Interactive voice response (IVR) is a technology that allows a computer to interact with humans through the use of voice and DTMF tones input via keypad. In telecommunications, IVR allows customers to interact with a company’s host system via a telephone keypad or by speech recognition, after which services can be inquired about through the IVR dialogue. IVR systems can respond with prerecorded or dynamically generated audio to further direct users on how to proceed. IVR systems deployed in the network are sized to handle large call volumes and also used for outbound calling, as IVR systems are more intelligent than many predictive dialer systems.

IVR systems can be used for mobile purchases, banking payments and services, retail orders, utilities, travel information and weather conditions. A common misconception refers to an automated attendant as an IVR. The terms are distinct and mean different things to traditional telecommunications professionals—the purpose of an IVR is to take input, process it, and return a result, whereas the job of an automated attendant is to route calls. The term voice response unit (VRU) is sometimes used as we


Banking institutions are reliant on IVR systems for customer engagement and to extend business hours to a 24/7 operation. Telephone banking allows customers to check balances and transaction histories as well as to make payments and transfers. As online channels have emerged, banking customer satisfaction has decreased.


IVR systems are used by pharmaceutical companies and contract research organizations to conduct clinical trials and manage the large volumes of data generated. The caller will respond to questions in their preferred language and their responses will be logged into a database and possibly recorded at the same time to confirm authenticity. Applications include patient randomization and drug supply management. They are also used in recording patient diaries and questionnaires.

IVR systems allow callers to obtain data relatively anonymously. Hospitals and clinics have used IVR systems to allow callers to receive anonymous access to test results. This is information that could easily be handled by a person but the IVR system is used to preserve privacy and avoid potential embarrassment of sensitive information or test results. Users are given a passcode to access their results.


Some of the largest installed IVR platforms are used for televoting on television game shows, such as Pop Idol and Big Brother, which can generate enormous call spikes. The network provider will often deploy call gapping in the PSTN to prevent network overload. IVR may also be used by survey organizations to ask more sensitive questions where the investigators are concerned that a respondent might feel less comfortable providing these answers to a human interlocutor (such as questions about drug use or sexual behavior). In some cases, an IVR system can be used in the same survey in conjunction with a human interviewer.