What is a Voice Response Unit?

A voice response unit (VRU), more commonly known as an IVR system, is technology often found in call centers that manages the front end of inbound phone calls. VRUs typically play a recorded greeting for callers and then present them with menu options. Callers may interact with the menu by pressing buttons on their phone's keypad or, if the VRU uses speech recognition, they can speak their responses. Depending on their menu selection, they may be presented with another menu option, sent into a queue to wait for an agent, or they may be able to self-serve.

When designed with both the customer and the call center in mind, voice response units can enhance the customer experience while improving operational efficiency. Customers value choice – and that includes the option to conveniently self-serve. VRUs that are integrated with other systems enable self-service by collecting information from the caller, passing it to the relevant system, and then returning information to the caller or confirming the execution of a requested transaction. For example, VRUs can facilitate bill payment or let the customer know their account balance. Not only can this improve customer satisfaction, but the automation also increases the call center's efficiency.

These benefits can also be realized by the intelligent routing that voice response units (VRUs) enable. One of the VRU's jobs is to collect caller data. This could include information like their menu choices, the account number they entered, or the nature of the problem they verbalized. Using this information, calls can then be routed to agents most qualified to handle them. For example, if the account number indicates that the customer has paid for premium service, the call can receive priority routing to a special team of agents. Routing callers to the right agents is better for customers and ensures agents are effectively utilized.

An appropriately deployed voice response unit (VRU) can be an essential tool that benefits customers as well as call centers.

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