What’s an IVR? Chances are, you’ve just asked yourself that. Or better yet, it’s the phrase you’ve typed into the search engine that led you here. Perhaps you’re researching better ways to handle your business calls because voice mail alone isn’t cutting it. IVR stands for “Interactive Voice Response.” If you’ve ever called your bank, you’ve dealt with one. It’s the automated phone system navigated by pressing buttons or issuing vocal prompts. They’re a popular option for companies of all sizes. Businesses preferring the human touch of a receptionist may choose instead to go with an answering service. Both systems are dependable ways to handle calls 24/7. Which system is best for your business depends on your needs: Interactive Voice Response IVRs have their advantages. They’re cost-efficient and can be as simple or complex as you make them. They feature time-based call routing and visual voice mail.  Our recently spotlighted client, Backside Five, uses our own IVR software, Synclio, as a way to provide a 24/7 customer service line for their up-and-coming apparel company while keeping down the overhead costs of a new business. John Ashton, talk radio host of Those Weekend Golf Guys, rarely sees his desk. He uses Synclio as a  business line while on the road visiting clients. Consider going with an IVR if you’re looking for a toll-free business number to route calls and take messages accessible from your web browser or smart phone. Answering Service An answering service is the live version of an IVR, with more bells and whistles. Virtual receptionists don’t just take messages and transfer calls, they schedule appointments, place orders, anything an in-office employee could do. Dr. John Tuggle of Wellness and Better Health Chiropractic uses AnswerConnect as his clinic’s appointment desk/messaging center. An answering service is perfect for giving your business the feel of a much larger office or simply providing your customers with the luxury of talking to a live person day or night. Both It doesn’t have to be either/or. Many of our clients supplement their IVR with an answering service, giving them the ability to prioritize their calls. The IVR can route high-priority calls—sales or tech support, for example—directly to internal staff and route low-priority or after-hours/overflow calls to the answering service. Each option has its strengths. You may need to experiment. Choosing a company with the flexibility to grow or scale down with you is the best way to always guarantee a perfect fit with your business and budget.