Artificial intelligence (AI) has taken root in most work processes. For contact centers, it has improved one keyspace – IVR systems. Interactive Voice Response – practical as it had consistently been – found fresh life with integrated AI.
This post will take you through the key ways that infusing AI into a contact center’s IVR system benefits the business overall.
Let’s start with what a simple IVR system brings to the table.
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What does an IVR System do?
IVR is an acronym for Interactive Voice Response. When used with phone systems, an IVR takes voice from a caller as input. It then processes this against a response range and uses sound (an automated voice) as output.
This way, a caller can have a conversation with the system and never have to speak to a human agent.
Core components of an IVR system: NLP and NLU
Coined in the 70s, IVR has seen its share of improvements. It wasn’t till the 80’s that IVR saw commercialization, which gave a lot of developers the opportunity to improve it to fit various application areas.
Such advancements have led to the growth of two underlying IVR technologies: NLP and NLU.
What is NLP?
Natural Language Processing (NLP) converts speech into data that algorithms can parse. It typically takes human voice and turns it into its building blocks, comparable to text in datasets. Through this process, it can process what a caller says.
What is NLU?
Natural Language Understanding (NLU) is a child technology within NLP. Besides being able to process by matching, it takes into consideration the meaning of the words a caller says. This level of understanding produces alternative possibilities… Conversational IVR is born from NLU.
In short, NLU is what enables a computerized system to listen to human speech and understand what the speaker wants.
Most people encounter this all the time in systems like Alexa and Siri. These days it’s not sci-fi. It’s just a part of life!
It’s useful for contact centers because it streamlines their work.
Some queries can be handled 100% by an automated voice system. In other instances, the conversational system can help gather information before routing a customer to a human agent.
The age of Conversational IVR
Conversational IVR is what you get when a basic IVR System tries a steroid diet.
Have you ever had to press a button to select a response option during a support call? A conversational IVR will instead ‘listen’ to a caller and act based on what they say. It takes input as speech as would the human agent.
Understanding voice input allows the system to make intuitive choices. For example, what it should do next if you are looking for information about an order you placed.
The trend is such that each new advancement brings IVR systems closer to behaving the same way a human contact center agent would.
Key Benefits of AI and IVR Systems in contact centers
Apart from the usual potential replacement of an agent, to avoid customers spending ages in support queues, AI and IVR Systems bring many benefits to a contact center.
Three benefits in particular help to improve both the performance of your business and a bunch of customer satisfaction metrics.
1. Incoming Caller Recognition
Almost like precognition, when a caller reaches for help, your IVR (jacked on AI) will gather why they’re calling. Along with an incoming call alert, the agent also gets a snapshot of the customer’s information and recent activity. This helps improve the chance of actually resolving their issues.
It also makes for a smarter call routing process – assigning an agent best capable to deal with the caller. A caller from Portugal would of course get connected with a Portuguese-speaking agent. That sort of routing would ordinarily add minutes to the call session was it orchestrated manually due to high call transfer rates.
2. Conversational IVRs keep customer information up to date
Smart scheduling outbound calls with customers to make sure they’re using your products is possible with AI and IVRs. They can respond to update requests to keep their profiles fresh.
This helps you maintain contact with the least talkative of them, increasing their customer lifetime value. At the very least it helps keep them from calling, making for less crowded support queues.
When a call goes through to an agent, you should let the IVR take notes. For one, it does so quicker than your agent, and makes this information available to actors down the line. All this makes resolving customer concerns easier.
3. Automate purchases and event scheduling
Subscription update calls at the end of the month make for excessively long wait queues. I don’t know about you, but they make even the best companies feel inconsiderate of a customer’s time.
NLU can take callers through making payments and even booking processes.
When these three take place, more calls get served (at the same time), and customers feel more appreciated. Since business is basically more about pleasing the customer than consistently making them pay, this is a winning strategy. I’m not saying these are the only benefits you’ll reap… only that they form the foundation for others.