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What is Conversational IVR?

March 21, 2018

Conversational IVR: For those who prefer to interact with their voice, rather than their fingers

By: Ori Faran, Founder & CEO of CallVU

Ever since Siri came on the scene, we’ve gotten used to the convenience of voice-controlled intelligent personal assistants. More recently, our frenetic and hyper-connected lifestyle has met easy-to-love home platforms like Google Home, Apple HomePod, and Amazon Echo.

These AI conversational technologies make life easier, there’s no doubt. But they’ve also set a high bar for automated customer service channels. When I can order a pizza without human interaction by just saying “Alexa, order pizza,” why should I have to “press 1” to hear my bank balance?

Face it, it’s hard to go back to traditional service calls with their complex menu trees and “click 1” for this, “click 2” for that. By the time all 9 keypad options have been read, you’ve forgotten everything from 5 and on. That’s why most customers routinely skip all the options and wait for a live agent.

The Price of Voice

According to IBM, worldwide companies spend over $1.3 trillion to serve some 265 billion customer service calls each year. The average price of a live agent customer service phone interaction, according to one contact center software provider, is $35-50. This expense adds up quickly, of course, as does the overhead of maintaining highly-trained call center personnel. Thus, it’s no surprise that one of the hottest trends in customer service is how to lower these expenses, without negatively impacting customer satisfaction.

There are lots of technological solutions for doing this. Traditional IVR is a veteran solution. Chatbots, some powered by artificial intelligence, are another. But whatever the actual vehicle, the trend toward cost-effective, wait-free digital self-service is clear and gaining traction.

But here’s the thing: me, and the rest of us who do prefer to use our voices are messing up the equation for call centers, big time. By insisting on not interacting with our fingers, we are causing longer wait times, higher call center costs, lower ROI on IVR systems, and overall lower satisfaction. It’s just a fact.

So, the question is, what can businesses do about it?

Conversational IVR, the Alexa for your bank, insurance company, or any other service provider.

In a previous article published in Banklesstimes, I discussed how financial and other institutions can effectively ease customers into using existing digital self-service channels. Using the right combination of technology and psychology, businesses are encouraging users to self-provision – and succeeding. But these successes have not yet spread to the realm of voice.

What we’re looking for is simply this: voice-driven, hands-free customer service that uses Natural Language Processing to understand the content and context of spoken requests. Remove the burden of navigation through confusingly-hierarchical menus, and don’t punish me for not wanting to type by making me wait for an hour. If I’m calling the bank, I should be able to say “Check balance.” If I’m calling the insurance company, I should be able to say “Check claim status,” and the list goes on.

In the age of voice-driven digital assistants, I can talk to my air conditioner, my vacuum, and my car. Isn’t it time for the major organizations that provide life-centric services to get into Conversational IVR too?

Learn more about CallVU‘s Conversational IVR solution.


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