Like any other computer software, IVR too work inputs of responses provided by the user. Though, a computer application software has widely used input devices like keyboard, mouse, voice, even hand movement, IVR applications have limited, only two types of inputs or responses. One is telephone keypad which has 12 keys and automatic speech recognition!
Another specific difference between a normal computer application software and a IVR software is, IVR can provide the options sequentially in voice while computer application software can software options in various menus, buttons, drop down menu, quick links using related graphics etc. So IVR provides its options or tasks it can perform to a caller in series of voice announcement along with key option to press or word, phrase to speak for choosing the tasks. This is known as IVR menu.
With advent of hosted IVR services, IVR application has become designing of this menu system only, while the integration of CTI hardware with various PBX systems have become standard modules provided by hosted IVR service provider.
Irrespective of direction of call of the IVR ( inbound IVR or outbound IVR), menu starts as soon as the call is picked up. Normally, IVR starts with a “welcome prompt” typically welcoming the caller with greetings and quick short brief about the service, organisation behind the IVR.
IVR menus can be divided into two types depending on how user give commands to IVR application or how user responds to its menu options, DTMF(DualTone Multiple Frequency) or Telephone driven and ASR (Automatic Speech Recognition) driven. Both have advantage and disadvantages and are widely used. ( Click here for more about DTMF driven menu or ASR driven menu)
Apart from above two types of IVR menus, it can also be divided another two types depending on how menu options are generated.
- Menu options can be recorded using a voice artist in studio and played back.
- Menu options can be generated using TTS (Text to Speech) converters.
Again, choices in a menu, may be static or dynamic. When the choices in a menu are fixed for the IVR system, than the menu can be called as static menu while if the menu options changes dynamically depending on caller id, time of the day etc., than the menu can be called dynamic. For example:-
In a call center IVR, if a registered customer dials, he may be given different options while an unregistered customer would be presented a different options in the IVR menu.
Many people do not like TTS generated menus as one can make out the difference between human voice and TTS generated voice, specially in India, it has mainly to do with accent of the voice. TTS can be very useful in dynamic menu as well as presenting data retrieved from database where playing recorded voice may not be possible all the time.
Usability of an IVR depends mainly on the design of IVR menu. For more about usability one may check this : Usability of IVR systems.
An IVR user is interacts with IVR through it menu only. So it is very important to design IVR menu which is easily understandable to first time callers. Previously people used Visio like tools to design IVR menu. But now a days, almost all IVR development tools come with powerful, feature rich visual IVR menu designer giving DYI(Do It Yourself) feature for IVR customers.