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The Death of Traditional IVR Technology

by Jennifer Taurel
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Ideas from Vonage: How to leverage technology to create impressive IVR experiences

Think back to your last phone call with an automated system. Was it a positive experience? Didn’t think so.

IVR (Interactive Voice Response) systems rarely impress people. In fact, research from Vonage shows that 61 percent of people report having bad experiences with IVRs. It can be tedious and taxing — especially when it’s clear the IVR doesn’t understand what you want.

However, while they’re far from perfect, IVRs are getting better. As they improve, customers are increasingly open to them. At the height of the pandemic, when staffing was at its lowest, research shows that people were 1.5 times more willing to interact with IVRs. The IVR offered customers a way to interact with a company even when most of its humans were unavailable.

This reinforces another finding — that customers prefer to interact with voice over any other channel. Looking at consumer channel preferences by scenario, customers prefer to connect through a voice call whether it’s something urgent, a request for simple information, solving a complex problem, or simply discussing sensitive or personal information — all while having the ability to change channels without having to repeat their information.

When it first became available, IVR technology was daunting to build and deploy. Best case, building a solution could take six months, and it could be as much as two years based on the complexity of the requirements. It was a complicated and expensive development and IT project. These systems offered a bad user experience and came with massive costs for the organization.

Luckily, this isn’t the case anymore. Vonage Communications APIs allow customers to take full advantage of CPaaS capabilities across voice, video and messaging and integrate them with advanced AI technologies.

Vonage has also partnered with OneReach.ai, a leader in the Conversational AI market, to explore ways to deliver reimagined IVR experiences.

In the video below, watch an example of how an insurance company uses an elegant IVR to handle a call from a customer. In this scenario, conversational AI isn’t just about automating the handling of a customer call. Rather, it’s used to design and deliver next-generation experiences that wouldn’t be feasible without this technology. 

Here are some of the technologies used to design and deliver such an experience:

Customer database search for matching phone numbers: IVR detects that a U.S. number is calling, then searches the U.S. customer database. Once it identifies a number, it matches the policyholder with the agent’s office so that, if there’s an interruption on the agent’s side, the user will be reconnected to the right person.

Caller authentication/verification: With any experience that identifies a customer or policy holder, businesses need to verify their identity. This solution detects if the user is calling from a landline or a mobile number; if mobile, it sends a text to that number to verify the customer record.

Awareness of SMS conversations: IVR detects that text messages have been received, and responds in real-time. In addition, speech recognition, natural language understanding (NLU), and sentiment analysis are all working together. The digital assistant runs every utterance through several NLU engines and compares confidence scores to determine the best response. Meanwhile, sentiment analysis scrutinizes what the user says to detect and track sentiment throughout the conversation. And, as the conversation continues, the solution updates customer records and creates an incident report with images sent by the customer.

Automated workflow: An automated workflow is enabled based on the intent of “car accident,” and the customer’s record is put into the “accident follow-up” workflow. The flow delivers links for auto body shops that service the vehicle in the customer’s area and sends updates to the customer as the claim is processed.

Human in the Loop capabilities: The global command for “agent” interrupts the flow and the call is transferred to an agent. The context of the automated conversation is passed along into the agent interface.

Though there are a lot of complex technologies at work, this experience can be prototyped in about three days using Vonage and OneReach.ai — without a development team.

Is revamping your company’s IVR system a walk in the park? No – conversational design can be tricky. But with Vonage and OneReach.ai, it can be a lot easier. It used to be an arduous process. Now, although there is still a lot to take into consideration to optimize the user experience, your IVR system can be built in less than a week.

post authorJennifer Taurel

Jennifer Taurel, Jennifer Taurel is a Senior Partner Marketing Manager on the Vonage API Marketing Team, supporting global partners, with a focus in the Americas region. Prior to Vonage, Jennifer has led Field and Trade Marketing teams and initiatives for Alcatel (a TCL Communications brand) with different carriers in the region. Originally from Venezuela, Jennifer earned a Bachelor degree in Communications from Tulane University in New Orleans, LA and now resides in Miami, FL.

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Ideas In Brief
  • Traditional IVR technologies often provide bad experiences – research from Vonage shows that the majority of people report having a bad experience with IVRs (Interactive Voice Response)
  • Companies are compromising on good UX because the voice technologies they’re using are outdated and hard to change
  • Vonage has partnered with OneReach.ai to quickly create impressive IVR experiences that focus on UX, and it takes days and weeks to build rather than months and years
  • Read the full article and watch the video for inspiration on voice UX from an insurance use case

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