Vox Daily The Official Voices.com Blog

How Much Does Your IVR Know?


By Stephanie Ciccarelli

March 29, 2011

Comments (6)

Man holding a mobile phone, texting or reviewing informationHave you ever considered how complicated scripting for a telephone tree can be?

What about the intricacies involved in making your IVR smarter?

I recently read an article written by Leonard Klie in a magazine called CRM (Customer Relationship Management) that explored how far technology has come in terms of personalizing an experience for a caller. Based upon what I read, it may be that this brand of personalization, while well-intentioned, has gone too far!

How does a phone system know what your name is before they've asked? Might an IVR also be able to anticipate the reason why someone a customer who phones in might be calling?

Just how much should an IVR system know and say to a customer prior to the person speaking with a live representative?

Find out more in today's VOX Daily!

Hello, HAL

Software is only as smart as the data it has access to, and given the number of automated phone systems used by businesses and technologies available, it would appear that the IVR or Interactive Voice Response has developed a mind of its own.

Discerning and acknowledging the identity of the caller, making assumptions about the potential reason for their call, offering additional services and more represent just some of the tools that businesses can employ regarding telephony using today's technologies.

For example, the potential exists that when you place a call that connects with a business, their phone system cross-references your phone number through Automatic Number Identification (ANI) or Caller ID and voilà, they have your name or that of the person the number is registered to in some cases without even your having done business with their company.

Benefits of ANI and Benefits for Voice Talent

CRM also reports that ANI data can also be used to alter the language, dialect and accent of an IVR application depending on the geographic region of the country where the call originates from.

While this may be exceptional customer service for customers calling in, there is a substantial cost in having more work done to provide the language options.

For instance if a company already has an English IVR, it could add another 80 percent to the cost to build another language into it. Depending on the potential return on investment, it could make a great deal of sense to pursue this, particularly if the company is in the United States and decides to add Spanish as an option.

For voice talent, building in additional languages and dialects yields a number of great opportunities!

Synthetic Speech VS Voice Over

Basic speech synthesis is employed by many businesses to make their customers' encounters with IVRs more personal, however, most people aren't prepared for just how many details are known and revealed to them by the IVR about their account or reasons for calling.

Additionally, using ANI or caller ID could also inadvertently compromise the account holder's information and reveal it to someone else in that household place the call.

Synthetic speech, by its very nature, can also falter in terms of correct pronunciations of a person's name. While not all names are delivered incorrectly, inevitably there will be names that the synthesized voice mangles creating a somewhat undesirable brand experience.

We've talked about synthesized voices before in the framework of Text to Speech but we hadn't evaluated the technology within this technological context in relation to customer service and marketing via Interactive Voice Response.

As voice talent, you know that a custom recording is always more effective and more accurate in terms of delivering a script and applying proper pronunciation, emphasis and cadence.

What Have You Observed?

Whether you're a customer calling in or someone who records for telephony, what kind of things are you noticing in terms of how much a company knows about you before you reach a live person?

Does this make you feel better as a customer or do you feel somewhat uncomfortable?

Take a moment now to share your thoughts and experiences. I look forward to hearing from you!

Best wishes,


©iStockphoto.com/Dmitriy Aseev

Related Topics: Accent, Interactive Voice Response, IVR, phones, synthesized speech, telephony, United States


    I have not experienced instances where the IVR "knows too much" unless and until I volunteer an account number or identifier, then it is no surprise, and a useful convenience unless I need info and don't want to pay the price of lost anonymity to get it.

    Synthetic speech can be really annoying, (even if you are not a voice over talent!) especially when you need to transact business in a manner not offered by the snails paced and seemingly endlessly offered response choices. I refer to these as "Customer Avoidance Systems", often used by ISP's and Cable TV providers.

    Sometimes the voice recognition systems will override the IVR menus if you repeated and firmly speak commands such as "customer service" or "speak to a human". Try sounding annoyed, some systems can detect (using voice stress analyzers) if you sound pissed off .

    You can short circuit the maddening maze for most major companies by researching ahead of time what the secret handshake is to get through to a live person, but that is no guarantee your person is actually in your country, continent or even hemisphere.

    How? By using the "Get Human" database -


    to find the direct dial number or sequence of codes required by the IVR to deliver you into the ear of a live person.

    Posted by:

      I guess it's true. Software is only as smart as the data it has access to. And I believe that quick interaction between database and IVR is actually very important for the customer experience. If you hang out in a dial menu for half a day and still couldn't get the information for which you've been calling a service number, something is wrong with the IVR.

      Posted by:

        Not always good. Those things will pick up every little sound in the room. If you've got lots of people talking and lots of noises going on, PROBLEM. BIG PROBLEM!

        Posted by:
        • Winton Hancock Jr.
        • May 10, 2011 12:49 PM

          Orange mobile has a massively irritating one. They have recorded a 'casual' sounding woman who uses a 'chatty' tone of voice. A nonsense to have a computer say to you 'sorry, I didn't quite catch that' or suggestive comments like 'we are really busy so you may wanna call back later'. It doesn't sound warm and friendly as we all know it is a pre recorded message! And ultimately what matters is the customer service. I would prefer an automated service that sounds like metal mickey and acknowledges that the customer isn't stupid and knows that it is a computer giving automated responses.

          I don't disagree with using them but keep it functional and don't assume that using a 'real sounding' voice will be a benefit unless the process the customer goes through is also quick and helpful. I recently called Orange and waited 20 mins listening to the chatty voice before giving up. I would prefer a ring back service which quickly identifies your number and calls you back when an operator is ready.

          Posted by:
          • Lisa Carlisle
          • May 10, 2011 12:50 PM

            Personally, I utterly despise anything that isn't a genuine human being on the other end. Be it IVR, digital menus or old-fashioned recordings, if it isn't a flesh-and-blood respondent, I usually hang up. I know I would probably be embarking on a quixotic quest if I sought to replace these systems. But, gosh darn it, no matter how good the technology gets, nothing beats the human element.

            Posted by:
            • Scott Nesbitt
            • May 10, 2011 4:06 PM

              Yeah many companies use IVR for its benefit , be it cost saving or convenience - rather than the benefit of the caller. Naturally this results in the callers remembering their bad experience, not just calling the company - but the dreaded IVR system too take for a example The "Press 1 for Sales..." example above is an all too common example of BAD IVR. IVR waste a lot of time and is frustrating.So it becomes impertinent to have a good customer service and improve the quality of IVR systems.

              Posted by:

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