IVR vs. Direct Dial: What Works Better for You?

Call routing for a business is essentially very simple, right? A customer calls your number, and then they’re connected with a representative from your company. That’s pretty much all it is when you boil it down, but there are a few questions that you should ask yourself when designing your phone system.

1. Do Callers Need Options to Choose from?

Using an IVR is massively popular with small businesses because it evenly distributes calls among staff members, helps callers get to the right person or department, and filters out telemarketing bots, among other things.

It’s very effective for managing calls and makes you sound more professional at the same time; so, you really just have to ask yourself if you want your customers to wait a few more seconds before they’re connected with someone, or if ringing straight to your phones fits your business better.

2. Does Direct-Dial Make Everyone’s Life Easier?

The one complaint that many small businesses have about using an IVR is simply that the caller is forced to listen to audio prompts and make a selection before they can speak with someone.

To allow a customer to dial your phone number and ring directly to an attended phone that is answered by a receptionist or other agent is certainly simpler and probably more satisfying to the caller; however, there can be problems that arise from this.

If you want the caller to just hear it ring and then be picked up right away, then that means you’re going to need the infrastructure to support that method. You will almost certainly need to add more personnel to answer your phones as your business grows, and you also run the risk of staff members experiencing an uneven burden of calls.

3. What If Someone Just Needs Some Basic Info?

Once again, the call routing strategy that you choose completely depends on your particular business and the anticipated needs of your callers. If you just want customers to be able to call in and ring straight to your phones, then direct-dial will work very well for you.

On the other hand, you might also want to let someone call in and press 1 to hear your hours of operation, as an example. Large corporations, and even much smaller ones, use an IVR for this very reason.

How many times have you called into a business, or some store, and were relieved to hear that you could just press 1 to hear their hours because that’s all you needed in the first place? Not only did it make it easier for you as a customer, but it also cost that business exactly zero time or effort.

4. Should Callers Be Able to Choose a Voice Mailbox?

You can use menu options on an IVR for other purposes besides forwarding directly to a phone, such as connecting directly with your voicemail. You can set up extensions on your IVR that, when the caller presses its number, forward them directly to a general voice mailbox or the mailbox of an individual or specific department.

This strategy is extremely helpful when you have a small company with only a few employees, while receiving a significant number of daily calls that you need to manage. You can direct callers to voicemail only and return their calls when you’re available.

5. Do You Need a Company Directory?

The company directory feature of a phone system is considered pretty crucial to many businesses, and it’s easily implemented if you’re using an IVR. All you need to do is set up individual extensions for each employee, then create a menu option for the directory, so that a caller can press 3, for example, and hear the list of all your extensions.

How you decide to route your business calls depends entirely upon how your customers will be best served when they call you. Asking these questions first, before you design your phone system, is a great start to deciding whether you need a call menu, or if it’s more important that customers get straight through to you without anything in between.


Stephanie is the Marketing Director at Talkroute and has been featured in Forbes, Inc, and Entrepreneur as a leading authority on business and telecommunications.

Stephanie is also the chief editor and contributing author for the Talkroute blog helping more than 100k entrepreneurs to start, run, and grow their businesses.

StephanieIVR vs. Direct Dial: What Works Better for You?