Technology & Roadmap

Inbound vs Outbound IVR: Which One Does Your Call Center Need?

  • September 20, 2022
  • 7 mins read

“Thank you for calling Exotel’s customer support team. First, Press 1 to know our products. Then, press 2 to request a callback from our experts.”

By this stage of technological advancements on the scale of time, most consumers have come across such responses when dealing with different types of products and brands. When the volume of calls increases on the seller side, it becomes vital to delivering a personal touch to the responses shared.

If you have a growing call center business, you would want a practical solution to accommodate the expanding consumer base. To help you with sustaining a high volume of calls, there is an Interactive Voice Response, popularly known as IVR.

According to a recent report, the global IVR systems market is expected to reach $6.7 billion by 2026. (Source: ResearchAndMarkets)

IVR is a standard component of most business phone systems. At its core, it is a technology that allows callers to interact with a self-service system to get the required support or interact with the right business department.

For example, an IVR system asks callers a series of questions to direct them to press specific buttons for each response. Besides providing technical support, you can also provide promotional information and product updates to your customers.

Most call centers or contact centers turn to IVR systems to route and better manage customer calls. If you are also planning to incorporate IVR into your business, you might have heard about inbound and outbound IVR. However, before we cover the inbound vs. outbound system comparison, it is crucial to get an idea of the working of an IVR system.

How Does IVR Work?

IVR technology works by combining physical phone system setups with VoIP technology to form a call routing system. IVR software supports this, which helps build automated menus to direct calls to different departments, agents, or databases.

In the early days, the end customers used Dual-Tone Multi-Frequency (DTMF) dial pads to allow callers to input information and answer questions for call routing.

Over time, the advancements in this technology have led to inbound call services and IVR containment metrics. With the modern IVR features, you can further improve customer satisfaction to allow your team to perform various calling tasks more efficiently. If you wish to dive deep, here’s an ultimate guide to IVR.

Let’s get to the targeted subject in detail now.

What is an Inbound IVR?

As the name suggests, Inbound IVR refers to the IVR type used to address customers’ needs and queries when they call. Using this system, you can anticipate a caller’s needs and give them access to the necessary information or support.

In simple terms, inbound IVR is what your customers will encounter when they call for support. They get a self-service menu allowing them to reach different departments via a specific touch-tone digit or voice command.

Customer support, FAQ delivery, and inbound sales are some of the most common use cases of inbound IVR systems.

What is an Outbound IVR?

Unlike an inbound IVR, an outbound IVR system allows businesses like yours to engage with the target customers automatically through various communication channels, including SMS, voice call, or email. You can use these systems to connect with your customers or send communications proactively.

For example, businesses can use outbound IVR technology to automatically alert or notify their customers about upcoming payments, promotions, or appointments through their preferred channel. It is highly welcomed in B2C and B2B industries, where outbound campaigns are used for sales and support.

Besides this, an outbound IVR system uses CRM integration and differs from robocalls and predictive dialers.

Inbound Vs. Outbound IVR Comparison

While both the inbound and outbound IVR systems look similar, there are several differences between the two. Let’s consider the following factors to compare the two IVR types.

 

#1. Functionality

While the primary purpose of using IVR systems is to connect with the customers for different reasons, the origin of call differentiates these two types of IVR systems.

The basic functionality of an inbound IVR is to process inbound calls, i.e., the calls initiated at the user’s side but handled at your end via your team of call center agents. The purpose of having this type of IVR system in place is to provide an avenue for the end customers to reach you/your clients.

On the other hand, the outbound IVR is meant to process outbound calls, i.e., the calls initiated at your (business/call center) side. It is particularly meant to support marketing needs and can be tailored to boost sales or enhance the level of customer support. Take a look at how Reliance Nippon Life uses Exotel to boost its service quality.

#2. Customer Satisfaction

As per a survey, nearly nine in ten people prefer speaking to a live agent over a phone menu, which indicates the power of personalized responses. (Source: Clutch)

Furthermore, another research supporting the customer service side says that 89% of consumers are most likely to make another purchase after a positive customer service experience. Combine these two aspects, and you will realize the importance of customer satisfaction which businesses can deliver with the right IVR system.

It also means that the callers or customers will be happy to interact with a system that can provide faster assistance and lead them to a support agent with the least steps in between. This is possible with both inbound and outbound IVR. In some cases, recipients of outbound IVR might not be interested in interacting with a robotic system that pushes marketing messages.

#3. Scalability

The next big question you might have in mind about the IVR system deployment is –

‘How much growth can you expect by using an IVR system? How can it allow you to offer more value to your customers?’

The answer is that IVRs help businesses scale their operations with enhanced delivery of customer support and sales calls. But to offer more services to your callers/customers, you must select the right IVR system type. This is where the inbound vs. outbound IVR comparison makes sense.

Both these types of IVR can help you scale the business further. The noteworthy point here is that the intrinsic nature of outbound IVR allows businesses to seek and benefit from customer engagement opportunities instead of waiting for them to call you (the inbound alternative).

#4. Integrations

Most IVR systems add more automation to call center operations. With continued improvements in this technology, these systems can be further empowered with Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) integrations.

For example, if a caller tries to end an inbound call after sharing his query, the AI-powered system can ask to schedule a callback based on recorded interactions. Similarly, businesses can integrate tools like autodialers to initiate dropped calls for an outbound IVR to take over.

At large, both inbound and outbound IVR systems can be integrated with add-on CRMs to pull out customer data to streamline customer communications. The final selection depends on your business-specific needs.

How to Use Inbound IVR?

Inbound IVR allows the callers to seek solutions to their queries by navigating through a series of given options. It understands their needs with the help of DTMF tones or voice recognition and then routes their calls accordingly. This basic functionality makes it suitable for the following use cases:

1. Automated Customer Support (Assistance)

If your team handles a large number of calls every day with traditional phone systems, you know how difficult it can be to provide the best-in-class assistance for every caller. In addition, handling back-to-back calls can be quite stressful for the agents, particularly during rush hours. Despite all these complications, you can take a step ahead in enhancing the support quality by using inbound IVR.

When deployed correctly, inbound IVR can help your team attend calls in bulk simultaneously. Callers will be prompted to select the right option from the given list of options using their preferred device. Some of the processes that inbound IVR can handle include payments, shipment updates, and delivery tracking, to name a few.

2. Inbound Sales

As a business owner, no one would be happier than you or your clients if you receive an organic lead and a customer wants to connect with a sales agent to buy from you. To ensure that more customers take this route to generate revenue for your business, you can set the inbound IVR options to include promotional offers and deals. You can further boost it by conveying the offers via email or SMSs.

The deployed IVR system can analyze the incoming caller details to confirm if it passes as a pre-qualified lead. Once the lead attains a considerable score on specific metrics, you can route the calls to the right agent. In simple words, your inbound IVR will become another avenue for potential leads for the business.

How to Use Outbound IVR?

Like traditional IVR, outbound IVR systems are designed to add a layer of automation to business practices. For example, an outbound contact center can have a dedicated staff to call customers about their appointments. This type of reminders can be automated and managed by an outbound IVR. 

 

Given below are some applications of this type of IVR system that you can benefit from:

1. Customer Alert Automation about Promotions

To increase the efficiency of your call center, an outbound IVR can use a recording or AI software to send promotional alerts to customers without involving any live agent. This kind of alert does not take much time to get the message delivered while also freeing the agent’s time to deal with complex queries. 

Depending on the software you select, you can also perform customer segmentation for such promotional alerts with outbound IVR.

2. Payment Reminders

Earlier, a team of live agents handled the task of reminding customers about their payment dates and invoices to ask for payments. This can also be automated using an outbound IVR which can perform the task of delivering payment reminders. The IVR system, once deployed correctly, will quickly remind the customers about the due payment dates without involving any agent.

3. Lead Conversion

Many potential leads do not take the required action when you ask them to. If they express interest but take time to get converted, follow-up is essential to increase the probability of a sale. This is where an outbound IVR can be used to give them an extra push. When potential customers express an interest but forget to create a sale, the IVR system can notify them about the promotional offers or simply remind them about completing their checkout.

Outbound IVR systems act as a reliable way to convert such leads and place them into your sales funnel. Once the customer picks up the line and shows interest, he/she can be asked to use a DTMF pad or voice to input information.

4. Customer Satisfaction Survey Response

Asking for a customer’s feedback is crucial for every business as it helps improve the product/service and address any faults. If you feel the need for customer surveys which are often skipped in general, you can schedule a follow-up interaction survey and share it with them to collect a quick response. This can also be used as a follow-up option during live calls. 

If some customers decide to complete the survey later, the system will be designed to reschedule the call for a convenient time slot.

5. Customer Identity Verification

Identity fraud is common with many businesses, especially where digital communication channels are involved. Since identity theft is not easy to catch, businesses can use two-factor identification with the help of outbound IVR. Before accepting a lead or outreaching to a customer, you can use this IVR to verify their identity before involving an agent to take the case forward.

The Bottom Line

Each IVR phone system has distinct capabilities and features that can help automate various operations related to your call center business. Selecting one of these two options is a matter of your business-specific goals. The more the system features align with your needs, the better it is for you. Set up an IVR sequence in less than 5 mins to accelerate your customer satisfaction.

Manisha Mishra

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