Insights|Faster, Friendlier, More Efficient: The Power of Conversational IVR

Faster, Friendlier, More Efficient: The Power of Conversational IVR

Conversational IVR can cut call volumes, boost customer self-service, provide round-the-clock care and deliver a personalized experience for each user - all while cutting operational costs.

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conversational ivr
by Sitel Staff May 6, 2020 - 2 MIN READ

What is IVR?

An interactive voice response (IVR) system helps businesses streamline their contact center operations while handling larger volumes of calls. By presenting customers with a menu of options that can be navigated by speaking and by providing supplemental information via the telephone keypad, calls can be routed to the right department and the right agent based on the inquiry or issue. Likewise, because an IVR’s menu can be designed to offer automated responses for common requests or problems, the technology may also reduce the number of calls agents handle.

Though considered revolutionary when they launched in the 1970s, by the end of the 1990s, IVRs had become an infamous pain point for customers who were growing frustrated by longer and longer menus and inflexible choices. According to data from NICE inContact, 60% of U.S. consumers now actively bypass all IVR menus in favor of talking with an agent.

Why your customers want conversational CX

Despite these experiences with IVR’s rigid voice recognition and response, and thanks to the growing popularity of intelligent vocal assistants such as Amazon Alexa and Apple’s Siri, a Gartner study predicts that by 2023 consumers will prefer to use speech interfaces to initiate 70% of self-service customer interactions, rising from 40% in 2019.

However, this doesn’t mean customers are fully ready to accept the frustrations of old-fashioned IVRs. Businesses wanting to keep pace with customer expectations, while maintaining contact center efficiencies, need a new solution – conversational IVR

What is conversational IVR?

As the name suggests, conversational IVR makes interacting with a company’s menus and options more like having an actual conversation. Whereas a traditional IVR can recognize specific words such as ‘yes’ and ‘no’ as responses to a list of pre-scripted questions, a conversational IVR uses artificial intelligence (AI) and natural language processing (NLP) so customers have the freedom to express themselves in natural phrases and sentences.

As well as ridding users of the need to listen impatiently to long lists of menus and options, because conversational IVR can listen, understand and respond to each user in kind, it actively elevates the customer experience (CX). It creates an experience more akin to talking with an agent and one that will feel personal and personalized for each customer. 

How conversational IVR empowers your contact center agents

By addressing the shortcomings of traditional IVR systems and by simplifying the path to 24/7 customer self-service, conversational IVR clearly has a wide range of applications across industries, for example enabling banking customers to check their balance, health insurance customers to understand the status of a claim or retail customers to track a delivery.

Giving your customers the answers they need, without having to wait to talk to an agent, conversational IVR drives operational efficiencies, reduces contact volumes and empowers your agents to focus their capabilities on helping those customers that need the most assistance.  

In more complex interactions where self-service can’t completely resolve an issue, all of the information captured by the conversational IVR is seamlessly passed to the agent, reducing the handle time and ensuring the agent doesn’t need to ask the customer to repeat him or herself. 

In the current environment, where many businesses are seeing spikes in call volume at the same time as experiencing a reduction in capacity as a result of the impact of COVID-19, conversational IVR is a tangible way businesses can respond to customers’ needs. Conversational IVR can create solutions that provide long-term business resilience and well as increasing customer satisfaction. In fact, our data shows that implementing conversational IVR:

  • Deflects calls from agents, driving efficiencies between 15-25%
  • Supports effective management of spikes in call volume
  • Drives improvement in customer satisfaction

To find out more about how Sitel’s Conversational IVR solutions can support your business contact us

written by Sitel Staff
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