For those who are not familiar, Interactive Voice Response (IVR) is an automated system that uses technology-enabled triggers to triage customers within a phone support pipeline. The concept of IVR itself dates back to 1962, and throughout the last two decades, IVR technology has become a staple in complex professional industries like healthcare, telecoms, finance, insurance, and education.
IVR is so penetrative, in fact, that most customers have strong feelings about the technology — and most of these feelings aren’t good. In a 2019 study, 61% of surveyed customers reported a negative association with IVR, leading many companies to drop IVR systems from their customer experience (CX) strategy completely.
Yet global IVR adoption is still growing and the market is set to reach a $6.7 billion valuation by 2026, representing a 7.9% year-over-year increase. So why are some businesses continuing to prioritize IVR while others are disregarding it as a valid component of customer support?
Negative associations with general IVR solutions are reasonable. Most IVR solutions push customers into a predefined set of options that offer poor experiences and usually don’t solve their needs. However, many companies continuing to implement IVR solutions do so because their support departments are inundated with requests and often can’t offer service to customers in a reasonable time–or can’t get to all customers that need assistance. Paired with potential cost savings, companies are forced to implement far from imperfect IVR solutions as a best attempt to help customers.
The reality is that today’s IVR is not the same IVR that’s infamous for creating unhappy customers – and while the companies who are keeping IVR know this, they are also refining their strategy for using it . Those that know how to leverage AI-powered IVR are not turning their backs on the technology, and are instead welcoming it into their CX strategy with a twist.
How Does Interactive Voice Response Work?
After hearing a prerecorded message, which includes a courteous greeting personalized for the company, IVR customers are given a number of options to choose from that will direct them to the right customer service option for them.
In some cases, the IVR system can ask additional questions to further narrow down options and ensure proper redirection through multi-level menu functionality. IVRs are often supported by automatic call distribution (ACD) solutions. They place callers in a queue based on the information collected from IVRs, where higher-priority calls are answered first. As pointed out by IDC, they also traditionally rely automatic speech recognition (ASR) to hear what is being said to them, but usually lack natural language understanding (NLU) capabilities to “truly understand what is being said.”
IVR was created with the goal of understanding the intention customers are calling with and responding accordingly. Not only would it make the conversation more personable, but it would also shorten wait times and improve call resolution rates–both having a positive impact on the overall customer experience.
In practice, these automated phone systems can be frustrating due to their limited ability to provide tangible support. Customers may resort to using foul language or other creative methods to bypass the system altogether.
What is AI-enabled IVR?
Humans like choice – some prefer digital messaging channels, while others lean more towards traditional calls. However, the more urgent the situation, the more likely they are to give your business a call, hoping that it’ll be the fastest way to solve their issue. You can imagine their frustration when their urgent phone call is met with an automated voice response and a 30-minute hold time (or longer).
IVR call deflection is a new approach to handling calls— urgent or otherwise. IVR call deflection empowers callers by giving them the opportunity to switch to a different communication channel like an AI-powered chat if they’ve heard their wait time is too long for their purposes. Their query will be resolved quickly through an automated solution, freeing up agents to handle more pressing issues.
Here’s how it works. When customers are met with long wait times, an IVR call deflection system will step in and give them the option to continue the conversation over a digital channel instead. It would sound something like this:
“Call volumes are unusually high. If you’d like to continue this conversation over text, press four or say ‘let’s talk’.”
IVR call deflection solutions benefit from recent advances in artificial intelligence (AI). Conversational AI models use Natural Language Processing (NLP) to understand customer issues and concerns, and guide them through the final steps for self-service and resolution. Particularly as large language models (LLMs) become more available for use, conversational AI deployments will only sound more and more like an empathetic and capable support agent to customers.
IVR use cases and benefits
Better customer service and experience
The more complex the industry, the harder it is to maintain a positive customer experience. Take the Insurance industry, for example. When a severe weather event strikes an area, insurers that cover the affected area may experience extreme surges in call volumes. Offering an IVR solution that still allows customers to submit a claim and schedule a phone call with an agent can expedite claim closure and ensure customers are satisfied more quickly.
For customers whose preferred mode of communication is not by phone, chances are they’ll reach for their phones and dial in, convinced that they’ll only get their request processed quickly if they choose a voice-based medium. These customers are surprised and delighted to discover a digital channel integrated with an IVR that is capable of handling their request, and may opt to deflect their call.
Happier support agents
IVR deflection solutions for call centers mean more than just a faster resolution time. They also result in a more satisfactory employee experience. When many queries are handled automatically, your agents aren’t overwhelmed by the number of calls they have to answer. More importantly though, the conversations they’re assigned to are always within their area of expertise and of the severity that merits their involvement. This increases the chances of closing tickets, leads to higher productivity, and higher levels of employee satisfaction. Support teams want to help customers, but they prefer working on important cases that can make an impact.
Automated support is available 24/7 – customers can call anytime, day or night, and still have an option for self-service with call deflection. While customer service agents can only focus on one call at a time, call deflection integrated with an IVR can handle multiple calls simultaneously. IVR technology allows companies to provide a frictionless experience by resolving consumer queries in real time,irrespective of whether it involves providing information on travel insurance or updating financial forms.
Better data management
Another benefit of intelligent IVR technology is the integration possibilities within each company’s data and Business Intelligence (BI) systems. For example, IVR systems allow enterprises to quantify exactly how many times each client has reached out with a request, or which types of queries are brought up most often. As a consequence of having that data, creating complete, up-to-date customer profiles empowers you to make better business decisions – after all, you’ll be basing them around reliable data.
One of the greatest advantages of IVR technology is its ability to effectively route calls. For example, when a customer contacts an insurance company, they’re connected to an agent who is qualified to resolve their issue. Gone are the days when a caller was transferred repetitively from one agent to another in the hopes that their request will finally be tackled. Effective call routing reduces handle time and increases first-call resolution.
IVR Deflection, the best of both worlds
Support has come a long way in the last 60 years, and the businesses that take advantage of AI-enabled solutions now have solutions to help their customers and solve their issues more quickly. When integrated into an IVR solution, Ushur Invisible App™️ is the only product of its kind designed to intelligently automate workflows, resulting in a better customer experience and higher retention rates.
With Ushur Invisible App™, organizations can implement a call deflection solution over chat or SMS that guarantees safety, security, and compliance while also helping triage a slower and expensive voice-only customer queue. Plus, Invisible App doesn’t require a name and password like a usual app so customers don’t suffer from login fatigue.
Learn more about how Ushur can help you with call deflection.