Interactive voice response (IVR) is a contact center staple. It helps manage call queues, inform routing strategies, and sometimes reduce agent workloads by providing automated support.
Yet, with fierce competition from voicebots, the IVR must mature to stay relevant. Vendors are enabling this evolution by advancing each of the following IVR features.
1. Cloud-Based Hosting
Contact center leaders can manage a cloud-hosted IVR system remotely, reducing in-house technical efforts. They may also integrate it with other tools using application programming interfaces (APIs).
An excellent example of software to integrate it with is a business intelligence (BI) platform that tracks interaction volumes and efficacy.
2. AI-Based Speech Recognition
Modern IVR systems use artificial intelligence (AI) to enable the customer to navigate the system through voice alone. To do so, it can break down human speech into audio segments called phonemes, which are then matched with a specific text to derive meaning.
For instance, speech recognition allows IVR interfaces to input more complex commands. The caller can say: “I want to speak with an agent,” or: “I need a refund,” and the system will direct them towards the right menu or option. Such a capability enables customers to solve issues through their smart speakers, without lifting a finger.
3. Visual IVR Configuration
There are two ways to configure an IVR system: scripting or visual dashboards. The latter often follows a no-code approach, where designers can leverage a simple graphical user interface (GUI) to drag and drop the IVR design into place.
Also, they can define the structure of the conversation, specify what to say and where, and set business rules without writing a single line of code. Even business users without technical expertise (like contact center managers) can configure the IVR system using this feature.
4. End-to-End Self-Service
An end-to-end self-service capability means that the IVR can guide customers through an entire task without intervention from an agent. It does not just relay information – as an on-hold message would – or tell the customer which number to press for which department, it processes entire tasks within the conversation flow. These may include order cancellations, feedback gathering, or shipping updates.
Cloud enables this feature, connecting the IVR with relevant business processes and systems.
5. Machine Learning
Machine learning (ML) incorporates the outcomes of a previous process into the algorithm. As such, it allows AI algorithms within the IVR to become more effective with time, reducing the number of errors.
An excellent example of this is in uncovering frictions within the IVR, understanding spikes in abandon rates to alert the contact center to pain points that disrupt service experiences.
6. Out-of-the-Box Integrations
Out-of-the-box integrations are cross-platform connectors that are easy to implement. Once activated, there will be bidirectional data flow between IVR and the organization’s other systems like customer relationship management, business intelligence, resource planning tools, and more.
Cloud-based IVRs support these integrations through APIs. Meanwhile, many contact centers can simply download integrations via a marketplace – such as the Genesys AppFoundry or the Five9 App Marketplace.
7. Multilingual IVR
Depending on its location, companies might want to provide IVR in various languages. A multinational organization will sometimes require IVR capabilities in every major global language. Also, in many countries, numerous languages are widely spoken. India, Canada, and Belgium are all prominent examples of this.
The IVR system should allow customers to choose their preferred language at the beginning of the first conversation and remember the data to provide an intuitive experience.
8. Customizable Music
Music on hold is a time-tested IVR technique, and with good reason. Customers on hold via an IVR perceive a 30-second wait time as a 90-second wait in the absence of hold music, according to an AT&T study. As such, the right music can make a major difference to customer experience, and alleviate caller anxiety to a degree.
For these reasons, an IVR system should support customizable music, in line with an organization’s brand ethos. A company may even want to upload proprietary music to further enhance brand recall.
9. Reporting and Analytics
While companies can always integrate IVR systems with an external business intelligence dashboard, it is useful to have built-in analytics. Such a feature reveals how many customers the IVR processes, the results of IVR surveys, and performance metrics like IVR wait time and average queue length.
Reporting is especially important when using IVR self-service. Organizations can measure the ratio of customers who can successfully resolve their issues without connecting with an agent, justifying the IVR expense.
10. IVR Payments
Sophisticated IVR systems can process payments through self-service, verifying the customer’s identity using voice recognition.
It is a secure payment process as the customer does not need to share their card details with a human agent.
Also, with multi-factor authentication, the IVR may make the payment experience even more seamless and secure. Such a feature is particularly useful for outbound contact centers in sectors such as collections, where the ability to collect payments is a mission-critical goal.
Get to grips with more IVR basics by reading our article: What Is an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) System?