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Cloud or onsite: In hosted IVR, the IVR system resides in the cloud, and the responsibility for the maintenance and management of telecommunications and servers falls on the vendor. On-site IVR, on the other hand, integrates with a business’s existing telephone systems, and the maintenance of those systems falls on the company. Today, most companies offer cloud-based IVR, and unless your business has specific reasons for maintaining your system on-site, it’s probably best to opt for a hosted service.

Inbound and/or outbound: The two basic types of IVR services are inbound and outbound. As we’ve established, inbound IVR systems handle incoming call volume, while outbound IVR systems make calls on either a total or partially automated dialing basis. There are many companies that offer both inbound and outbound IVR services, but IVR services that are for inbound only tend to be less expensive than those that allow for outbound calling. Before you shop around, make sure you’re clear on the type of IVR functionality you require.

Speech recognition: IVR systems that have built-in speech recognition allow users to speak aloud in response to questions rather than only use their phone’s keypad. If your company needs a basic IVR system to route calls in your office and give out basic information, like your location and hours of operation, odds are a simple touchtone system will serve your needs. Speech recognition systems are often pricier than basic touchtone systems, but they’re worth the cost if your IVR needs are more complex.

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Self-service: When an IVR company offers “self-service” IVR, it usually means the product/service is intended for basic use for inbound calling. Many companies offer comprehensive IVR services and then separate, lower priced, self-service IVR options. If your business only requires simple call routing or bill paying, and you don’t need outbound calling, self-service is probably the way to go. It should be noted that many self-service options do not have speech recognition.

Text to talk: It’s always worthwhile to ask if your IVR fees include any text-to-talk services. Text to talk is exactly what it sounds like. To set up your IVR system prompts using text to talk, you simply type in the prompt (like “Please press 4”), and then you select from a menu of voices to say that prompt. This type of service gives your IVR system a professional and consistent sound, and negates any need to hire a voice actor or do the recordings in-house. You should also ask if there are limitations to any included text-to-talk services, and if there are limits on how many recordings you can make and how often you can change your menus.

Integration: Not every IVR company offers full integration with existing databases, websites and CRM systems, but many do. As you might expect, services that offer integration are often higher priced than those that don’t, but they bring a lot to the table.

In an IVR system that’s not integrated, a caller that’s routed through to a live person will have to relay to that individual who they are, what their customer ID is and other pertinent information. That live customer service rep will then have to look up the customer’s history in the CRM or database. In integrated systems, on the other hand, a customer calling in could say (or type) their name or password, and the IVR system would instantly access their information.

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