May 04, 2022

Transform Customer Service with AI IVR

By [24]7.ai

The nature of customer service interactions is changing every day. Advancements in technology are informing and streamlining processes and make things better for companies and customers, alike. With the availability of conversational AI to enhance the customer journey, the path from problem to solution, question to answer, is continuing to get a whole lot easier.

If you’ve called for customer support some time in the last number of years, chances are you’ve heard “If you’d like to speak to a customer service agent, press 1, or say ‘agent,’” or something similar.  Whether you said ‘agent’ or pressed 1 on your keypad, you engaged with IVR. If you said ‘agent’ with a frustrated tone, IVR powered by conversational AI will give the agent a heads up you’re not happy before they ever engage with you.

What is conversational AI?

Conversational AI is a subset of Artificial Intelligence technology that deals with the development of bots that can hold a conversation with a human. This can be done through natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning.

It is designed to make interactions with digital systems more human-like, and to enable them to understand natural dialogue. That means it can interpret, not just heavy accents and jargon, but also tone and intention.

By being a more natural interaction, conversational AI help a to make systems more user-friendly and efficient. Customers feel they are talking to another human being and not a machine. This makes them feel that they are important and that their issue is a priority. By powering IVR with conversational AI, voice conversations get smarter, more powerful, and, most importantly, more engaging.

What is IVR?

IVR stands for Interactive Voice Response. At its core, IVR is a computer system that interacts with callers, typically by automatically playing a recorded message. The caller then responds to the questions asked by the IVR system. These responses are used to determine what next actions the IVR system should take.

IVR isn’t a new technology, though its growing prominent role in customer service interactions most certainly is. The history of IVR technology can actually be traced all the way back to the early days of telephony, when operators would use it to manage calls. It is now used extensively in a variety of industries, including business, healthcare, and government. IVR has evolved into a critical tool for customer service and support and the technology has become more sophisticated, enabling a wider range of interactions with callers.

How does AI improve IVR?

Conversational AI powered IVR technology takes IVR further by enabling the platform to understand natural language and by providing it with the ability to learn. It learns by taking into account the user's past interactions and using this information to personalize the user experience. Whereas before, IVR would respond with a set of predetermined options, AI allows it to tailor its responses to the individual user, making it more user friendly and thus, less likely to trigger frustration and disengagement with customers.

There are 3 important ways IVR is improved by the addition of AI:

1. Improved IVR helps customers

There are very few of us who have not yet had the opportunity, good or bad, to interact with IVR. With increasing frequency, calls for customer service support are first triaged through an IVR system.

IVR is hardly in its infancy but that doesn’t mean that customers have grown accustomed to, or appreciate it handling their customer service needs. Customers who have a bot pick up on the other end of the line, often aren’t thrilled to realize it’s not a human and that they might have to meander through a series of menus, before they even allowed to press ‘0’ to reach a human.

IVR powered by conversational AI is a game changer for customers. Improved IVR helps customers communicate more effectively with a company. Rather than having to speak to a representative, they may be able to use the IVR to get their questions answered without having to wait on hold or speak to anyone at all. Not only does this save customers time and frustration, it makes them happier and, long-term, more loyal customers.

2. Improved IVR helps agents

It’s not just customers who benefit from improved IVR. IVR that is powered by conversational AI provides agents with more time and opportunity to help customers who need meaningful support, and less time on administrative tasks. This frees them up to be more productive and provide better customer service.

More satisfied agents mean team members that are more likely to stay with a company and come to work every day with a positive attitude and desire to do a good job. Unhappy employees lead to high turnover. This not only triggers continuous learning curves of new employees coming on board, it also increases cost for the business that has to keep hiring and training those new employees to fill the gaps.

3. Improved IVR helps businesses

What do you get when you have happy employees and happy customers? A better bottom line!

Having customers waiting in long queues to get their questions answered is a great way for businesses to create or exacerbate the frustration of customers. Businesses that provide a more efficient way for customers to communicate with customer service representatives help reduce the risk of disenchanted customers and agent frustration by speeding up the process of resolving customer complaints or inquiries – improving overall customer satisfaction.

Conversational AI IVR can also help businesses collect data about customer preferences and interactions, which can be used to improve customer service by being more informed and relatable. The power of IVR is that it can take all the normal customer service channels - voice, chat, email and social media - and put them into one place. That means that a customer who wants to talk to someone, will be able to be easily routed through the system to the right person and track the conversation.

By being able to be routed to the preferred method of interaction, improved IVR makes it easier for the customer and the business to keep track of what's been said. For business success, this means that customer service channels are open 24/7 and that customers can resolve their issues without human interaction, whenever, wherever and however they want.

What is the future of IVR?

IVR has come a long way since its earliest telephony days. Adding conversational AI has made it even more effective at resolving issues by providing meaningful solutions to complex customer service issues. IVR is a technology that we can expect to continue to grow in popularity as it continues to improve and adjust to consumer needs and wants. It offers many advantages over traditional customer service methods, and it is becoming increasingly affordable and accessible.

As technology evolves, we can expect to see IVR becoming even more sophisticated and able to offer more features and options to customers. The future of customer service will evolve as technologies, like IVR, illustrate the value of technology sounding as little like technology as possible. The old adage ‘speak as you’d like to be spoken to’ speaks directly to the goal of conversational AI IVR. Conversational AI helps make that possible, even when you’re speaking to a computer, and it will respond to you in kind.

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