Smart IVR (Interactive Voice Response) is an improved IVR system that leverages AI to optimize the customer journey by including features like intelligent call routing and management. Overall, its purpose is to upgrade a contact center by adding a human touch to the IVR while streamlining the customer service process and analyzing data collected from calls.
Specifically, some of the main ways that a Smart IVR improves upon traditional systems is by giving callers the option of using both touch-tone and voice commands, implementing an intuitive call routing system, and simplifying the menu to be more user-friendly.
Furthermore, as Smart IVRs are becoming more prevalent, many service providers are making it easier to design and implement the technology by offering drag-and-drop interfaces for building customizable flows. These tools make it more possible than ever for all kinds of businesses to overcome the challenges to—and reap the benefits of—setting up an effective Smart IVR system.
How Smart IVR Works (And When To Use It)
Smart IVR is similar to traditional IVR in many ways, but the main difference is that it uses AI to enhance the experience for callers.
First and foremost, the AI capabilities of Smart IVRs allow customers to interact with them in a personalized and tailored way. For instance, customers can talk to them like real humans rather than robots that may or may not hear them properly after several attempts.
In order to process human conversations and speech patterns, a Smart IVR uses NLP (Natural Language Processing) and NLU (Natural Language Understanding) to analyze the intent, context, and semantics of speech. With these in place, the system is able to interact with callers and respond just like a live agent would.
Next, a Smart IVR system can take the input from the customer and then route their call to the appropriate department or agent based on its interpretation.
Finally, many Smart IVRs can also be set up to offer self-service options to callers so that they can take care of routine or easily automated tasks.
When you put it all together, this core group of features can be used by call centers to improve customer service metrics, support a smaller team of live agents, reduce customer wait times, gather customer data, and increase first-call resolution rates.
5 KPI-Boosting Benefits of Smart IVR Systems
In terms of the performance metrics associated with call centers, Smart IVRs offer a number of attractive KPI-related benefits.
Shorter Customer Wait Times
With Smart IVR, customer wait times are significantly reduced thanks to its self-service capabilities (which get callers started on resolving their problems immediately) and its intelligent routing features that connect callers to the right department or agent without bouncing them from one agent to the next. Furthermore, since callers are able to get moving in the right direction a lot sooner, this can lead to a lower call abandonment rate and a higher first-call resolution rate.
Increased Productivity and Efficiency
Smart IVR systems provide ways for callers to perform basic inquiries on their own at any time of the day, lessening the burden on live agents. This not only lets the call center’s employees focus on more complex (and less repetitive) tasks, but it also tends to lower burnout rates and employee turnover—ultimately saving your business money in the long run.
Improved Data Collection and Analysis
A Smart IVR system also makes it simple to collect and evaluate large amounts of customer data. This data can be used to gain deeper insights into customer bases and their pain points, effectively providing implied feedback that can help companies improve their products and get rid of common issues.
Fewer Human Errors
In a traditional contact center without Smart IVR, manual call routing errors and long wait times commonly lead to negative customer experiences and call abandonments. Smart IVR, however, greatly reduces the risk of human errors, leading to a better customer experience overall.
Lower Customer Support Costs
With Smart IVR’s self-service options and intelligent call routing, there’s less of a need for a large team of live agents. This cuts down on staffing costs for businesses and organizations to save big bucks over time.
These KPIs Will Tell You What’s Working (And What Isn’t)
When taking a look at how well your Smart IVR is working, keep the following metrics in mind:
- First call resolution rate
- Average call abandonment rate
- Customer satisfaction
- Average handle time
- Cost per call
- Agent utilization rate
By tracking these metrics shortly after implementing your Smart IVR, you can more confidently assess whether your system is working and reduce the risk of making poor decisions based on inaccurate data.
How To Do Smart IVRs (The Right Way)
Although it’s generally pretty simple to design and implement a Smart IVR system, it’s important to keep the following best practices in mind.
Give Customers the Option To Bypass Your IVR
No matter what, always provide an option to speak with a live agent. Doing so can help reduce customer frustration if they feel your IVR system isn’t helping them get the answers they need right away.
Provide Multiple Caller Response Options
One way to streamline your Smart IVR system and make it more user-friendly is to offer both touch-tone and voice command options for your callers. This gives them the freedom to interact in whichever way they feel more comfortable. Likewise, doing so also provides a way for callers with unique accents and dialects to ensure that they can communicate with your IVR system properly.
Make Your Call Routing Smart and Seamless
Implementing intelligent routing in your IVR system lets you transfer calls based on the caller’s phone number, making it possible for callers to speak with the same agent that handled their issue before. It can also transfer callers to agents who speak a specific language and move important calls to the front of the call queue. All of this leads to a more seamless and user-friendly customer experience overall.
Make Your Menu Simple and User-Friendly
Always map out your menu beforehand to ensure that it’s user-friendly, intuitive, and simple. This makes it easier for customers to understand your IVR system and reduces friction along the customer journey.
Use a Realistic-Sounding Voice
Although Smart IVR systems generally have realistic-sounding voice options, test out a few and decide which one is the best one for your customers. Using the most realistic voice possible will help put callers at ease, make conversation more natural, and improve the customer experience.
Add a Callback Option
By including a customer callback option in your Smart IVR system, your customers won’t have to wait in a call queue for an unknown amount of time. This gives them the freedom to go about their day without losing their place in line, and it also gives you an opportunity to optimize your call management system for your live agents.
Potential Smart IVR Challenges in a Call Center Environment
Although Smart IVR has many benefits for contact centers, it does come with some potential challenges that can hinder its effectiveness. A few of these include:
- Accents: Although Smart IVR is generally good at understanding various accents and dialects, some less familiar ones may frustrate this type of technology.
- Speech Nuances: As everyone speaks with a different cadence, accent, and tone, a Smart IVR system may still struggle to pick up specific voices when talking to some individuals.
- Non-Standard Speech Patterns: People who talk in non-standard patterns may have trouble communicating with a Smart IVR system.
- Advanced Vocabulary and Jargon: Smart IVR systems can have difficulty deciphering and understanding callers who use more advanced vocabulary and little-known jargon due to the current limitations of AI technology.
- Loud Noises: A loud, unexpected noise in your contact center or on the caller’s line may hinder communications.
- Interruptions: Callers who are repeatedly interrupted will likely find navigating a Smart IVR system time-consuming and frustrating.
- False Insights: Although Smart IVR is very useful at gathering and analyzing customer data, it can sometimes generate false insights based on various factors that can’t be picked up by the technology—such as what a customer secretly thinks about your Smart IVR system and customer service overall.
- Customer Reactions: Some customers who realize they’re not talking to a human may grow frustrated and try to skip to a live agent right away or simply abandon the call.
How to Start Using Smart IVR in Your Call Center
The fastest and easiest way to start using Smart IVR is to sign up for a contact center platform with built-in Smart IVR functionality. When combined with cutting-edge Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology, your contact center will be well-positioned for success both today and in the future.
Use Smart IVR Today
Smart IVR can be a great way to improve your contact center’s performance both overall and in individual areas—as long as you implement it wisely. By leveraging Smart IVR’s benefits and being aware of its potential limitations, you optimize your contact center and maximize its effectiveness.