Interactive Voice Response (IVR)

A very basic form of virtual agent that has limited or no language recognition abilities and can engage in only simple interactions. The “voice” in IVR originally referred to the voice generated by the machine, not recognition of the user’s voice, although it has evolved to include both. The first IVRs were designed to triage incoming calls (the familiar “Press 1 for Accounting, 2 for Returns…”) but their use has expanded to include a much richer set of capabilities. Almost all commercial Automated Call Distribution (ACD) systems have IVRs embedded in them, but the converse is not true: Examples of this are an airline IVR that can provide flight status or reservation information by prompting a caller for specific inputs, or a banking system that can provide account balances or credit status. In the tech support world, IVRs are used to report on the status of tickets or provide simple troubleshooting tips.

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