the technology that can be used in conjunction with an IVR system makes the use of these systems more and more popular every day—technology such as speech recognition, voice biometrics, integration with social media, mobile applications, GPS applications, and the list goes on and on!
Callers are not the only ones warming up to IVRs—more and more businesses are utilizing IVR technology and finding more creative uses for it. Entire industries that would not have dared to dream of having their beloved clients talk to a machine are now more apt to at least give callers the option of getting what they want or need from an IVR. Of course, they still want to offer the ability to speak to a live person. And that is just fine! There are certainly instances in which it makes perfect sense to talk to a person.
Even better, not only are businesses more at ease with allowing their clients to use an IVR, but many are also more comfortable with newer technology and ways to deploy the systems. No longer do businesses need to invest tens, even hundreds, of thousands of dollars in on-premise IVR equipment. Nor do they need to pay exorbitant fees and wait months or years to have an application up and running. Now through cloud technology and advanced development tools, they can have an application set to go live in a matter of days and can simply pay as they go to flatten their costs.
I love the fact that IVRs have become more advanced, more interactive, and especially more accepted, but how do you feel about them? Do you still prefer waiting on hold to talk to a person or is interacting with an IVR to get the information you want with a few voice commands (or touch tones—for you old schoolers) becoming your first line of attack? Let us know in the comments below!