Is the IVR, as we know it, dead?


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COVID-19 is yet again keeping people indoors and socially distanced, and many states and countries and are reapplying restrictions. And with the lack of face-to-face interactions, the importance of customer service has never been greater or more important. And the industry has increasingly relied on technology to support their customers with service.

While more traditional technology solutions like IVR and robust analytics capabilities will continue to grow in importance as standard issue, the pandemic has forced call centers to deploy more forward-looking technology solutions to address an increase in call volume and negative calls. AI technology is growing so fast for a good reason, Juniper Research found that AI tech is expected to reduce business costs by $8 billion annually by 2022.

Modern conversational AI, integrated with a standard IVR, can yield a much higher ROI and success rate. A conversational bot can handle the increasing number of interactions in multiple languages at the same time. At Škoda, a conversational bot increase web conversion rates by 400%, delivers 24/7 personalized advice on choosing, specifying and purchasing car.

Yet, despite the advantages, there are times that technology don’t provide better CX. We still face poor solutions. Every time I try and purchase a railway ticket or get a response from my bank, I can’t help myself in thinking how inefficient it is to keep someone trapped in the IVR-horror. A big black hole of inefficiency and bad service. And I am not alone.

61 percent of consumers believe that reaching an IVR menu when calling a business makes for poor customer experience, leading more than half to abandon the company altogether, according to a study by Vonage. Irrelevant, time consuming options creates agitated experiences and as a result businesses loose customers, as they take to competitors.

IVR technology is costing businesses $262 per customer each year. As a result, businesses are looking towards newer technologies to support human call center agents and Accenture predicts AI will increase business productivity by over 35 percent before 2040 in the US alone.

However, despite the fact that technology like Conversational AI play a more important role than ever in customer service, customers still don’t get resolutions fast enough. To retain customers, it is essential to implement a solution with focus on the customer experience (CX).

I have been involved in AI projects for many years, around the globe, and if I should pick just one as a sort of “role model” for bringing success it would be Swisscom’s effort to use conversational AI to enhance customer experience in its TV businesses that handles 9 million customer calls per year. With their conversational AI-solution, Swisscom uses the most natural interface to interact with its customers on its hotline: the human language via Conversational AI. Customers explain their matter in their own words and are directed to the right team – they can speak in the national languages (German, Italian, French and Romansch) and even in non-written Swiss dialects. NPS scores have sky rocketed by +18 points.

In my experience, the first rule to achieve great customer experience, CX, is to focus on the right targets when measuring success:

Net Promoter Score – the number of customers that would recommend your services. Measure satisfaction rates after every conversation.

Conversion rate– to which extent a chat transforms conversations online into new business.

Transfer Quota – the number of calls being routed to the wrong department, for instance to invoicing instead of to tech support

Automation Quota – the number of calls that can be handled with no human interference at all.

And its all about people. Introduce conversational AI in the organization without creating fear in employees and partners. Be transparent and move staff up – when they don’t have to handle trivial stuff due to automation; give them a chance to build expertise in areas that AI can’t handle.

Marie Angselius
Marie Angselius-Schönbeck is Chief Impact Officer and Chief Corporate Communications at Artificial Solutions, a company in Conversational Customer Experience. In 2019, she founded Women in AI by Amelia, an IPsoft-company, a global initiative to help close the gender gap in STEM. She has worked in th Conversational AI-industry for 5 years.


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