I keep getting direct questions which broadly translates into one single question, “What IVR tool/Software should I use for my IVR requirement ?”
Over period of last three years, I can classify, three types of people ask me such questions, they are :-
1. Representatives of companies who is looking for IVR systems and they also have an IT department.
2. Fresh Engineers who want to form a start-up company in voice applications
3. Students looking for projects while completing their course
While I always try to use encourage students to go for using APIs available in C++ with the CTI hardware, it is really difficult to suggest about IVR tools or IVR solution for type #1 and #2 above!
As for students, I feel it would do them good if they learn about those C++ APIs in order to understand the telecom protocols too!
I find it difficult to suggest an IVR solution for the type #1. Here are my few points #1 should consider while choosing an IVR solution:-
1. Do they have at least one qualified telecom engineer as well as one software developer available full time to develop IVR solutions, if not, on should seriously consider hosted IVR solutions with pay-per-usage option. It will really help them remain happy if they can get the right IVR hosting provider. Also this would be cheapest option without having to worry about CTI boards, Telecom lines etc.
2. If they have manpower available, choosing the right tool may not be difficult! Most of the proprietary IVR tools like VBVoice, OsiDial etc. normally support Dialogic CTI Hardware, while open source Asterisk, FreeSwitch support low cost CTI hardware like Sangoma, Digium. ExtendIVR is one such tool which supports almost all CTI hardware available in the market!
But even if one can decide on the IVR tools to be used, the worry of investment in CTI board and telecom connection will still be there!
3. If the IVR requirement is very specific which requires lot of integration with existing customised software, one does not have much choice then going for a custom developed IVR solutions from an IVR company. It might be costly affair though.
So, according to me, these three are the thumb rule to decide on a IVR solution for type #1 above.
I think, it is most difficult to give any suggestion for the type #2. I still do not know what to suggest for them. Still, I think here are few guidelines:-
1. VXML is getting standardized and getting popular now a days. So any tool which ca support VXML may help building an IVR solutions which will be more popular in coming days. But the competing IVR tools which uses traditional development tools like C#, VB have advantages of readily available manpower and minimum training period.
2. If one is considering providing hosted IVR service, then consider about investments in CTI hardware as well as its support. If this is a constraint or plays a major rule in decision making, one will have to choose an IVR tool suitable for such CTI boards only. For example, if one goes for low cost Sangoma boards, it is best to go with Asterisk in Linux.
3. It is normally assumed that the budding entrepreneur would be a good programmer too, but this is not not necessary! Still, I would say the third guideline to decide on would be programming skill as well as knowledge on telecom domain.
This is my personal observation and I would welcome any suggestion from experts in IVR.