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Conversational IVR vs. Visual IVR – Which is Best for Your Customers and Business?

July 30, 2020

From a customer’s perspective, calling into a contact center has changed little in decades. That is due to the fact that most companies still utilize antiquated Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems.  These systems can be difficult to interact with leading most customers receive a slow and inefficient experience.

Recent advancements in IVR are providing new ways for customers to engage with your company over the phone in self-service, dramatically reducing the friction created by traditional IVR systems. Two IVR innovations lead the way in modernizing contact centers with more robust self service options, Conversational IVR and Visual IVR. Companies seeking to provide a superior call experience must determine which option drives the greatest improvement in customer experience while driving down call center costs.

In this post we’ll cover why Visual IVR delivers the most seamless, robust and cost effective customer experience.

  • The drawbacks of traditional IVR
  • The difference between Conversational IVR and Visual IVR
  • Why Visual IVR provides a superior customer experience
  • Benefits of Visual IVR for your contact center

The drawbacks of traditional IVR

Traditional IVR systems are the “front door” to most call centers and contact centers. These touch‑tone and directed dialog‑based IVR systems allow customers to reach the right department depending on their needs. They can also enable some very simple self-service capabilities like checking an account balance. However, the complicated menu trees can be difficult to navigate and can take a long time to reach the desired task or call routing. This may have been a valuable solution in an analog world, but no longer drives acceptable levels of customer satisfaction with digitally-savvy consumers.
The heart of the problem lies with Traditional IVR’s reliance on very basic touch-tone/dial pad audio inputs. This greatly restricts traditional IVR interactions. Not only is the process slow, but it is also unfamiliar and error-prone. Many people avoid it altogether by dialing “0” or saying “speak with an agent” in order to bypass the IVR in order to speak with a live agent. This of course defeats the entire purpose, removing any possibility of call containment and putting a greater onus on live agents – the most expensive resource of any customer support department.


Recent innovations in IVR can deliver a far superior customer experience while dramatically increasing contact center efficiency. We will look at the two most prominent, Conversational IVR and Visual IVR, to determine which is best for your business.



The difference between Conversational IVR and Visual IVR

Both Conversational IVR and Visual IVR provide new modes of engaging with automated self-service systems. Conversational IVR is focused on enabling a greater range of voice commands while Visual IVR overlays a digital experience onto the call to enable app-like engagement. Each offers unique capabilities and benefits:


Conversational IVR

Conversational IVR aims to provide more human‑like interactions in self‑service customer experiences. It does this by allowing customers to use more complex voice commands to navigate the menu options and capabilities of the self-service experience. Conversational IVR uses a type of artificial intelligence and machine learning known as  Natural Language Processing (also known as natural language understanding) to determine the intent of customer commands, predict why they are calling and direct them to the necessary capabilities and resources to resolve issues.


Visual IVR

Visual IVR uses web applications to deliver an app-like self-service experience for users during contact center interactions. The web-based experience is launched with an email or text link without the need to download or install anything. Customers can interact with a visual interface to select from menu options, review account details, digitally enter information and more. While Visual IVR offers many of the same benefits of a mobile app, it avoids virtually all of the customer adoption hurdles.


Why Visual IVR is best for your customers and business 

Both Conversational IVR and Visual IVR provide callers with new modes of engaging with self-service systems. Conversational IVR significantly enhances to the ability to use speech to navigate IVR menu options and complete tasks. Speaking is the most natural way for humans to communicate, so the appeal of Conversational ai is clear. However, a recent study by Sitel Group shows that 70% of consumers prefer not to speak to a virtual assistant or chatbot in customer service scenarios with nearly half citing that they don’t trust a bot’s ability to accurately understand their needs. While natural language processing is improving speech recognition all the time, relying on virtual assistants and chatbots to understand customer needs, intent and urgency can be both challenging and risky. Conversational IVR platforms often require some level of human intervention when customer intent can’t be easily determined.


Visual IVR goes beyond increasing the effectiveness of audio and speech inputs that can be used to engage with IVR systems, it opens an entirely new vector of engagement – digital experience. Today’s consumers have become extremely comfortable interacting with digital interfaces. Visual IVR not only makes it easy to navigate menu options, the digital interface dramatically increases the number and complexity of services that can be offered in self-serve. Most Visual IVR implementations can take advantage of digital assets and capabilities that have already been developed by a company. Virtually anything that has been built into an app or website can be delivered into the voice channel and accessed in real-time by calling customers. So while Conversational IVR and Visual IVR both make it easier for a customer to navigate automated self-serve systems, only Visual IVR can allow customers to handle more tasks that typically require a live agent call in self-serve.

Benefits of Visual IVR for Your Contact Center 

Visual IVR empowers customers to service more of their needs quickly improving customer satisfaction, but it also drives significant cost savings and increases in efficiency.


Lower costs and free agents to focus on high value work

The cost of a live agent customer service phone call can be staggering. For companies handling thousands of calls per month, the contact center is a substantial financial outlay. By increasing call containment, companies can significantly lower their call volumes and related costs. Because Visual IVR contains calls with simple requests, agents are free to focus where they can add the most value on selling and resolving complex issues.


Get customers the help and answers they need faster

Visual IVR helps get customers answers to their questions and resolution to needs fast without holding for a live agent. A Visual IVR system can reduce Average Handle Time (AHT) over traditional and Conversational IVR because information can communicated visually far more quickly that with audio alone. A Visual IVR system scales easily, handling more calls and adding new self-serve capabilities as needed to service as many customers as quickly as possible.


Improved customer experience and higher customer satisfaction (CSAT)

Visual IVR can augment traditional and Conversational IVR systems, giving customers the choice to interact with self-serve systems with touch, voice or both. CallVU customers who implement Visual IVR see high digital opt-in and significant increases in their net promoter score (NPS). When you empower customers by giving them choice and removing friction from their interactions with your brand, you’ll see the benefits across many customer service metrics, especially customer satisfaction.



The new name reflects our expanded focus on delivering digital self-service experiences and agent productivity tools.