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Now a days, I keep getting news about starting cloud telephony service providers in almost all cities in India. This phenomena or mushrooming of Cloud Telephony Service reminds me of good old VAS ( Value Added Service) days in India in 1999-2006 during initial days of telecom boom. Similarly, VAS companies mushroomed during that day and after 10 years, nobody discusses about VAS industry anymore.

Cloud Telephony Service seems to catching up with old and new entrepreneurs with “Digital India” and “Smart City” campaign by present government. We can hope it will bring in positive changes and increase mass acceptability of IVR systems in India.
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Unseasonal rains destroys crops as well as it may delay some crops which in turn cause rise in prices int he market. With global climate changes, the occurrence of unseasonal rains have become quite normal in India as well as other countries. Specially in India, this has recently become a big problem as agriculture is mainly dependent on rain. There are many incidents in India of farmers committing suicide due to loss of crops due to unseasonal rains.

A simple outbound IVR can be used inform farmers in advance for any expected rains as well as educate them alternatives crops in case of unseasonal rain.
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Most of cloud telephony service providers use a facility, “Call Forwarding” telecom operators in India where a “virtual IVR” number is provided to a cloud Telephony service user. Now this number is normally a 10 digit mobile number which is mapped to a “PRI number” which is essentially a land-line number. This virtual number is mapped to the PRI number by using call forwarding facility where every call coming to that 10 digit mobile number ( either GSM or CDMA) is forwarded to the PRI number unconditionally.

This is really a good arrangement in terms of redundancy simply because if a PRI goes down for some reason, the number can be forwarded to another PRI number and nobody will realise any downtime for the IVR service!

Another advantage is, normally this kind of forwarding allows up-to 30 channels per number. So, a single 10 digit number becomes a phone with multiple lines which multiple incoming calls could be answered simultaneously.

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Software Advice, A Gartner Company, conducted market study about IVR( Interactive Voice Response) System installed in customer-service centric companies in the Fortune 500 and collected metrics around the average wait times, length of option recordings and the number of options in the top menu.

This study reveals interesting data. There are only 30% IVR Systems which use both voice and dialpad inputs for choosing any menu option, and 42% uses dialpad (DTMF Key input) only input option and rest 28% uses voice input only.

Another interesting find is, 74% of IVR sampled use female voice while 26% uses male voice. While this is on expected line, but still 26% use of male voice seem high.
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During my recent travel to few cities in India, I had interaction with many people in telecom and IVR world. One thing which was common opinion among them was, on-premise IVR systems are making a come back. And at the same time, cloud telephony acceptance is also going up.

I feel, cloud telephony in India has helped acceptability of IVR system in India. India is one of the few countries where voice mail system never really put to use. There were very few and line phones and when telephone revolution came, it was mobile phone which had many features already and voice mail system never really taken off unlike western countries. So, naturally, with low telephone penetration, IVR, which is a value added service, never really had high usage in India.

But with Cloud Telephony, IVR is becoming well known and IVR usage is going up. Still, I think Cloud Telephony has following issues in India which is why on-premise IVR is also making a come back:
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Missed Call Service is an innovation in India which has become a smart tool to involve and engage customers for brands or any business in India. While, Missed Call Service has been used in many ways, Ozonetel, a leading Cloud Telephony Service provider, based in Hyderabad has implemented this “Missed Call Service” to connect with customers for many large clients. It has already handled 700 million “Missed Call”s in last 9 months and its on course to generate a billion Missed calls by April 2015.

Ozonetel boasts of clients like ZipDial, RedBus which have been using its Missed Call Service for last four years and generated huge number of Missed Calls so far and this year the volume will cross a billion in number of Missed Calls and is going to be a World Record!
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Advantages of IVR in smartphone Era

Mobile phones in last 10 years have seen major change of its usage. Gone are the days when mobile phone was a replacement of POTS ( Plain Old Telephone System) which could be kept in pocket and moved around in town. Now a days, specification of mobile phones mentions of 2.4GHz processor, 4GB RAM, Full HD Display, 128GB memory, Digital Dolby sound which look specifications of high end Laptop! And with battery to last for 12 hours with continuous usage. Mobile phones now act as a TV, Books, Computer with high speed internet connection, Music System, Alarm clock and yes, one can make and receive calls. No wonder, mobile phones are now called smart-phones! I would have preferred to call them “PhoneTop” (Mobile Phone + Laptop)!

So, Smart-phones are increasingly being used in call center solutions as well as many customer service solutions too. It is increasingly being used to lodge complaints by customers, check complaint status without making any voice calls, but just by visiting websites. IVR does the same thing using voice. Smartphones are now become very much affordable ( costing just $35 in India) along with internet data connection. But still, IVR holds advantages over smartphones for complaint management systems, customer service. And most of the time, smartphones or IVR should not treated as competitor, rather force multiplier.

Advantages where IVR holds over Smartphones are:-
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Usage of Bulk Voice Calling or Outbound Voice call has been increasing and it is being used in many industries. Outbound Call is no longer just a alert information service or emergency communication service.

Outbound calling is even used to provide free music to subscribers free of cost! Imagine, the same was only provided as incoming calls and up to Rs. 6/p per minute charged not so long ago as a VAS ( Value Added Service) by mobile operators.

With availability of affordable smartphones as well as mobile data services, users have many options for entertainment and entire web-based applications for any services have moved to smartphones. And outbound voice calls have also seen massive growth along with growth of smartphones.
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Many people have been annoyed due to unsolicited marketing calls ( also known as “Pesky Calls”, Spam Calls) that government maintains NDNC ( national Do Not Call) registry where one can register her number and all such pesky calls would be blocked.

Bulk Voice Call providers are required to screen mobile numbers using this NDNC database before making and outbound call. While this is a good way to block such irritating and annoying calls, there are few reasons why one should not add their numbers in such database:-

1. There is thin line between pesky calls and important announcement/information. Some information may be really beneficial. There may be few good discounts/ good deals one may be missing because those information are blocked by adding your number to NDNC.
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IVR Based Missed Call has really grown big way in last two years and it has found many diverse applications in India. Missed Call System has long outgrown the days when it was used for supporting for a cause or a mere voting system. It is now being used for providing voice content on phone, real world problem solving.

I think, one of the major reason for growing usage of Missed Call System is, its free for the user. Before Missed Call was used for many voice application, it was already in use by various individuals to exchange simple information.
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