The History of Interactive Voice Response (IVR)

4 minute read
4 minute read

Interactive Voice Response is a tool that has revolutionized the way companies interact with clients and prospects. It has streamlined the question and answer portion of customer support, shortening the number of time customers spend on hold and the number of questions call agents ask these callers.

What people don’t know, however, is that the history of artificial intelligence — in the form of Interactive Voice Response, or an IVR — dates back almost 100 years ago, to the 1930s. The ball started rolling when the Bell Telephone Laboratory, now owned by Nokia, strived to create a Voice Operating Demonstrator (known as Voder) for the world to finally hear a machine “talk.” This was the very beginning of the intelligent voice response system.

Editor’s Note: Earlier, we talked about the history of PBX telephony and how these systems have influenced modern-day Cloud PBX systems, revolutionizing the entire telephone industry. This is our twist on the history of the IVR and how it has grown to improve the inbound marketing experience. 

IVR History: The Past & The Present

The 1930s

The Voder was the first, quantifying and analyzing the English language by its acoustics to produce synthetic speech. The IVR inventor created a relaxation oscillator that produced buzzing tones, then converted them into nasal and vowel sounds. A plethora of special “keys” was installed to make complex consonant sounds.

This bulky machine had to be operated by a trained operator, who manually controlled speech tones using a foot pedal. If one can imagine, this was both magical and highly impractical. There were only twenty operators who were trained to use it, but even with the best professionals, there were tremendous speech incapabilities to a fully-functioning

The 1960s

By the 1960s, businesses recognized the importance of the primitive call center. Still, they couldn’t find a cost-efficient solution to hiring hundreds of individuals who would pick up phones for the sole purpose of rerouting them as part of the old-school PBX.

The primitive call centers were rooms filled with people whose job was redirecting calls and resolving customer issues. In the 1960s, a primitive IVR solution developed as touch-tone dialing became more available for consumers.

The integration of touch-tone dialing allowed early IVR systems to interact with consumers more than ever before, although its vocabulary bank was still imperfect.

This was also when the concept of private branch exchange or PBX was first introduced, so together, the two would become the dynamic duo of inbound marketing that we know them to be today.

The 1980s

The 1980s was a booming period for call center technology, as more advancements were made in the industry, and the demand for the IVR increased tenfold.

Even with its simple voice commands and average vocabulary bank, early IVR systems still helped businesses tremendously by presenting cost-effective solutions for customer service.

The 1990s

If you didn’t have an IVR in the 1990s, you were behind, plain and simple. In businesses worldwide, automatic call routing and call queuing became standard practice by the mid-1990s.

Software firms began investing in creative IVR functionalities and advancements, as more and more companies integrated it into their inbound marketing efforts.

The turn of the century became IVR technology, making huge improvements and advancements to what IVR was in its earlier days.

The 2010s

By 2010, it all became more than just about the IVR system itself. When all-inclusive, self-maintaining platforms with advanced call tracking functions came about, the modern-day call centers took a turn. The IVR system was integrated with automatic SMS messaging and comprehensive analytics features. Many of them were integrated into a single package.

The 2020s

Now, in 2021, the IVR system has become an integral part of any company’s daily customer journey. It has delivered and elevated the customer experience with boosted call capacity, a customized brand voice, fraud detection, and protection options.

It now works hand-in-hand with any marketing campaign launched on any channel. The modern-day IVR lets businesses improve the customer journey and gather helpful information about the queries of those who are calling your business.

It elevates the customer journey by greeting callers with a voice reply system to engage them in a conversation and gather critical information about the caller and their query.

By facilitating these details, an IVR gives businesses a clear consumer profile that can save time for both the caller and the agent.

Phonexa’s cutting-edge IVR system, housed under the Call Logic software, is equipped with premier tools and backed by Cloud PBX, a complete cloud call platform, to help you fully optimize your calls to benefit your business.

Whether you want to use an IVR to help with conversions, or you want it to provide your customers with a seamless call experience — IVR is fully customizable and easy-to-implement into any marketing campaign.

Schedule a consultation if you would like to learn more about how Phonexa’s Call Logic can support your business IVR needs; or if you’d like to learn more about our all-in-one suite for marketing automation.

Got Questions?

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Phonexa is the leading all-in-one platform for call tracking, lead distribution, email, marketing, and digital marketing. The Phonexa staff is responsible for authorship of Phonexa blog posts.
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