IVR stands for Interactive Voice Response.
An IVR is the first point of contact for customers calling an organization. It uses recorded messages, speech-to-text technology, and AI to gather information about customers, before guiding them to the best available outcome. IVR is a system that allows the customer to interact with an organization’s computer systems via their choice of channel.
In this article, we discuss what an IVR is and what it offers your organization. We will touch upon the challenges surrounding IVR, as well as the possible benefits. We will talk about the future of IVR and the new technology that is modernizing it.
When a customer contacts your business, you need some essential data:
What that customer wants.
Who that customer is.
How urgent that customer’s inquiry is.
How the customer expects their problem to be solved.
The IVR gathers all this information. The IVR is what first greets a customer, and allows you to gather—and offer in return—essential data that will shape how the interaction unfolds.
In the past, IVRs combined pre-recorded messages with Dual-Tone Multi-Frequency interfaces to allow customers to choose between multiple options. The caller would choose between these options by pressing a button on their phone’s number pad. Each number had a specific tone assigned to it, which would be recognized by the system, and the caller routed accordingly. Whilst innovative for the time, this system has gained a reputation for being clunky, slow, and imprecise.
Today, we can do better. IVRs can use Natural Language Processing (NLP) and AI-powered Text-to-Speech Transcription (TTS) to provide seamless experiences for customers. The IVR is able to process spoken instructions, routing customers to the best available outcome based only on stated intention; no need to listen to a list of options and push a button.
Customers can call up, be entered into the IVR, state their name and intention, have the IVR check their details against your company’s database, and then route them to the best available outcome. Interested? Read on to discover more.
What your IVR does will depend on what kind of IVR you employ. IVRs can have a range of different purposes:
To verify the identity of a customer.
To route customers to the best possible outcome.
To provide the customer with essential information.
To direct the customer toward self-service options.
Or all of the above.
When the customer gets in contact, they expect a speedy, seamless experience. Above all, an IVR lays the foundations for that experience. It verifies identity, offers essential information, and sets the direction for the customer journey.
Let’s examine how this works in practice.
To empower a human or machine agent with all the information they need to create a quick resolution, the IVR begins by identifying the caller. The IVR might ask for a name, reference number, date of birth, or other identifier that it then uses to link a contact to a customer profile. This profile is then presented to the agent, empowering them to deliver an outstanding experience.
The second aim of the IVR is to route the customer to the best available outcome. The IVR collects information about customer intention via a pre-recorded menu, or through AI-backed speech recognition. It asks the customer about the reason for their call, and uses this information to route the customer to the best available agent, based on skill set, or to an automated self-service outcome.
Sometimes it’s necessary to manage customer expectations. The IVR can provide the caller with essential information, such as details of outages or ongoing emergencies, or estimated queue times. An IVR equipped with text-to-speech technology provides that information, driving cost savings and efficient experience.
When your contact center is working above capacity, you need to direct simple and repetitive inquiries toward self-service options. An IVR can offer information on how to access these, to take some of the burden off your agents.
An IVR can work in a number of different ways.
Pre-Recorded Messages & Touch Tone Replacement
This is the simplest form of IVR, and the one you’re probably most familiar with. The caller is greeted with a pre-recorded message, providing essential information and asking about their intentions. They are then provided with a list of options, each with an assigned number of the keypad. The caller makes their decision by pushing that key.
Directed Dialogue & Keyword Recognition
This form of IVR is slightly more advanced. Equipped with the ability to recognize keywords, this IVR provides a pre-recorded list of options and asks the caller to choose between them. The IVR then detects their answer with voice recognition and routes the caller accordingly.
Natural Language Processing (NLP)
This is the most advanced form of IVR, and requires the caller to state their intention, with no options listed. AI-backed Natural Language Processing then allows the IVR to diagnose the customer’s issue and route them to the best available outcome. This opens up possibilities for the customer, letting them state their problem in the way they understand it, rather than pigeonholing them into a limited set of options.
We live in a digital world. Most of your customers will be well accustomed to navigating websites and entering data online. The visual IVR makes use of this by bridging the gap between voice and digital channels. Customers can enter their data into the visual IVR via your website, and instantly receive a link that lets them dial the best available agent. That agent will see all the data your customer entered in the form a screen pop. No voice menus, no delays, no re-directs.
Each of these IVRs offers come crucial advantages to your business. But, what are these key benefits, and how do they translate to business value?
Customer Experience (CX) is the single greatest determinant of business success. Satisfied customers are loyal customers, and loyal customers are the foundation of growth. 78% of customers report that a single experience changed how they felt about a brand, both positively and negatively. An IVR is your first step toward outstanding customer experience.
Implementing an IVR is not always easy. Building an effective IVR requires you to overcome several key challenges.
Seamless Customer Routing
Put your customers in touch with the agent or automated outcome best placed to solve their query, first time. An IVR makes routing callers effortless and accurate.
Empower Agents with Data
An IVR identifies callers prior to an interaction. This information can then be used to locate their data from within your systems of record, and present that information to the agent. The agent then has everything they need to deliver a speedy resolution.
Deliver Essential Information
There’s nothing worse than being kept in the dark. An IVR can allow you to manage customer expectations, informing customers of outages and expected queue times, and providing consistent updates on an ongoing situation.
We’ve all heard it; the dreaded ‘Press one for… Press two for…’ The mantra that defines so many interactions with businesses. When executed poorly, an IVR can become a source of major customer frustration. To avoid this, you need to understand common IVR challenges and the methods of overcoming them.
Avoiding these problems means building a future-facing IVR. A future-facing IVR requires future-proof tech.
Repetitive & Boring
The typical pre-recorded IVR has a reputation for inducing coma in customers. If your recording is too long, customers could hang up before they’ve even heard it through. Keep your pre-recorded messages brief and to the point. Better yet, skip the pre-recording message altogether.
Unhelpful & Unclear
Your customers don’t always understand their problems in your terms. Often, when calling up, customers will find your list of possible routing options confusing and unclear. By leveraging keyword recognition or Natural Language Processing, you let the customer set their own terms.
Inconvenient & Obstructive
Your IVR is there to help your customers, not hinder them. If your contact center is unavailable, your pre-recorded message should inform customers of the reason for the delay, and provide up-to-date information.
It’s time for IVRs to evolve. Cut down on pre-recorded messages and limited lists of options. Deliver an experience that’s truly twenty-first century.
These technologies might sound exciting, but implementing them can be a challenge. Your business needs a partner that can guide your digital transformation, and help you build an outstanding IVR. Content Guru supports you through the whole process of understanding your requirements and implementing a solution.
Natural Language Processing (NLP)
The first technology revolutionizing the IVR is NLP. This allows IVRs to process and understand unstructured speech, drawing meaning from customer statements without the need for human intervention. This makes routing quicker and more effective – the customer can state their problem aloud, and be routed to the best available outcome.
As AI continues to advance, the quality of text-to-speech audio has grown exponentially. Today, our world is full of voices that sound natural, but are entirely artificial. No more do you need to record new messages every time you want to update your IVR. Simply input new text and let AI generate your message.
Intuitive drag-and-drop interface
In the past, building an IVR required in-depth technical knowledge. Today, drag-and-drop interfaces make designing the customer journey as simple as arranging modules on a screen. An easy-to-master interface gives you full control over your IVR, and makes updating it easier than ever. It also allows you to create a solution that is truly omni-channel, letting you coordinate inquiries through every channel of contact.
We live in a digital world. Most of your customers will be well accustomed to navigating websites and entering data online or via app. The visual IVR makes use of this by bridging the gap between voice and digital channels. Customers can enter their data into the visual IVR via your website, and instantly receive a link that lets them dial the best available human of machine agent. That agent will see all the data your customer entered in the form a screen pop. No voice menus, no delays, no re-directs.
Content Guru’s cloud contact center solution, storm®, provides all the tools you need to build a world-leading IVR.
storm FLOW™ is Content Guru’s intuitive service designer, putting you in full control of your IVR. With an easy-to-master drag-and-drop interface, FLOW makes your IVR accessible, complete with ground-breaking technologies such as AI-powered Natural Language Processing and speech-to-text messages. As a cloud-based solution, storm is regularly updated with the newest CX technologies, requiring no down-time.
Want to learn more about designing an outstanding Customer Experience solution? Discover Content Guru’s full product library and learn how we can elevate your customer contact.
Fill out the form to book a zero-obligation consultation with one of Content Guru’s CX experts.