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Move Beyond IVRs: Transform CX with Digital Voice Agents!

Vanishree Bhatt

September 26, 2022

Move Beyond IVRs: Transform CX with Digital Voice Agents!

For contact centers, Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems were a turning point a few decades ago, but now have become a customer experience turn-off. IVR systems have helped companies manage call volumes as well as create value with self-service options, information gathering, and call routing.  But a recent study found that, on average, IVRs cost businesses $256 per customer each year! Additionally, a whopping 61% of these customers are unhappy with IVR systems and believe they contribute to a poor customer experience.

“About 83% of the customers abandon the call and company after their IVRs encounters.”- Vonage report.

Why IVR Systems a Customer Service Turn off 

Historically, IVRs have failed to delight callers due to the poorly designed phone menu and the inability to dispense an answer or connect an agent on the go. Companies and businesses receive a lot of flak due to the general notion of associating IVRs as cost-effective replacements for contact center agents. It is paradoxical that customers warmly accept other forms of automated, self-service options for an instant response like ATMs and a variety of mobile applications but not IVRs!

The reasons for it are pretty simple. Since their introduction into the contact center market, IVR systems have undergone few iterations, and their main features haven’t changed much. The hold time, lengthy pre-recorded menus, and the need to repeat query information, especially during an emergency, continue to be a liability for businesses.  More importantly, customers have a strong affinity for resolving queries with a human representative than with restrictive, pre-recorded systems that only leave them with unsavory emotions towards the brand.

Nearly 47% of callers reportedly experience frustrations with IVRs. A significant number of them admitted feeling angered and stressed, according to the Vonage report.  

The same report also revealed that instead of IVRs, if the customers were able to get a hold of a live agent, they experienced relief (27%), less frustration (26%), and less anger (24%).  However, call center agents often end up at the receiving end of customer frustrations from navigating a labyrinth of IVR menus. Therefore the onus is on brands to elevate customer experiences without negatively impacting agents’ morale and productivity.

In this article, we share our insights on overcoming common contact center and customer experience challenges associated with traditional IVRs by diving into the capabilities of Voice AI. We will explore how brands can elevate their customer support with intelligent voice automation of nearly 70% of calls and human-like conversations.

Explore Now: AI-powered Digital Voice Agents vs Outbound IVRs 

Understanding Digital Voice Agents: DVA vs. IVRs 

Imagine a scenario—a customer calls a banking company’s contact center to block their stolen debit card. In lieu of pre-recorded messages and caller authentication protocols, the call is handled by a voice agent that is capable of contextually comprehending the caller’s urgency and making appropriate suggestions. The overall call experience is different! Why?

  • Zero waiting time
  • The instant response instead of punching numbers, a refreshing change from the lengthy IVRs menu options, annoying IVR theme music, and even from the exasperating experience of going down the rabbit hole of the menu by accidentally pressing a wrong button. 
  • For simple queries, no need for human agents

That’s our Digital Voice Agent (DVA) at work. Skit.ai’s DVA, for instance, is an AI-enabled virtual agent built from the ground up to understand human conversations. It can be plugged into contact centers to resolve tier 1 customer problems and automate cognitively routine work.

Digital Voice Agents vs. IVRs

  1. Built for Voice: Unlike conventional IVRs and chatbots that are capable of understanding only transcriptions, Digital Voice Agents are crafted specifically for voice conversations. Whenever a customer calls the contact center, they can interact with the voice agents in the same way as they converse with human agents.  
  2. Built for Personalization: With DVAs, there wouldn’t be any psychological barriers that callers experience when they are forced to interact with IVRs or chatbots. Besides, an intelligent voice agent that can sound like a human, picks up on the immediacy of the issue, giving callers a sense of relief and comfort in their critical moments, adding a more personal touch to customer service. Besides, they can even interact in the caller’s preferred choice of language.
  3. Built for Accuracy: Another issue when dealing with IVRs is that they work well only when there are no external disturbances like background noise or music. They can sometimes not recognize text inputs and end up redirecting the caller to the undesired part of the IVR menu. But DVAs can take in both voice and text inputs, and even filter out the ambient noise to capture the accurate voice response by the customer. 
  4. Built for Capturing Intent: Voice agents are based on powerful spoken language understanding (SLU) algorithms and can identify the semantics of the conversation. They can accurately capture the caller’s sentiment, tone of voice, and speed of the conversation to identify intent. 
  5. Built for Resolution: In emergency situations that require a quick response from customer support, a call hold would reflect poorly on the company’s services. It can even make them lose customers to their competitors. Most IVRs cannot pick up on non-linguistic cues like pauses, gasps, and utterances in between sentences. It is purely designed for text inputs. DVAs are capable of having contextually accurate interactions without relying on a limited stack of keywords, enabling quick query resolution. 
  6. Built for Intelligent Human and Machine Collaboration: IVRs are automated and function independent of human agents. DVAs are capable of end-to-end automation of simplistic calls and pass on complex ones to human agents, involving them only in complex use cases.

 A Deep Dive: AI-powered Digital Voice Agents vs IVRs

Now, let’s look into 7 specific angles where Skit.ai’s purpose-built, industry-specific voice-first technology, Voice AI, makes a tremendous difference to contact centers.  Skit.ai’s voice agents are a better fit than traditional IVRs in enhancing the quality of customer service.

  1. Speed and  Simplicity: Simple and easy-to-understand customer support is a formula for delighting a captive audience. There’s a good chance that the majority of callers may not get past the common obstacles in IVR menus, complex navigation, and confusing terminologies. IVRs can best offer five top-level and three sub-level menu options whereas DVAs immediately attend to calls, keeping it short and simple. 
  2. Quick Resolution with Cost Efficiency:  Apart from resolving customers’ problems, customer service organizations look at cost and call time spent as success metrics. Instead of wasting time, waiting for the right menu option on IVRs, customers’ queries with DVAs are addressed instantly and at a fraction of the cost while also engaging with the callers over voice conversations at scale. 
  3. For Intelligent Customer Service: Today’s customer service is expected to be built intuitively to absolve current issues and anticipate the next course of action. DVAs help make the most of the voice conversations with customers by mimicking human-like conversations and leveraging customer data to make appropriate recommendations, suggest steps or make intelligent call transfers to human agents.
  1. Quick Agent Reach during Emergency: Even the most loyal customers lose patience and abandon calls midway when forced to repeatedly go over the IVR system. For critical use cases that require timely resolution, DVAs work best. They not only hold an immediate voice interaction with the callers but also identify short, conversational utterances, pick up on callers’ intent, and capture customer details for quick call transfers to human agents. 
  1. Making Query Resolution Interactive: Speaking to a live agent immediately is not the magic bullet for customer support success. Augmenting IVR systems or replacing them with Voice AI-driven automation for call back features at customers’ preferred time helps personalize and enhance the call experience making the conversations more empathetic. The rapid scalability and robust integrations of the DVAs help include options to reach customers with interactive emails and voicemails along with call-back options. 
  1. Easy Integration with Customer Experience Systems: Customer service calls can be more proactive and intuitive when integrated with customer relationship management (CRM) platforms and automated call distribution (ACD)  systems. Voice agents have access to caller history, previous purchases, and other customer data based on the caller ID number. It provides enough pre-context to authenticate calls before call handovers to human representatives.

Read in Detail About–Digital Voice Agents: What, Why, and How 

  1. Timely, Useful Insights for Enhanced CX:  DVAs help brands adopt advanced analytics-driven approaches to unlock a treasure trove of insights on call performance as well as define relevant KPIs and areas for improvements in the customer’s journey for cost savings and better CX. IVRs need optimizations to deliver this capability. While DVAs work as productivity enhancers with timely insights that help add incremental value to the brand or business’ customer experience. 

Despite several detractors that customers unanimously agree on, IVR systems remain a staple in customer support. The worldwide growth rate of the IVR market is expected to reach $6.7 billion by 2026.  This growth trajectory can be a blessing to CTOs who chose IVRs for long-term customer service investments, but certainly a nightmare for CMOs against the backdrop of increasing customer calls. Technological innovation and AI-driven upgrades are needed to drive the progression of IVR systems. Until then, Voice AI helps empower businesses to elevate inbound and outbound initiatives for better CX in ways that IVR systems fail to live up to. 

Are you interested in contact center automation with our Digital Voice Agent to elevate customer experience?  Book a demo with one of our experts: www.skit.ai   

 


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