West Corporation

Posted on August 14, 2017 by West Corporation 



The Right Speech Fit: Directed Dialog or Natural Language?

When it comes to interactive voice response (IVR), you’ve got two types of speech interactions: Directed Dialog or Natural Language. Both are powerful speech solutions, but they’re not interchangeable.

One of the biggest hurdles companies face when interacting effectively with today’s evolving customers is supporting automated care that feels natural. This obstacle becomes especially pronounced when customers reach for the phone. They dial the number and expect to connect with an agent but get an IVR system instead.

It can be disconcerting at first, but when implemented with the proper forethought, automated speech recognition applications offer an intuitive way for brands to create organic interactions, even with an IVR. And Directed Dialog or Natural Language interactions may lead to deeper customer satisfaction than is typically possible with dual-tone multifrequency (DTMF) – or touchtone – alone. (Certain tasks are simply too cumbersome to key into your phone!)directed dialog or natural language

But even after deciding to implement a speech application, there is still the burning question, “Which type of interaction is the right one for me?” So what’s the difference between the two? Here are some tips to help you make the right choice for your application:

Directed Dialog

Directed Dialog interactions ask callers specific questions with limited answers, sometimes with a list of possible responses.

So the system could ask questions like:

  • “Do you want us to text you your password? Say ‘Yes’ or ‘No.'”
  • “When would you like to start your utility service?”
  • “What would you like to do? You can say, ‘Pay my bill,’ ‘Get my balance,’ ‘Get a copy of my bill’ or ‘Billing questions.’”

This type of system works in situations where potential customer responses are limited, but it still gives customers that personal touch. These types of interactions can also ask the caller for data that would be difficult to enter with DTMF.

Natural Language

One of the biggest gripes customers have with IVR is the perception that a “robot” can’t solve their sophisticated issues. Natural Language addresses this common misconception by letting the caller speak freely, as if speaking to a live person.

The system may ask any question, like:

  • “What would you like to do today?”
  • “How may we help you?”
  • “In a few words, please tell us the reason for your call.”

Callers may respond with full sentences, and the IVR will pick out the most important information and generate a helpful response.

This system is perfect for situations with many possible responses, and it provides an even more personal experience. But there is one more option…


Yes, DTMF still has its place in customer service calls. While pressing numbers on a keypad may not be sophisticated enough to answer every question, it provides a service that is confidential and easy to understand.

This option is often better than directed dialog or natural language if callers must input a long series of digits, like a credit-card number, or if they are calling in an environment where they cannot speak or securely vocalize information.

Download these tips to help ensure you roll out the best voice application for your business, or check out our comprehensive guide to building and optimizing the right automated voice solution.

Consider how Directed Dialog, Natural Language or DTMF interactions can intelligently fit into your customer experience ecosystem to best fill your customers’ needs.


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