Buyer’s guide on IVR software
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A buyer’s guide to the best IVR system on the market
Your customers want service fast. And if recent trends are any indication, they’ll want it even faster next year.
Fortunately, the automation capabilities of interactive voice response (IVR) systems can help support teams keep up with consumers’ ever-expanding expectations. If you implement the technology into your workflow well and display clear and topical menu options, IVR telephony can boost customer satisfaction and first-contact resolution rates.
For that reason, IVR is a must-have for businesses like call centers and contact centers that handle high volumes of inbound sales and support calls.
Here’s our round-up of the best IVR providers and software solutions and answers to some commonly asked questions.
- What is an interactive voice response (IVR) system?
- Comparison chart of the 10 best IVR software
- The 10 best IVR systems
- Top IVR phone system features to consider
- Benefits of IVR solutions
- Use cases for IVR phone systems
- IVR best practices
- How to choose the right IVR services for your support center
- Frequently asked questions on IVR platforms
- Try IVR software free
What is an interactive voice response (IVR) system?
An interactive voice response (IVR) system is a phone software that greets callers with a menu of options and performs actions based on the caller’s answers.
Callers can interact with IVR systems by using their voice or pressing a number on their phone’s keypad. Depending on the configuration, IVR may:
- Gather caller information
- Route calls based on caller inputs
- Provide information
- Collect payments
Comparison chart of the 10 best IVR software
|Software||Starting price||Free trial||Features|
|Zendesk||$99 per agent/month||14 days||
|Twilio||$1 per active user/hour||30 days||
|LiveAgent||$35 per agent/month||7 to 30 days||
|GoTo Connect||$27 per user/month||Not available||
|NICE CXone||Not available||60 days||
|VoIP.ms||Starting at $0.009/minute||Not available||
|Aircall||$40 user/month||7 days||
|CloudTalk||$25 user/month||14 days||
|Ringover||$24 user/month||7 days||
The 10 best IVR systems
The Zendesk IVR system can give you the functionality, flexibility, and ease of use you need.
Connect your customers to the right agents in your call center to limit wait time and boost phone support efficiency.
With an IVR system, you can easily create a menu with options that callers can select through keypresses and route the customer to the right agent for their needs. It can also ensure customers make it to the correct department whether that’s billing, shipping, sales, customer service, or some other applicable department.
Your customer service support team can also use Zendesk to deflect common questions with pre-recorded greetings for FAQs like opening hours or promotions, saving time for your customers and agents. Or they can offer to switch an incoming phone call to a text conversation so your agents can serve multiple customers at once.
Text backs can be particularly beneficial because they allow agents to follow up with links to
help center articles or web forms that can speed up the time to resolution and reduce agent workloads.
- After-hours, overflow, and group call routing
- Queue size and wait time
- Call recording
- Mute, hold, and warm transfer
- Failover call forwarding
- Customize greetings
- Call monitoring and barging
- Call quality notifications
- Local and toll-free numbers
- Business hours
- Multi-level IVR
- Request a callback
- Suite Professional: $99 per agent/month
- Suite Enterprise: $150 per agent/month
Free trial: 14 days
If you (or, more likely, your developers) like to get your hands dirty and create your own fully customized IVR system, Twilio is worth a look. Twilio offers flexible API tools which you can use to integrate processes and data into every aspect of your IVR system setup.
But even though the software is DIY, Twilio does offer a helping hand.
Twilio’s AI-powered Autopilot platform helps you build self-service voice assistants. And in Twilio’s Studio, you get a no-code, drag-and-drop builder for creating intelligent call flows. Lastly, Twilio’s open infrastructure lets you integrate your favorite apps.
With Twilio, you can pay per hour or per person. The first plan is designed for businesses that experience heavy support request fluctuations based on seasonality, while the flat rate is for businesses with a steady number of requests per month that want to keep their monthly spending the same.
- Call tracking
- Intelligent voice assistance
- Payment integrations
- Omnichannel support
- Global conferencing
- Call transcription
- Speech recognition
- Twilio Flex (per-hour pricing): $1 per active user/hour
- Twilio Flex (flat-rate): $150 per named user/month
Free trial: 30 days
Learn more about Zendesk for Twilio Flex.
LiveAgent’s call center solution comes equipped with a voice over internet protocol (VoIP) phone system with IVR, automatic call distribution (ACD), call recording, intelligent routing, and video calling. Their call center software is a solid choice for teams that handle both inbound and outbound calls and emphasizes building relationships with customers and executing support requests quickly.
Their IVR system comes with many features that will create a better service experience for your customers and agents, and offers affordable solutions for small companies and those who may still be unclear on their needs.
- Unlimited call recordings
- Agent availability management
- Automatic call distribution (ACD)
- Call transfers
- Internal calls
- Click-to-call capabilities
- CRM integration
- Medium business: $35 per agent/month
- Large business: $59 per agent/month
Free trial: Up to 30 days
4. GoTo Connect
GoTo Connect’s IVR enables you to create recorded menus and prompts to introduce your customers and callers to your call center. GoTo Connect allows customers to opt for self-service for simple issues or connect to an agent for more nuanced problems.
Underlying every aspect of the design of this IVR system is a focus on getting your customers quickly connected to the ideal service rep. However, you’ll want to get the right plan for your IVR needs. The basic plan only allows for one call queue and one recorded greeting. And only the premium plan includes IVR-triggered callbacks.
- Auto-queue callback
- Pre-recorded agent messages
- SMS queues
- Intelligent call routing
- Auto attendants
- Premium IVR integrations
- International calling for 50+ countries
- HD video conferencing
- Mobile app
- Basic: $27 per user/month
- Standard: $32 per user/month
Free trial: Not available
Learn more about Zendesk for GoTo Connect.
5. NICE CXone
For NICE CXone, interactive voice response is just one of its cloud IVR platform’s capabilities.
Its IVR systems improve routing and speed up issue resolution without human interference, resulting in lower costs and better service. Also included with NICE CXone’s IVR is a tightly integrated ACD.
NICE CXone makes updating business rules easy with its no-code graphic user interface for configuring new call flows. Unfortunately, NICE CXone doesn’t publicize their IVR prices, so interested buyers have to contact their sales department for a quote.
- Omnichannel routing
- Call recording
- Workload forecasting
- Natural speech recognition
- Real-time dashboards
- Consolidated administration
- Out-of-the-box integrations
- Text-To-Speech (TTS)
- IVR reporting
- Visual IVR
- Customer engagement: Pricing not available
- Contact center essentials: Pricing not available
- Contact center core: Pricing not available
- Contact center complete: Pricing not available
Free trial: 60 days
Learn more about Zendesk for NiceCXone.
Equipped with visual IVR—a feature that sends customers an SMS link they can use to access a graphically-displayed IVR menu—Five9 can help to optimize your call center for a mobile experience. In addition, Five9 provides complementary features, such as a dashboard that unifies service channel functions for simpler management.
In addition to its IVR functionality, Five9 offers everything you’d expect from a full-blown contact center solution, including pre-built CRM integrations, AI-driven agent assistance, and agent desktops. These are just a few features that make Five9 more than just a typical IVR system.
- Mobile IVR application
- Scripted responses
- Customer analytics
- Skills-based routing
- Call recording
- Inbound and outbound calling
- Agent desktop
- Core: $149/month
- Premium: $169/month
- Optimum: $199/month
- Ultimate: $229/month
Free trial: Not available
Learn more about Zendesk for Five9.
7. VoIP.ms Digital Receptionist
VoIP.ms’ “Digital Receptionist” is essentially an IVR that manages your incoming calls through a fully customizable voice-enabled response menu. Unlike most other solutions in this list, VoIP’s IVR is designed to suit a digital Private Branch Exchange (PBX) more than an inbound or outbound calling center.
In addition to IVR, VoIP.ms includes several other essential business phone features designed to help you simplify internal corporate communications. It’s worth noting that the price of VoIP.ms is completely usage-based, so you’re charged by the minute, the type, and the location of the call.
- Caller ID filtering
- Call waiting
- Call queues
- Call forwarding
- Call recordings
- 3-way calling
- Per local number (DID): $0.85/month
- Make calls: Starting at $0.01/minute
- Receive calls: Starting at $0.009/minute
Free trial: Not available
Geared towards sales or service organizations that want to provide higher-quality customer experience, Aircall’s IVR system tightly integrates with any helpdesk or CRM. As a result, both outbound and inbound calling centers can use Aircall’s IVR to trigger automatic greetings, automate call routing and self-service, and much more.
Another benefit of Aircall’s IVR system is its refreshingly simple pricing structure. All you have to do is purchase one of their packages for a monthly or annual fee, and you can make and receive unlimited calls within Canada and the United States.
- Unlimited calls within the United States and Canada
- Call recording
- Phone support
- Send and receive SMS
- Computer telephony integration (CTI)
- Call queuing
- Essentials: $40 user/month
- Professional: $70 user/month
- Custom: Call for details
Free trial: 7 days
Learn more about Zendesk for Aircall.
CloudTalk’s IVR system makes it simple for customer service teams to handle inbound calls by providing the caller contact information that agents need to provide great customer service. Aside from having an intuitive IVR, it also includes critical voice features like call queuing and recording.
CloudTalk can make your agents more productive with call tagging, skill-based routing, call comments, and more. You may need the Essential or Expert plan from CloudTalk, as their Starter package offers more limited features.
- Automatic call distribution (ACD)
- Call flow designer
- Ring groups to make multiple phones ring when an extension is dialed
- Skill-based routing
- Call recording
- Mobile app
- International numbers
- Business hours automated response
- Starter: $25 user/month
- Essential: $30 user/month
- Expert: $50 user/month
- Custom: Contact for a tailor-made offer
Free trial: 14 days
Learn more about Zendesk for CloudTalk.
If you’re looking for a user-friendly interface to offer your callers key-based and voice-activated call routing, Ringover is worth a look. With Ringover, you can easily record messages to provide business hours, answer FAQs, and more. And the software comes with helpful visual builders for configuring sophisticated call workflows.
Ringover’s flexibility means you can create simple or multi-level IVR menus, forward calls to external numbers, manage call queues, and leverage data-based routing from a simple dashboard. Ringover has two premade packages that you can try for free—or you can opt for a custom plan.
- Interactive voice response
- HD video calls
- Multi-language voice messages
- Unlimited international calling (110 countries)
- Call forwarding
- Click-to-call chrome extension
- Smart routing
- Conference calling
- Smart: $24 per user/month
- Power: $49 per user/month
- Enterprise: Call to create a custom plan
Free trial: 7 days
Learn more about Zendesk for Ringover.
Top IVR phone system features to consider
Once you have a few favorites, you can narrow your list by looking into features and verifying that they align with your company’s needs and goals. Some of these features include:
- Call routing and transferring
- Customer service software integration
- Call recording and monitoring
- Prerecorded answers and text-to-speech
- Call queueing, callbacks, and text back automation
Call routing and transferring
Ensuring callers get routed to the best-equipped agent to answer their queries is a fundamental part of any functioning IVR system. Unless you plan to set up a system fully dedicated to customer self-service, call routing and transfer features are a must.
Another important feature related to call routing is call prioritization. Call prioritization features enable you to configure your IVR to prioritize certain callers over others based on business rules.
For instance, let’s say a large queue forms, and you have ten customers waiting to get their call through. With call prioritization rules, your IVR system could select your most valuable customers and move them up in the queue. In this way, a feature like call prioritization—while not strictly necessary—can help your agents focus their limited time on the most valuable caller.
Customer service software integration
Fundamentally, IVR systems are pretty simple: they take an input, run it against business rules, and then perform an action.
But as simple as that sounds, app integrations can make IVR systems do some pretty powerful things—all without requiring a human. Some of the more powerful actions an IVR can perform are collecting payments and processing orders. But to do that, you need an IVR system that can integrate safely and securely with your customer service software.
You can also integrate with:
There are numerous integrations available that allow businesses to consolidate and share data. So, whichever IVR system you choose, ensure it has the integrations you need to deploy your IVR with the rest of your tools.
Call recording and monitoring
If you’ve ever encountered an IVR, there’s a high chance you’ve heard the robotic call recording utter the words, “Your call may be recorded for quality assurance.” This is a standard way businesses notify customers of their intention to monitor the call.
Businesses may choose to use call monitoring for a number of reasons, such as to:
- Ensure quality service
- Ascertain if agents are complying with company processes and regulations
- Protect themselves against unfounded claims
- Train new and existing staff
- Learn more about your customer’s unmet needs
Pre-recorded answers and text-to-speech
If you plan to include pre-recorded answers to frequently asked questions, business hours, or surveys, you’ll need the ability to do so. Fortunately, most IVR systems on the market provide this capability in their core functionality.
However, some solutions will limit the number of pre-recorded responses you can include. So when you’re researching solutions, make sure you’re checking to ensure your pre-recorded answer options aren’t too limited.
Call queuing and callback or text back automation
Another key feature of IVR is call queuing. When no qualified agents are available to accept a call, customers can join the line and will move forward as agents handle the support requests ahead of them. This is a good way to show callers that you’ll be with them soon.
However, IVR can still be frustrating for people who get held up from completing other tasks because they’re waiting in a queue. To avoid this, you can offer callbacks or text backs so users can continue their day until an agent is ready to speak with them.
Typically, a text back can also result in faster service because agents can manage multiple support requests at once.
Benefits of IVR solutions
Some of the primary benefits of IVR are:
- 24/7 customer service: IVR helps customers get answers to common questions even when your offices are closed or when agents are unavailable.
- Improve agent efficiency: An organized IVR menu helps ensure callers get sent to the correct department, increasing first-contact resolution rates and keeping wait times low.
- Lower operational costs: Pre-recorded answers can help you keep operating costs and payroll low by deflecting questions from agents whenever possible.
- Triage calls: Triaging inbound calls can ensure agents get to urgent support requests and those from high-value clientele without delay.
Use cases for IVR phone systems
The most common application of an IVR system is in a call center that processes high call volumes.
Both inbound and outbound calling centers dedicated to customer service, sales, market research, and surveying may use IVR systems to help streamline call routing.
IVR is also often used by financial institutions to enable telephone banking. And in some cases, medical organizations may use an IVR call center to provide anonymous information, such as test results, to patients.
Manage inbound calls at scale
IVR tools help call center agents handle high-volume inbound phone calls by deflecting customers to automated responses whenever possible and sending the remaining callers to the relevant call queue.
Receive inbound leads
Inbound or hybrid call centers may also use their IVR for lead generation. This is generally useful for sales departments who need to route calls to specific representatives for qualification, negotiations, and, hopefully, a closed deal.
Deflect simple inbound calls
Most call centers are consistently busy handling customer requests—and it only gets worse at peak times. To save your customers some time and prevent call center burnout, you should try to redirect any questions with simple answers or solutions to pre-recorded answers.
You can also encourage callers to sign up for a text back, allowing agents to direct them to a self-service article that can also speed up resolution times.
IVR best practices
When choosing the right IVR for your business or contact center, CX should always be top of mind. For that reason, you should select an IVR that allows you to:
- Offer IVR menus in multiple languages
- Create easy-to-follow IVR menus
- Allow callers to speak with real agents
- Offer call and text backs
- Track reporting and analytics to measure IVR performance
Offer IVR menus in multiple languages
People need access to agents who can service them in their first language to reduce bounce rates. IVR can help direct customers to the best agent for their problem based on the location they call from, improving the customer experience.
A multilingual IVR can also speed up ticket resolution times and reduce confusion among agents who may otherwise struggle to understand callers and provide the high level of service you expect.
Create easy-to-follow IVR menus
Sometimes IVR systems can get a bad rap with customers for many reasons—one being excessive and confusing menu options.
People want fast answers and they become confused by hard-to-follow menus, a common limitation of IVR menus. That’s why you must design a clear, comprehensive menu to ensure your IVR system can route customers to the most appropriate department.
Keep introductions brief, language natural, simplify menu options, and minimize unnecessary tiers.
Allow callers to speak with real agents
Some customers need to speak with a real agent. Chatbots and even live chat don’t always make the cut. When callers have urgent issues or dislike digital forums, you need an IVR that can receive those calls and send them to your call center agents.
Offer callbacks or text backs when your queue is long
A major pet peeve for customers waiting on support is long lines. To avoid this, you can offer callbacks or text backs so customers can go on with their day and get support as soon as it becomes available.
Track reporting and analytics to measure IVR performance
Utilize IVR reporting and analytics to:
- Identify staffing needs
- Discover incorrect routing early on
- Understand customer satisfaction levels
Data analytics can provide plenty of useful information that allows you to make pivotal decisions that keep your call center agents fully resourced and customers happy.
How to choose the right IVR services for your support center?
The type of IVR phone system you need depends on the nature of your business and what you plan to use the system for. Some IVR phone systems are designed for inbound or outbound calling—some are designed for both. In any event, your IVR phone system type should be capable of handling the kinds of calls your agents will make, whether those are inbound or outbound calls.
To choose the right IVR system, you should:
- Take stock of your business’s objectives and daily needs
- Evaluate your current IVR for any deficits, unnecessary features, or essential capabilities
- Determine if you need a mobile IVR application
- Decide whether or not your current call volume warrants a smart IVR solution
- Set a budget and look into IVR software costs
- Make a list of preferred IVR vendors
- Request a quote and demo
- Settle on an IVR service provider
- Start a free trial
- Determine if you plan to keep using the IVR system or if you want to try another vendor on your short list
Frequently asked questions on IVR platforms
Learn more about the best IVR software, how they work, installation tips, how you can use them to create better customer experiences, and more.
How does an IVR system work?
An IVR system takes an input (such as a voice response or touch-tone), processes that input, and performs an action. The action the IVR performs in response to different inputs is determined by the business.
What is the purpose of an interactive voice response system?
The purpose of interactive voice response is to enable inbound contact centers and outbound calling centers to automate certain call center functions, including:
- Answering frequently asked questions
- Routing calls based on preset business rules
- Processing orders, payments, and providing account information
- Collecting, consolidating, and verifying customer information
What’s the difference between IVR and an omnichannel AI chatbot?
IVRs and chatbots can both be used to route customers to the most appropriate agent, but that’s about where the similarities end.
- IVR: An IVR is a computer-operated telephone system and isn’t equipped to handle digital communication.
- AI chatbot: Chatbots are a more robust customer service solution because you can use them on all digital channels to direct users to self-service articles or company representatives.
How do you set up an IVR system?
To set up your IVR, you’ll first need an account and phone number with your IVR system provider. Depending on your provider, there may be other prerequisites. Generally, the process of setting up IVR includes the following steps:
- Set up a single or multi-level IVR menu and select your business hours.
- Record a custom greeting or create one with a text-to-speech auto-receptionist.
- Configure the rules that route your calls (e.g., press 1 for customer service).
- Test out your IVR.
Keep in mind that this is a high-level overview of the IVR system setup. Depending on your solution, you can do many more custom IVR configurations.
How much does an IVR cost?
Because the cost of an IVR system depends on the features and provider you select, the number of users and phone lines, and whether the IVR system is hosted or on-premise, it’s hard to say exactly how much IVR costs.
However, for a hosted IVR solution, you’ll generally need to pay a one-time fee for development costs of $3,000 or more, ongoing fees for usage of around $0.10 per minute, and subscription fees ranging from $20 to $60 or more per month.
If you choose an on-premise solution, you will likely need to absorb the costs of:
- Technology acquisition and upgrades
- Setup fees
- Maintenance costs
Ready to try IVR software?
IVR software is a useful tool for call centers, contact centers, or any business that handles high volumes of calls each day. If that sounds like your organization, sign up for a free trial to learn how to implement Zendesk IVR into your workflow.
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