Intelligent IVR in Call Centers: Why the Menu Has Changed
We're all too familiar with Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems. Who among us has not had to press one for sales or press two for service? Not too long ago this was the interactive step forward. The future of communications was no longer waiting for an attendant to answer, but selecting your own path to the future. However, experience, great teacher that it is, has told us that pressing digits to move ahead could use some fresh innovation. Hearing ‘this menu has changed’ is a response that can make the strongest of callers shudder and often weep. What we need is some intelligence in the process. That’s where an Intelligent IVR comes in.
The Advantages of Intelligent IVR
Many articles are written about the move to artificial intelligence (AI). Gartner has published that 37% of service leaders are evaluating or actually using what they label as ‘virtual customer assistants’. Other studies by IBM have made claims that adding some ‘intelligence’ in the customer interface can reduce total inquiries, improve first call resolution and improve customer satisfaction. And that is certainly part of the plan. As language processing advances and speech can be better recognized and nuances in a person’s voice can be detected, AI becomes an important component in a viable solution for handling customer calls. But AI is only as good as the information it has access to. It needs good data to make the right decisions. A system that combines the appropriate information collection and the intelligent approach to using the data is key.
If we start with the premise that instead of pressing a digit, users would like to ask a question or make a statement or demand a connection, then we realize we need to have a system that can talk to customers. Now most contact centers have such a system, it is a bank of living, breathing people, known as agents, that are perfectly willing to talk to anyone that calls them. But it is also true that connecting to a ‘real’ agent, actually talking to someone, is the last resort of many users today. So how can we take real questions but respond with artificial agents? We need to step up the IVR game by including systems that recognize more than dial pad presses. We need systems that recognize voices and languages, questions and information. We need an Intelligent IVR.
Intelligence means many responses can be immediately supported without a ‘real’ agent involved. An advanced IVR can provide answers to many questions with just the intelligence it was built with. This leaves the tougher questions to the ‘real’ agents, allowing them more time to respond to customers and learn more about the details they need to help each customer. So a system with more information allows the customer to receive responses quickly, allows the agents more time and saves money with the ‘intelligent’ efficiencies now being incorporated. Moving past ‘press one for service’ to ‘how can we help you?’ is a far more intelligent approach.
An Intelligent IVR for the Future
As AI system projections continue to be evaluated, it’s essential for contact centers to understand that any AI solution requires real customer data. The contact center is in a unique position for most businesses in that it handles multiple customer communication channels and can store information on business opportunities, business successes and business failures. Data necessary for building the business and information that is also useful when inserted as AI into the architecture of customer interactions. The information needs to be available with interfaces that are open and easily accessible by various teams within the corporate structure. But the more information made available the better the results will be. As IVR becomes ‘intelligent’ the customer interface becomes more valuable. Understanding your customer has always been key for any business, injecting a system that not only understands but responds and collects key comments for future analysis increases the value and improves business’s growth in the future.