Establishing Conversational IVR: The Future is Now Here!

# ConversationalAI, #ContentStrategy


Jay Anthony

30 November 20218 min read

Establishing Conversational IVR: The Future is Now Here!


Today technology is becoming invasive, and with the advancement of technology customer expectations are also changing. Enterprises have recognized that customer satisfaction/engagement plays an imperative role in business growth. According to a research, 61% of customers stopped doing business with a brand because of poor customer service experience. Interactive Voice Response (IVR) has been a crucial technology for customer support since years. A survey conducted by IBM showed that enterprises across the globe spend $1.3 trillion on 265 billion customer service calls every year. However, longer waiting times and the repetitive spree of pressing the numbers according to the recorded voice to get to the choice-able menu frustrates the consumers on a greater level.

In most cases, with traditional IVR, a customer tends to drop their call before reaching the desirable menu or the customer support executive. The necessity for intelligent management of increasing calls and lowering human dependency has ignited AI's application in the IVR system in the past few years. It became essential to spare the burden of overwork from the agents by an intelligent solution, entering the concept of Conversational IVR.

This article will provide a comprehensive overview of conversational IVR, its benefits, and an insight into how enterprises are implementing this technology. 

Key Takeaways from this Article

How conversational IVR is overcoming limitations of the traditional IVR

How enterprises are implementing conversational IVR

Possible obstacles during implementation of conversational IVR

Identifying the appropriate metrics to measure success 

What is Conversational IVR?

What is Conversational IVR?

It's a voice-driven customer self-service that uses NLU (Natural Language Understanding) to grasp the context and content of speech.

Conversational IVR is Overcoming the Limitations of Traditional IVR

Conversational IVR is Overcoming the Limitations of Traditional IVR

Even today, 39% of the people consider phone calls to the contact center as the best option to make initial contact for any support. While in the case of traditional IVR, a pre-recorded voice rattles off multiple interlinked options causing prolonged waiting time, this leads to call drops. This conventional system's major drawback is that one needs to start from the beginning for any miss-pressed button in between, resulting in user frustration. Conversational IVR helps us overcome all these in various ways.

Handling a more comprehensive range of tasks: With minimal human intervention, conversational IVR works more efficiently in less time than the traditional IVR. It automatically transfers the call to the respective customer care executive when unable to understand a query, resulting in less confusion and waiting time. It can also provide advice on the brand's services and products.

Smarter with time: A conversational IVR routes the unknown query to the concerned person and records the question and its response. It doesn't need the routing for the same query from next time onwards and can resolve it automatically. Thus, the data training algorithm behind it makes the IVR smarter with time.

Smart routing: With traditional IVR systems, it's a headache and time-consuming to reach the desired department/contact person. Most of the time, call drop happens due to prolonged waiting time. Automation in IVR resolves this problem quickly. The algorithm can examine and comprehend the flow of statements and thus allocate the right person to the customer after detecting the intention of customers. Data shows that call routing accuracy has been increased by 50% with the help of conversational IVR.

Cost effective: Conversational IVR decreases the Average Handling Time (AHT) and is less expensive than the traditional options available, and it also maximizes agent productivity.

Enterprises Leveraging Conversational IVR Across the Globe

Enterprises Leveraging Conversational IVR Across the Globe

Giant enterprises are changing their traditional IVR into an automated one, and the data proves its benefits readily. 

Here are a few examples of conversational AI implementations:

FedEx has humanized its IVR System: Realizing the lag in the IVR system, FedEx decided to implement conversational IVR for their customer support. The aim was to make a seamless process for the consumers and bring multiple North American contact centers together on a platform. The results were brilliant. The humanized system seamlessly now guides the callers through scheduling a pickup, tracking packages, getting rates, and even ordering supplies, and that too without a support agent's help. It increases the automation by 6%; percentage of per day eliminated calls to live agents: 11000; and two languages (English & Canadian French) are supported.

QNB Finansbank boosted Customer Satisfaction: Qatar National Bank Finansbank, which has 525 branches in Turkey, implemented a conversational IVR to improve their overall customer experience. Receiving almost 100k calls per day, the bank faced a vast workload problem for 600 full-time customer support employees with a 3 minutes average of lasting calls. After humanizing the IVR system, the average waiting time decreased by 31%, menu accuracy increased by 92%, abandoned calls fell by 39%, and agent workload decreased by 10%.

Key Point to consider before Implementation ~ Possible Obstacles

Implementation of an idea takes a lot of reality checks and constraint considerations. Transforming the traditional IVR system into an AI one also has its fair share of challenges. Any enterprise should consider all the obstacles before changing an entire system.

Humanized IVR algorithms mainly depend on the training data, but the data tends to get obsolete after a particular time or in specific cases. Voices could be of the same language but with different accents and styles, and in that case, matching voice every time with existing data or recording new data for training purposes could be challenging. In such cases, the system should be designed in such a way that it can work with both, text and voice inputs. 

Identifying Appropriate Metrics to Measure Success

Identifying Appropriate Metrics to Measure Success

It's essential to track data on different metrics to measure the improvement of the conversational IVR and compare it periodically with the traditional system data before transforming a system altogether. 

Here are a few metric to look into:

Average Handling Time (AHT): The average duration of a call from the beginning to completion, including the IVR navigation, wait time, and agent interaction. It can indicate IVR issues and agent performance and is an essential parameter for analyzing the system.

Call Abandon Rate: It is the percentage of inbound calls abandoned by customers before reaching a support agent. A high call abandonment rate is an indicator of unhappy customers.

Call Containment Rate: It's a measure of the self-service facility by the IVR. It is the percentage of inbound calls that are taken care of by the IVR. A poor call containment rate describes a poorly configured IVR.

"Zero Out" Rate: It means bypassing the IVR and contacting an agent directly due to prolonged wait time or frustration by layered options. It's a key indicator of poor IVR performance.

So, it's critical to measure all the metrics to understand the loopholes, be it in the IVR configuration or in the training of agents to enhance the business performance.

Final Words

Undoubtedly, the future is all about voice interactions and automated technology, and the contact centers are no exception. According to a research, 66% of customers try to use self-service in customer support calls. So, being the crucial part of any business, contact centers should focus more on automated conversational technology to improve productivity, efficiency, and customer satisfaction. 


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Jay Anthony

Marketing Head | TECHVED Consulting India Pvt. Ltd.

He led efforts to develop a fully integrated marketing communications plan and growing team. He is responsible for successful corporate re-brand and update of all branded assets.

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