IVR Trends to Watch in 2020 and Beyond | Inside CX

IVR, or interactive voice response, has been around for a long time, but these popular solutions have changed a lot in recent years. In fact, current IVR trends lead these solutions to be more like intelligent digital assistants today, rather than simple phone trees of years past.


May 01, 2020

IVR, or interactive voice response, has been around for a long time, but these popular solutions have changed a lot in recent years. In fact, current IVR trends lead these solutions to be more like intelligent digital assistants today, rather than simple phone trees of years past.

As technology continues to evolve, it’s important to consider ongoing IVR trends in the industry and try to predict what’s coming in the years ahead.

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Current IVR Trends: An Ongoing Evolution

According to Forrester, about 79 percent of customers would rather self-serve than use human-assisted support channels. Self-service is available now on chatbots, on websites, via SMS messaging and more. But despite those options, the majority of consumers still reach out via the voice channel.

Demand for voice service remains steady, technology caused something of a renaissance in the IVR industry in the last few years based on advances in artificial intelligence, machine learning and accessibility to large amounts of data. Modern IVRs became more conversational, personalized and strictly focused on customer success.

These new technologies will continue to drive change for IVR systems in 2020 and beyond. Below are some of the top trends to consider.

1. Modularized IVR Applications

A modular IVR helps businesses get the most from their development process, be it for artificial intelligence applications or otherwise. Instead of creating a linear application flow, modularized applications allow developers to reuse snippets of code across channels, including SMS and voice self-service interactions.

Then as you progress in your evolution of your AI or other technology, you simply plug in specific components to accomplish new tasks. For example, you might plug in a bot that takes credit card payments and changes prompts based on what the customer said, while another piece of the IVR application can still be written in a traditional linear manner.

Think of it like Legos for business. This flexibility really changes the way that humans interact with IVRs.

2. Increased Adoption of Conversational IVR

Several IVR trends expand or iterate on technology that is already in place. This includes increased use of conversational IVR design. Consumer expectations changed while talking to digital assistants like Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant. Over the last four or five years, consumers have fully adapted to speaking naturally to automated systems. Now IVR interactions require designs with that expectation in mind.

But not only should your IVR or self-service assistant be conversational, it should reflect your brand. The best way to achieve both these goals is to give it a persona of its own. When humans interact with automated systems, they instinctively assign some personality traits to it anyway, much like talking to a new person for the first time. So build your persona during the user interface design process so the assistant projects the image you want to convey.

This persona becomes a part of the business, just like a phone number or URL. It becomes the voice of the brand. That creates a more personal relationship between consumer and company. But it also brings a sense of security as consumers hear a voice they recognize. Now they know it really is that brand calling instead of a fraudulent call.

3. Use of Predictive Intent

Customer success, or the ability to successfully perform a transaction in the least stressful manner, should be the ultimate goal of an IVR. Predictive intent can contribute immensely to this goal.

Most businesses have masses of customer data available for quick access in a logical manner. So when someone contacts you, you should know their history and at least have an idea about why they’re calling. It’s the concept of know-me-as-a-customer.

When a customer calls, they expect you to know what happened in their previous interactions. Maybe the customer received an error message on your website. Or maybe they just made a payment. Some event helps the IVR logically deduce why the person called. Then the IVR provides a personalized, unique experience for that point in time in the customer journey. Expansion of predictive intent is critical within the IVR world.

4. Reducing Customer Effort

There are always transaction types that are hard to automate within an IVR. Like trying to capture someone’s email address. Email addresses are totally unbounded. In other words, they could use any combination of letters or numbers. There’s no way for the IVR, through any sort of grammar, to accurately guess an unusual email address.

New IVR trends address these types of requests. Nearly everyone walks around with a smartphone in their pocket, and an IVR can leverage that tool beyond just its phone capability. During a transaction that’s difficult to complete as a purely voice interaction, IVRs can now push web links, maps, calendars, forms and more.

This is what we call Visual Voice, and it allows users to submit open-ended data or select dates on a schedule for an appointment while the IVR is still on the line and able to provide either instructions or follow-up. This allows the self-service capability to be more complete and able to perform actions that previously went to a human being.

5. Omni-channel Engagement

With so many individuals walking around with mobile devices – and in some cases, two or more devices – being able to leverage mobile-only engagement features is critically important. For IVR trends, that includes texting, or SMS.

Using SMS for follow-up confirmations helps reduce unnecessary calls. So for example, many consumers call to make a payment within an IVR system. But sometimes as soon as a few minutes later, they call back to make sure that payment actually went through.

People feel anxiety about money and making sure things are paid on time. If you tell someone, “Hey, you made a payment. Would you like me to send you a text message confirming this payment?” In a few minutes, the customer receives an SMS message. Not only do they have something in writing, they also have confidence this is being processed through more than one system, which then reduces that callback and gives them a lot more faith that it happened.

That same kind of confirmation can be leveraged with appointments, for instance. So if someone makes an appointment, you send an appointment confirmation to them. But you can also enable a future contact, like the day before the appointment, with a reminder and the ability to cancel or reschedule. So you avoid unnecessary truck rolls or staffing an office to handle a canceled appointment.

How to Keep Up with IVR Trends

IVR trends continue to change. IVR managers can follow the trends, work on strategies, put plans in place and make decisions on what they want to implement. But it’s a lot to keep up with, and teams need specific skills and expertise to deploy some of these solutions.

So working with an expert, like Intrado, who can help manage the whole solution for you may be a smart consideration. These companies may leverage their economies of scale and reuse code that’s already been developed for similar clients. Learning from someone else’s experience is certainly a great advantage.

Plus, speed to market is drastically decreased when you deploy an expertly crafted solution that’s already gone through development and testing. Here at Intrado, we’d love to share the information and insights we’ve gathered from experience working across industries with many different brands. Give us a call at 800-841-9000 or visit us online at www.intrado.com/Customer-Experience.

You may think you know IVR, but a lot has changed. Keeping up with IVR trends is critically important to keep your customer experience from becoming outdated and forgettable.

Next: Visual Voice: Bridging the Customer Service Gap between IVR and Agent

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