In 2020, business phone systems are taking on new importance.
For one thing, the COVID-19 pandemic starkly showed the significance of talking to team members, colleagues, and business partners via (video) calls during remote work. In addition, phones also remain the top choice of 48% of US customers when it comes to picking a channel of communication to contact a business.
Modern business telephony is powered largely by VoIP, Voice over Internet Protocol. The shift of business phone services to the cloud has provided unprecedented flexibility. It has also enabled a large variety of additional functionalities to save clients countless headaches.
Advanced IVR is one of these functionalities.
But how exactly does it work? And how can you use this VoIP feature to boost your business’ communication efficiency and productivity?
What is IVR?
IVR is short for Interactive Voice Response. It’s an advanced VoIP feature that today is often powered by artificial intelligence (AI).
Everyone is familiar with the previous generation of IVR. Call a business and chances are you’ll be greeted by a computerized voice asking you to “Press one for -”, before eventually routing you to the right extension. Advanced IVR goes far beyond that.
Basically, advanced IVR allows callers to interact with your business phone system by talking to it in their own words. They can phrase a specific request, or succinctly explain why they are calling. Then, the AI behind IVR parses those statements, and takes action – either forwarding the caller, or responding directly.
Throughout this process, the interaction is solely between the virtual assistant and the caller – without company agents having to take any sort of action.
This is made possible by Natural Language Processing (NLP), a voice recognition technology driving conversational AI. Natural speech is highly complex and context-dependent – further complicated by background noises, accents, and idiosyncratic pronunciation.
AI has the computational power to parse it nonetheless, especially prominent systems such as IBM Watson and Google Dialogflow.
But what exactly can you use advanced IVR for?
Route calls, prepare agents – and cut frustration!
A central advantage of advanced IVR is that it allows callers to connect to business representatives as efficiently as possible, minimizing frustration.
Callers are spared a five-round game of “Press 1 for”, and the minutes spent listening to a mostly irrelevant menu of choices that 61% of customers detest. Instead, they can state why they’re calling in their own words, and IVR will route them to a relevant agent right away.
But AI also makes agents’ lives easier. IVR will transcribe the caller’s request and forward it to agents together with other relevant information, giving them an invaluable heads-up. Straight off, agents will know if they’ll be dealing with someone with a routine problem or an emergency.
What’s more, the AI behind advanced IVR can do emotional analysis of the tone of someone’s voice and tell whether they are neutral, happy, scared, impatient, irritated, or furious. Again, this is an advantage for agents since they’ll be warned before facing a customer who might go ballistic.
But the system can also make routing decisions on the basis of emotion. It can, for instance, let an angry- or scared-sounding caller with an emergency jump the queue, rather than leaving them stuck for half an hour behind three people who only want to reschedule appointments.
Implement customer self-service
A second major application of advanced IVR is customer self-service.
Modern VoIP business phone systems can be integrated with any number of other business platforms, letting the conversational AI access databases, and make adjustments and changes without the intervention of a human agent.
Consequently, the IVR can take care of routine customer requests such as scheduling or canceling appointments, or tracking shipments. This leaves company representatives free to efficiently deal with less monotonous and more complex requests.
Thanks to voice biometrics, IVR systems can even handle sensitive requests, such as checking account balances.
Statistics show that up to 83% of customers prefer this form of self-service over waiting to talk to a human agent. All things considered, this is unsurprising – especially since IVR-powered self-service is available 24/7.
Finally, thanks to integrations with Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems, IVR-client interactions can even be highly personalized.
The Bottom Line
Overall, advanced IVR can streamline communication, especially in customer service – to boost efficiency and productivity. It takes the pressure off agents, allowing them enough time to deal with complex requests, and reduces business owners’ costs for staffing, training, and onboarding.
More crucially, though, it increases customer satisfaction by improving call routing, cutting hold time, and providing a frustration-free system for 24/7 self-service for routine requests.
So that a happy customer stays around – until the next call.