Interactive Voice Response (or, “IVR”) is a technology that doesn’t have a great reputation. As the technology that allows a computer to interact with humans through the use of voice, it has until recently been largely relegated to ‘Press 1 for Sales’ when you call an organisation.
The only real development that IVR has had in the past thirty years is now larger companies have introduced voice recognition technologies alongside it.
IVR was introduced into pre-digital businesses purely as a wall between call centre representatives and the customer in a money-saving push. Companies were doing whatever it took to reduce the time that a representative was on the phone, and the ideal scenario was that the IVR removed the need for representatives at all.
These pre-digital companies, however, are now transforming into digital-first organisations, and the rules are changing. For digital companies, when a customer calls their call centre, this is another touchpoint they can utilise to engage the customer further. A process which was initially de-humanising is now becoming as human as possible: and this is all possible with the help of AI. Artificial Intelligence takes IVR beyond voice recognition to voice understanding.
Blueworx is a company that is doing exactly that. They see AI technology as a way of complementing the ‘human touch’ of call centres – instead of actually replacing the humans completely. Not only will this new technology engage customers rather than deter them, but also AI will scale better than human-staffed call centres can.
And, of course, this new, improved Interactive Voice is not just useful for call centres. Companies such as Apple, Microsoft, Google and Amazon are now all competing with voice interaction tools such as Siri and Alexa. Healthcare companies, such as Mayo Clinic, have connected their content to Alexa, making it possible for it to answer a range of questions such as ‘What are the side effects to this particular drug?’
The main focus for companies now, however, should be ensuring that their current IVR technology is up to date and ready for the 21st century. Donna Fluss, president of DMG Consulting, commented recently, “As few as 10% of companies have made a substantial investment in IVRs to update them, improve their scripts, their voice user interfaces, and the typically bad pacing.
“In the past 10 years a lot has changed, including customer expectations.”