How Does an IVR Work?


Tom Baker at Vonage provides a simple explanation on how an IVR works.

How Does an IVR Work?

Tom Baker (Vonage)

If you’re thinking about traditional IVR technology of gathering a call as input, typically you would present some kind of audible menu to the caller. Do you want sales? Do you want service?

And you give them some mechanism to indicate their response. So not the old-fashioned, but the older technology that drove that was keypad presses.

So I press a button on my telephone keypad, there’s a DTMF tone that’s understood by the system to correspond to the option that I want.

More modern solutions will include things like voice recognition and speech to text, and NLU capabilities, which will allow you to interact with voice to say, I would like service.

And depending on how it’s built, it will then give you a result through the IVR system that corresponds to the option that you’ve selected.

That’s the core IVR use-case. But as I mentioned, IVR has expanded to include a whole bunch of different technologies.

Traditional and Modern IVR Functionality

In general, for an IVR solution you would expect some kind of flowchart-based modular builder, where you have a bunch of different modules, and each one will give the caller some kind of experience.

So I play a message at this point. I control call recording. I ask the caller a question. I then route based on the options. I could apply skills, I could apply cues, all of that kind of thing to control the experience that the caller has.

Now, not all of those modules are necessarily audible. Some of them may be working in the background.

And for some customers, and for some types of contact centres, they don’t actually want the caller to ever have what they consider to be a traditional IVR because they don’t like that. But they may still want some of the silent functions of an IVR.

Connecting into back-end systems, identifying who the caller is based on the telephone number that they’re displaying, that kind of thing, in order to give their team as much information about the caller when they come through as possible.

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Author: Tom Baker
Reviewed by: Robyn Coppell

Published On: 1st Aug 2022 - Last modified: 20th Nov 2023
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