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  5. IVR for Call Centers: Make the Switch to Conversational AI

Companies have been investing billions of dollars in interactive voice response (IVR) systems for decades, with the goal of streamlining business processes and speeding up customer service. But recent technological developments have allowed for the arrival of a replacement, the AI-driven conversational IVR, which aims to bring call center capabilities to new heights. Is it worth it to invest in the new technology? In this article, we’ll go through the differences and real capabilities of conversational IVR so you can make an informed decision.

What does IVR stand for in a call center?

IVR (Interactive Voice Response) is a telephony menu system that enables humans to communicate with an automated phone system via voice or dial pad. It utilizes pre-recorded messages to encourage callers to enter their requests, allowing the system to recognize, qualify, and route callers to the most suitable agent on your team.

When this technology was first introduced and widely adopted by companies across industry verticals, it was regarded as a game-changer. It remains the chosen mode of communication for routing callers to dedicated queues or for handling requests in situations where conversations are unnecessary. The wide menus, various choices, and the necessity of using the same handset to enter data and listen to voice prompts, however, make the experience cumbersome. It frequently requires customers to browse the entire menu before making a selection. Additionally, because IVR systems rely on precise keywords and prompts to navigate their (already complex) menu systems, they leave little space for error. As a result, they are unable to comprehend how humans communicate naturally.

Conversational IVR definition

Conversational IVR enables more personalized, self-service customer experiences through humanlike interactions. It does this by using natural language processing, machine learning, and other types of intelligence to eliminate time-consuming menu mazes and other time-wasting frustrations. It enables the system to comprehend both the content and meaning of spoken requests, enabling more complex and free-form customer interactions. Customers can communicate using their voice and words that come naturally to them, rather than their fingers, since they are not bound by a strict script. Unlike with conventional menu-based experiences, consumers receive simple, personalized, and frustration-free self-service that rarely needs the assistance of a live agent, allowing you to reduce turnover, increase efficiency, and save money.

Conversational IVRs can effortlessly perform many different tasks: authenticate and accept clients, comprehend complex demands, and predict customer needs in order to expedite the completion of business transactions and address customer issues.

As a device, conversational IVR is also capable of improving its proficiency in response to the inputs it receives. When a conversational IVR is unable to understand what a caller is saying, an agent will seamlessly take over. The AI system then stores the inputs for conversational analysis and optimization, ensuring that it can answer a similar question or query without human interference in the future. When data and information accumulate, the IVR becomes more capable of handling calls independently. Additionally, the use of natural language processing allows IVR systems to become increasingly conversational.

These elements work in concert to empower callers to take control of their interactions with a support system, thus enhancing their experience. Additionally, this results in more seamless call routing procedures, increased dependency on self-service, and cost savings associated with call ransfers.

How is conversational IVR different from standard IVR in call centers?

So, what exactly is the distinction between conventional and conversational IVR? Although standard IVR systems’ speech recognition technology is restricted to processing basic ‘yes’ and ‘no’ commands, conversational IVR is capable of handling more complex communication with people in full sentences by using its NLU capabilities. A caller can express their complaints or questions in great detail. In turn, the conversational IVR system may provide answers that closely resemble a human-like interaction. This vastly improves the caller experience.

Another drawback of standard IVR systems is that they rely on caller number input. As a result, they have little flexibility in responding to the caller’s request. For example, if a user presses the wrong number when entering data, they will be forced to return to the main menu and begin again. Traditional IVR systems, in short, had a less customized experience due to their restricted functionalities.

Conversational IVRs, on the other hand, allow for a more free-flowing caller service experience since they are not restricted by a pre-set menu script. As a result, these next-generation IVR systems are ideally suited to directing a caller in the right direction within a self-service model. This not only boosts caller satisfaction but also increases agent efficiency while helping to reduce total costs.

Why switch to conversational IVR in call call center

Reason No. 1: Improved customer experience

Not only can AI-powered IVRs handle calls that a conventional IVR menu was not built to handle, but the best conversational IVRs also enable customers to have a more free-form service experience because they are not restricted to a particular menu script. Instead of requiring time with an employee, AI-powered IVRs are more convenient and effective at directing customers to the appropriate self-service resolution. With conversational IVR, you can increase automation without sacrificing CX.

Reason No. 2: More precise customer routing than conventional IVR

If your IVR menu is too long and callers don’t bother listening to it to choose the correct option, they may be redirected to the wrong agent or department. Of course, this means switching to another agent, which frustrates the customer (possibly leaving them “on hold” in a separate queue) and has an effect on your metrics (such as handle time). Instead, conversational IVR can recognize and manage a wide range of intents, allowing for immediate routing, resulting in less agent transfers, quicker service, and a better experience for both consumers and agents.

Reason No. 3: Improved speed and efficency

Conversational IVR reduces the time required to answer each caller, allowing it to handle more calls in the same amount of time as regular IVR. And it does so with a lot more accuracy.

Reason No. 4: Easy scalability

In addition to expanding on the advantages of standard IVR, conversational IVR simplifies the problem of scalability. It is important for any business operating in a multilingual market to have a support system where callers can converse in their native language. Hiring separate agents who are fluent in multiple languages, on the other hand, can prove to be financially unsustainable. Conversational IVR systems can be designed to manage calls in multiple languages thanks to AI and NLU-powered learning and adaptation capabilities. As a result, you get the benefits of scalability and lower operating costs in one package.

Reason No. 5: Competitive advantage

Conversational IVR systems have a lightning-fast response time. This ensures that callers’ commands and demands are processed and routed to the appropriate department as quickly as possible. Furthermore, unlike human agents, these systems’ action is unaffected by their environments and circumstances. This reliable and prompt support system aids in the enhancement of the brand image of companies who care for their customers.

Are you ready to make the switch to conversational AI?

Conversational IVR is your answer to improving your caller support services through technologies such as AI, NLU, and machine learning. Conversational IVR systems offer your callers human-like responses to their inquiries rather than making them feel trapped in a jigsaw of menu trees. Through real-time caller self-service, data insights, and intelligence capabilities, these systems can lower cost, reduce caller churn, and improve caller satisfaction.

Make a shift from traditional to conversational IVR