What’s Your IVR: Ivy League Or I’ve Got To Be Smarter?


Tried and true veterans of customer service and sales, the interactive voice response (IVR) systems handle billions of calls a year. However, in today’s environment they often remain isolated islands that are disconnected from the digital world reality. They aren’t designed to support and assist today’s digitally-oriented savvy customers who are using the web, mobile web, chat, and phone channels to seamless engage with businesses.

In the digital age, businesses have continued to invest in self-service solutions in hope that customers can take care of themselves. Yet, when a customer struggles with what was perceived as a simple self-service task that has quickly escalated into a complex problem, they will often pick up the phone and land in your IVR system.

The IVR then becomes the “last mile” for customer service and sales. It is bad enough they have endured problems before they landed in the IVR system, but for many companies their IVR is actually their weakest link – no surprise really, as it was probably designed and built years ago before the age of the modern digital customer.

So how can a business turn its IVR into a driver of the company’s digital customer service and sales engine? It’s a tough question to answer, but in a recent white paper, Augmented IVR-Second Life for Interactive Voice Response, Dan Miller of Opus Research discussed how smartphones and other digital devices are breathing new life into the IVR.

Miller says, “In spite of the growing use of text, chat, and websites for support, inbound call volumes continue to grow; and outbound activity, thanks to additional features and functions for IVRs (or their media service-based successors), are finding new life.” And he calls this “The moment of truth for the born-again IVR.”

He states that the IVR’s new role “is to serve as the friendly gatekeeper and triage specialist, joined at the hip with resources that make rapid identification of the caller, automated resolution of his or her problems and intelligent routing of the call possible.” So what constitutes this reborn, augmented IVR that is integral to digital customer engagement? To make self-service more productive for your customers and more effective for you, your IVR must be capable of a few select attributes:


The IVR should predict ‘intent’ and ‘best next action’ in real-time based on the caller’s omnichannel journey, its context and relevant customer data (where omnichannel may span channels, devices, and sessions). This is a key to understanding how best to engage your connected, digital customers.

More Engaging

IVRs should apply one natural language model across channels. They should combine this with prediction, to engage customers in easy, yet aware, and outcome-oriented conversations. By leveraging voice and chat data at scale to evolve natural language models more quickly, you can improve performance and faster time-to-benefit – whilst making natural language a fundamental building block of the omnichannel experience design.

Completely Connected

IVRs can be augmented in several ways: bridging web to IVR, combining voice with rich visual content, offering call back, or even moving to chat while ensuring unified, consistent, and contextual customer engagement across channels and devices. These connected experiences should be designed to be elegant, seamless and completely natural to the customer – so, if they’re on a smartphone, enable the IVR to interact with their smartphone.

More Productive

Create intent-driven experiences that save customers time and increase self-service rates (and customer satisfaction scores). This is achieved by dynamically adapting IVR self-service in real-time with contextually aware experiences based on a more finely-tuned understanding of intent to simplify and improve the experience.

Upgrade and integrate your interactive voice response for a true digital customer interaction experience. Successful customer service and sales is just a matter of knowing who the customer is, what they did on the web or in a mobile app – basically what they tried before calling the customer service number. By gleaning insights from the customer’s activities in other channels, devices, and sessions, the solution deployed predicts in real-time, why the customer is calling and in turn provides a more relevant and personalized IVR experience.

It may even be beneficial to offer customers the option to invoke a visual experience, call-back, or mobile chat session from within the call, thus making IVR integral to digital customer engagement on the ubiquitous mobile devices. By utilising information about your customers’ activities across channels, devices, and sessions, you will understand the customer journey, predict intent, and turn your IVR into a digital engine for improving customer engagement. If you do, then you too may see self-service rates improve by 25% and see call completion rates as high as 90% whilst also significantly reducing customer effort.

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Nick Mitchell is managing director, EMEA, for the intuitive customer experience company [24]7.