©2008 The Ascent Group, Inc.
Enhancing the Self-Service Experience
An Extract from IVR Improvement Strategies 2008,
A new research report published by the Ascent Group, Inc.
IVR Integrated Voice Response (IVR) is the most widely used call center technology worldwide,
after the switch or Automatic Call Distributor (ACD). IVR is a telecommunications technology
that accepts a combination of voice and telephone touch-tone keypad input and provides
appropriate responses in the form of voice, fax, callback, e-mail and perhaps other media. IVR
technology has evolved from DTMF (Dial Tone Multi-Frequency, or touch-tone) to ASR
(Automated Speech Recognition) in recent years with the maturity of voice recognition engines.
A Little History
In the technology’s infancy, Auto Attendants (AA) and Voice Response Units (VRU) provided
menu options and scripting tools to direct callers to certain queues or to provide information
to callers, with minimal interaction. The IVR brought integration with enterprise information
systems and the ability to interact with callers to customize questions and responses. ASR,
which is slowing coming into its own, adds conversational interaction with callers as well as a
more effective way to gather input for interaction and customization.
It’s taken more than a decade for IVR acceptance to grow, but only after companies realized
they were alienating customers at the expense of automation. The push in recent years has
emphasized the importance of the “customer experience” and its linkage to customer
satisfaction and profitability.
Companies are now actively addressing IVR usability through customer-friendly design. Our
study results confirm this transformation—IVR-handled calls have increased as a result of
continuous improvement in IVR usability and functionality. However, the drive for automation
has been somewhat moderated with the quest for “self-service”—providing IVR services as an
option for customers to help themselves, rather than forcing callers to use IVR services.
In short, IVR technology offers companies more cost effective call management through call
segmentation, automated call handling, and informational messaging. IVR offers customers 24-
hour services and privacy. IVRs can also help companies manage peak call volumes, enabling
companies to be more responsive to more customers.
Automated Speech Recognition (ASR) is slowly gaining in popularity, as our survey results
confirm. ASR facilitates communication between man and the machine by letting callers speak,
often naturally, commands and menu options, rather than pushing touch-tone buttons on the
telephone keypad. Recognized speech is then digitally converted so it can be processed by the
IVR and other associated systems. Correctly designed speech recognition IVR applications offer
a more personal, pleasant, and efficient customer experience—a more human interface.