Most contact centers use an IVR system.
And most of them use it badly.
That’s why IVRs are the most parodied aspect of customer service. Press 1 to lose your mind in a never-ending queue. Press two to listen to a loop of smooth jazz.
But IVR systems can do great things for contact center service – and we’re going to find out how.
Let’s start by defining some IVR technologies.
Natural Language Processing (NLP)
NLP is a kind of artificial intelligence that identifies human speech. It can listen to audio input and record what the speaker is saying.
Natural Language Understanding (NLU)
NLU goes further than NLP. It looks at the record of what the speaker said and figures out the context – what does the speaker actually want?
This sort of covers everything. NLU and NLP are both aspects of speech recognition. In the IVR context, speech recognition often refers to the simplest form of this tech. This could be a system that only understands ‘yes’ ‘no’ and numbers.
Conversational IVR (or ‘Conversational AI’) is what you get when you bring these technologies together.
The outcome is a fully interactive conversational system that can understand speech and respond with speech.
That speech may be recorded, or produced dynamically.
Why do IVR systems have a bad reputation?
IVRs are routinely ranked as the worst part of customer service. Does that mean they’re just bad?
No – it means businesses don’t know how to use them.
Let’s look at just two of the problems you should aim to solve.
IVR systems don’t draw on existing data
If an existing customer calls you, they expect you to recognize them. Who are they, what have they purchased, what problems have they had in the past?
This almost never happens.
By 2022, Gartner believes that 90% of business strategies will include data as a key asset.
These two issues are linked… you have customer data available. You just need to use it!
The data has tremendous value, not least because it improves your customer experience. That route to that outcome is API integration which will bring data from your call center CRM (or any other system) and use it to help customers.
If you collect data but you don’t use it, you’re wasting resources.
IVR service doesn’t link up with agent service
A whole lot of your customers deal with IVRs en route to a human agent. But… the agent doesn’t know what happened during the IVR portion of the call.
The data may have been used for routing, but that’s the end of it. As a result, customers have to repeat themselves, and that’s never a popular option.
Again, this is all about integrating that data. Remember, they don’t ‘see’ channels like you do. They don’t ‘see’ email, phone, IVR, chat… they just see your business. You’re either helping them, or you’re causing them problems.
Here are some of the superpowers you’ll have after integrating your systems:
Waaay better self-service
All businesses are hungry for self-service because it’s so affordable. Customers want it to, so long as it works really well.
A tightly integrated conversational IVR system can offer a very wide spectrum of services, so callers never even need an agent.
In some cases, businesses have been able to automate fully 25% of their inbound calls because the customer got exactly what they needed from IVR.
Similarly, IVR systems can point customers towards other self-service channels like SMS.
Thoroughly detailed contact routing
Want to get every caller to the right resource first time? Then put your IVR system at the heart of contact routing.
You can route based on:
- Customer Lifetime Value
- Language preference
- Current call volume
- Open Helpdesk tickets
- Agent skills
…and more besides!
What’s more, you IVR can contribute to data hygiene by automatically replacing old data with new, and by asking customers to confirm data on a routine basis.
100% informed agents
Just one-quarter of a standard 6-minute call is meaningful interaction. The rest is boring manual research and a lot of long pauses.
That’s not good for customers or agents. And it’s certainly not good for your KPIs!
So what if you could cut out all of that dead air and solve problems fast? That’s exactly what a well-integrated IVR system offers. When customers are routed to agents, all of their data travels with them so the agent knows just who they’re talking to.
See how far a little screen pop goes towards amazing customer service interactions? There’s good reason to think that this also has a positive impact on agent retention… but that’s a conversation for another day!
Great IVR makes all of this possible. The key is integration – get that done, and the rest will be surprisingly simple!
babelforce is a global cloud communications platform focused on No-Code integration and automation. It allows non-technical people to build even the most complex integrated processes for customer-facing teams, particularly in the call center.