November 29, 2012
Intelligent Virtual Assistants May Make IVR Technology Obsolete
By Tracey E. Schelmetic
While many companies believe interactive voice response (IVR) technology is a necessary evil (after all, we’re pretty sure that customers don’t like using them), the truth is that if it’s a bad IVR, it’s not a necessary evil…it’s just plain evil.
Studies bear this out. New York University recently conducted a study that found that 83 percent of customers will stop giving business to companies with bad IVR systems. As if that’s not bad enough, fully 70 percent of customers will share their bad IVR experiences with friends and family and will use social media networks to voice their frustrations, sharing their lousy IVR story with a few hundred or thousand friends.
While we suffered the IVR once upon a time – it allowed us to check our balances or perform other simple tasks when the call center was closed – the world has changed, and so have our expectations.
Today's customers expect efficient, consistent, personalized services across all service channels -- something that IVRs simply were not designed to achieve. So what’s the alternative? Intelligent Virtual Assistants (IVAs), say some, are the next wave. They are smarter, more intuitive and are designed with the customer in mind. Next IT is one such company that builds these intelligent virtual assistants.
"Companies are finding that delivering a richer, more robust experience on their Web sites and mobile applications results in higher conversion and engagement rates," said Fred Brown, CEO of Next IT. "Today's competitive brands know that owning the customer experience will put them on top, every time. That means bucking traditional self-service by offering a technology that consumers prefer."
What consumers prefer is a speech-technology driven virtual assistant that can “listen” to the customer and determine his or her needs. These virtual assistants can act as brand advocates, are user-driven, conversational, available across multiple channels and don't force users through a pre-determined menu, unlike the IVR.
Far from being a necessary evil, the Intelligent Virtual Assistant can actually boost both customer satisfaction and revenue for a company, becoming its first customer-engagement point on a company’s toll-free number, website or mobile platform. They can also offload traffic from a company’s call center – something IVRs were promised to do but never really achieved – further reducing a company’s operation’s costs.
Perhaps you can find another use for your in-house IVR. A doorstop, perhaps, or a spare seat in the conference room?
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Edited by Brooke Neuman