Inbound IVR VS Outbound IVR: What Are The Differences?

Planning to implement IVR technology into your business but don’t know the difference between inbound IVR and outbound IVR? Continue reading as we clear your doubts!
Picture of Benard Kiplangat
Benard Kiplangat

Content Writer

Reading time: 4 minutes

Many businesses turn to Interactive Voiced Technology (IVR) systems to better manage and route incoming calls to the right departments. 

IVR systems allow automated interactions by providing an interactive menu system to help callers navigate different functions or be connected to a person within your business. 

If you’re planning to incorporate IVR systems into your business, you’ve probably come across inbound and outbound IVR. 

But what exactly are they? How does each type of IVR work? Which is better for your business?

To help you answer these burning questions you have, we dive deeper into each type of IVR system and help you come to a decision! 👇👇👇


💡 Find out all the best practices for using IVR here

What is inbound IVR?

Inbound IVR attempts to anticipate your caller’s needs and provides them with options to access the information they need when they call. 

Inbound IVR is what most people encounter when they call a business — you get a self-service menu that allows you to reach different functions or departments by attributing a different voice command or touch-tone digit. 

Inbound IVRs are typically used for customer support, answering FAQs, and inbound sales.

What is outbound IVR?

Outbound IVR allows businesses to automatically engage customers through multiple communication channels such as voice calls, SMSes, and emails. 

This technology has been much welcomed by companies who depend on a lot of outbound sales campaigns because it can complement other call features like autodialers.

For example, businesses can use outbound IVR to automatically alert customers about upcoming appointments, payments, or promotions.

Inbound IVR vs Outbound IVR

While both inbound IVR and outbound IVR technologies seem to be the same, they are actually very different. 

Let’s take a look at the following factors to show how the two compare. 


While both inbound and outbound IVR serve to engage with your customers, each type serves a unique purpose.

The obvious difference is that inbound IVR processes inbound calls (calls initiated by the caller), whereas outbound IVR processes outbound calls (calls initiated by the company).

Of course, outbound IVR systems are more beneficial for a business since it initiates the call and is tailored more for marketing purposes. 

In contrast, inbound IVR focuses more on providing customer satisfaction. The caller initiates the call because they’re searching for answers or need support, and the IVR menus put in place help to attend to these calls.

Customer satisfaction

77% of customers believe that a phone call is the most effective way to get an answer quickly

This means that callers would be happy to interact with a system that can provide assistance faster when they call a business.

On the contrary, since outbound IVR is similar to outbound calls, recipients might not be interested in engaging with a robotic system that alerts them to marketing messages.

Although some outbound IVR systems are initiated by user actions like customer verification, others are mostly promotional and do not serve the customer’s best interest. 


How much can an IVR system let you grow? How can it let you offer more services and more value to your users? 

While the answer to the first question is easier as it has been proven time and again that it helps businesses to scale, the second answer is more of, it depends.

It largely depends on the type of IVR system that you are using. The debate of inbound IVR vs outbound IVR is therefore much viable for this factor. 

Both can help you scale, but because of outbound IVR’s nature, you proactively seek customer engagement opportunities over waiting passively for them to call.


Because the main purpose of IVR systems is to add more automation to business operations, there have been improvements to offer more automation to these systems.

Nowadays, IVR systems are connected to technologies powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning. For example, if a caller has to end an inbound call, AI may have recorded the user’s interactions and scheduled a callback with the caller. 

Tools like autodialers may be integrated so that they can initiate the dropped call for the outbound IVR system to take over.

Both systems also may be integrated with Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools to pull out customer data to make outbound calls. Outbound IVR systems may be connected with other phone system features like SMS to alert the users of the incoming calls.

Ease of use

Ease of use is the ultimate factor that can determine the success of your IVR systems. If your IVR menus are confusing the understand, the caller will likely end the call. 

The technical aspect of IVR systems depends on the level of functionality of your system. The more complex it is, the harder it is to set up, use and configure the system.

Because outbound IVR messages may often require more integrations and strategy to make it effective, it can get quite complicated. More so, more businesses will invest heavily on outbound IVR than they would for inbound IVR, and that hints at the reason for the higher costs compared to inbound systems.

Which is better: Inbound IVR or Outbound IVR?

IVR phone system capabilities are undoubtedly the best features that can help your company to automate and streamline your business operations. So, choosing the best between the two types, inbound IVR and outbound IVR, is a matter of your business goals.

Outbound IVR systems are great for marketers who want to take the power of outbound call automation features of their phone systems like autodialers to reach more customers. 

Other companies may opt to use outbound IVR systems to automate complex processes like payment notifications, giving them a simple and instant process to do it over the call if they want.

If your company doesn’t focus on proactively reaching out to users, and you mainly receive incoming calls daily, you should pick an inbound IVR system. This is because there are endless possibilities you can try out to answer your user’s queries without hiring more agents to do the same.

We hope that this article has helped you understand the differences between the two types of IVR systems and which is better for your business. For more on such tips and advice, check out our blog!

Picture of  Benard Kiplangat
Benard Kiplangat

Ben is a content writer at Novocall.

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