IVR Stands for “Immediate Value Returned”

Our company has been in the voice mail business for about 14 years. Since day one, I have continually mined the market for new voice mail applications. There’s something about no labor cost that is exciting to me.

My newest discovery is an application called Interactive Voice Response Dialogues, or IVR Dialogues. What IVR does is allow voice mail callers to interact with databases for any purpose.

Most likely everyone reading this article has interfaced with an IVR Dialogue already. From activating your credit card, to calling QVC, to calling the courthouse about jury duty, IVR Dialogues are springing up everywhere. Here is the story of our first IVR customer.

We received an inquiry from a large company. They had 95,000 employees who needed to make a change to their payroll deduction. When the project was last done, the employees filled out a piece of paper and the payroll department hired 12 temporary employees for a week to input the changes. From past experience, they knew they didn’t want to duplicate that effort. They were hoping for an outside source to take the job on. Furthermore, they needed the output information to be in comma-delimited format so that it could be directly imported into their payroll program.

I had $3.99 a call spinning in my head, but then just as quickly came the downside, I had to find eight temporary agents to work in my office for 17 days. Not a nice thought. I had heard IVR dialogue could do something close to this and I asked the company if they had considered using that technology. They had, but their IVR provider for the project was backed up for six months.

Could we do it and be ready in six weeks? To my delight I was able to answer “Yes!”

Upon acceptance, we received the script for the voice mail prompts and the database we needed to interface with from the customer. The database included employee name, address, social security number, date of birth and the present deduction amount if any. We paid a relatively low fee to have the IVR dialogue written.

The script was fairly basic: Welcome the caller and verify their social security number against their date of birth. Then the script prompted the caller to modify or terminate the deduction. All along the way, our customer wanted confirming statements like, “You have entered 15, if this is correct, press 1” to be sure of accuracy. We were required to update the database weekly and we did not send them any output until the close of the project. The final product was a database of only those who made changes, including a date and time stamp.

Was it profitable? This project lasted 17 days, used 15 trunks, and included no agent labor. My time included approximately 10 hours of sales and set up. Profitable? I’d say, “Yes!” IVR is definitely a technology to explore further.

The author, who wishes to remain anonymous, uses the Tascom SQL Digital System, with a fully programmable IVR and Unified Voice Mail system. Alston Tascom, Inc. can be contacted at 909-548-7300, Option 3 at www.alstontascom.com or email at info@alstontascom.com.

[From Connection Magazine – March 2001]

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