Advantages and cost of implementing an Interactive Voice Menu (IVR) system (fact-finding article)

    What is an IVR?

    Interactive Voice Menu (IVR) is a system of pre-recorded voice messages that performs the function of routing calls within a call center, using information entered by the client using tone dialing. This is the definition given on Russian Wikipedia. Why call center? Yes, because the modules of voice interaction have always cost a lot, and were an integral part of large telephone exchanges, most often used in call centers.
    This was the situation before the appearance of the phenomenon called Asterisk PBX. What is an Asterisk? Let's see what the definition gives the :
    Asterisk IP-PBX - This is an open source application running on Linux and FreeBSD and designed to create computer telephony solutions. Asterisk has all the capabilities of a classic PBX, supports three VoIP protocols (SIP / H323 / IAX), provides the functions of voice mail ( VoiceMail ), conferences, interactive voice menus ( IVR ), call center (queuing calls and distributing them to agents using various algorithms), and also has a flexible and universal interface for integration with external data processing systems (AGI). All this makes Asterisk a powerful platform for organizing a telecommunication service of any scale.
    So, Asterisk is open source software, and it can be downloaded for free from and freely used for the benefit of your company. Asterisk supports interactive voice menu (IVR). Why company IVR?
    • First, IVR is a way to reduce the burden on the secretary. Customers calling the company can independently choose the route of the call. The simplest IVR menu looks like this:
      • Hello! You are welcomed by the Horns and Hoofs company! For commercial information, press number 1. To contact technical support, press 2. To connect with an employee, dial his extension number or wait for the operator to respond. Thank you for calling.
    This menu divides customers into two groups:
    • those who call the first time. This group is immediately divided into two more subgroups:
      • those who need support - calls of such clients are sent to one or more employees of the customer care department;
      • and those who are interested in acquiring the company's products - calls from such customers can be sent to the sales telephone line, which contains all the phones of sales managers calling at the same time.
    • Regular customers who know the internal number of the employee.
    According to empirical data, such a simple menu can handle more than half of all incoming calls to the company. The rest of the calls are forwarded to the secretary, who switches them as intended.
    • Secondly, IVR is the face of the company . The presence of an interactive menu is considered a good corporate style and has an impact on the prestige of the company in the eyes of its customers.
    • Thirdly, the presence of IVR allows the company to process an incoming call after hours when all employees are absent from work (for example, in the evening or on holidays). The IVR system can inform the client about the schedule of the company’s office, its location, location map, as well as record a voice message that will be forwarded to the manager’s email address.
    • Fourth, IVR allows you to organize advertising and informational customer service, which can be carried out both at the time of waiting for an operator's response (in line), and at the client’s explicit choice. The reason for creating an advertising and information block may be:
      • the emergence of a new service or new product;
      • Congratulations to customers on the holiday;
      • notification of a change of address, phone number, schedule; For example, such a menu might look like this:
        • Company main menu
          • 1. Company news
          • 2. Company services
          • 3.Products of the company
          • 4. Office work schedules
          • 5. Employees of the company.
    The main causes and benefits of using IVR were listed. Others are:
    • Integration with the company's Information System (CRM, billing) and self-service organization (account balance, activation / inactivation, replenishment by pin code, and others).
    • Use of additional telephone functionality . Asterisk has a number of additional components, for example, a prepaid calling card system, which allows employees to issue PIN codes for using the company's PBX for long-distance and international calls.

    What should we build IVR?

    If the company does not have a telephone exchange

    If the company does not have a telephone exchange, you must install Asterisk as the main telephone system.

    • Allocate a server for the PBX. For companies of the SOHO level, any old Pentium II or III class computer is suitable.
    • Download and install the finished Asterisk distribution with the company's ready-made menu - AstPbx ( ). You can also use any other ready-made distribution kit - TrixBox, AsteriskNOW, or take a clean Asterisk from
    • Purchase a telephone pairing card. A small company has one or more analogue city telephone lines. To establish such lines, you will need a Digium AEX410 class board (up to 4 lines ~ $ 420) or Digium AEX800 (up to 8 lines ~ 720 $).
    • Install subscriber phones. It can be both hardware IP phones ($ 60-100 and more), and softphones (pricing from zero (Ekiga, Zoiper, Sjphone, Twinkle, etc.) and higher (EyeBeam, Zoiper, etc.). The most correct thing is not to save, but to install full-fledged IP phones.

    If the company has a PBX

    In this case, you should decide on the method of integration with the existing PBX. Most preferred is a connection to the station via the digital channel E1 / PRI (for connection via E1 / PRI it will require a board of the Digium TE122 ~ ~ $ 550 type). In this case, the station is configured so that all incoming calls are routed to Asterisk, and Asterisk transfers the choice of the callers to the station. This method allows you to get with the smallest changes not only the interactive menu, but also the end-to-end recording of all conversations and newsgroups (if necessary).
    If the PBX does not support E1 / PRI (small analogue station), it makes sense to consider replacing it completely with Asterisk, since integrating with the PBX via analog lines is an ungrateful task.

    Where to get sound files

    Russian voice files for building a voice menu can be obtained for free and legally on the site .
    The distributed package contains more than 300 sound files in Russian for working with voice mail modules, queues and operators, conferences, as well as numeric and additional situational phrases (“Subscriber number busy”, “Subscriber does not answer”, and others).
    The authors of the project came up with an interesting business model - 99% of all the necessary files should be provided free of charge (what everyone needs), and the phrase recording service should be provided with the name of the company (personification for money).


    Thus, using an inexpensive PC, Linux & Asterisk distribution, and a package of voice files, you can get a full-fledged Interactive Voice Menu system, increase the efficiency of external communications and enhance the company's reputation in the eyes of customers.

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