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  • October 4, 2019
  • By Chris Caile Senior Principal Product Marketing Manager, Nuance
  • Article

IVRs and AI, Unite!

While interactive voice response systems (IVRs) have been invaluable in reducing contact center costs, we need to be honest: not many are delivering experiences that meet consumer expectations. It’s no surprise given the rise of digital channels.

But digital hasn’t killed the IVR—it’s pushing it to be better. Customers expect the same seamless, intuitive experiences they get in the digital world everywhere they engage your organization—especially in the IVR. The phone is more important than ever for your customers: it’s an escalation point if digital channels don’t deliver what they need, it’s the go-to channel for anyone who is ‘on the go’ and can’t easily navigate a website or an app, and it’s the top spot for complex or sensitive issues that require human assistance.

So, at your customers’ critical moments of need, are they greeted by an outdated touch-tone phone system from 1998 with awkward menu options? Or an intuitive, conversational and effortless experience that quickly addresses what they need? 

Four AI Solutions for a Modern IVR

We’ve identified four key principles that are central to a truly great caller experience. Each one involves the power of artificial intelligence (AI). AI is key to reinventing IVR because it moves it beyond simple voice recognition to a deeper level of understanding and interaction. 

  1. Create an Intuitive, Personalized First Point of Contact

Imagine if you and your closest friends had to re-introduce yourselves every time you met. Or every time you ordered a coffee from your local barista, you had to verify your identity. It sounds ridiculous—but that’s basically what outdated IVRs are putting even your most loyal customers through.

There are far better ways to offer personalized first contact experiences. At the simplest level Automatic Number Identification (ANI) eliminates caller identification prompts completely. Instead, your IVR automatically identifies inbound phone numbers and matches them against your customer data to work out who’s calling before the interaction even begins. Sounds easy, but many organizations haven’t taken the time to do this most basic step.

There’s also a far better way to handle authentication painlessly: voice biometrics. With voice biometrics, your voice is your password. The IVR automatically verifies your identity by comparing your voice against a “voiceprint” you created during a simple one-time setup process. It’s not just a more pleasant experience—it’s far more efficient and secure. On average, organizations have seen call durations shortened by an average of 42 seconds, freeing agents to spend time on more complex issues.

Combining both ANI matching and biometric authentication will make your IVR a joy to call.

     2. Deliver Natural, Conversational Interactions

Talking to an IVR isn’t new. For years, customers have been able to speak a word or two to make a menu selection or get to an agent. But the IVR typically relied on the caller repeating a pre-programmed set of words—not asking questions or exchanging dialog.

Those kinds of one-way interactions don’t cut it anymore, especially with today’s home assistants and smart speakers. Today’s callers expect your IVR to listen and respond naturally as if they’re talking to a human. And, thanks to huge breakthroughs in AI and NLU, today’s modern IVRs can have a real, two-way conversation. A true dialog with your customers without having to master a crazy menu prompt. Imagine your callers

being greeted with “Hello Bob, thanks for calling. How can I help you today?” and then the IVR helping resolve the issue.

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