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Interactive Voice Response vs. Artificial Intelligence

Mandee Thomas
Jul 9, 2019 8:04:00 AM

Calling into a business was once a pretty straightforward process—assuming you called during business hours—you would either be answered by an employee of the establishment or put on hold. Now, there are a seemingly infinite number of possibilities for what could happen when you pick up your phone and reach out to a company.

Interactive Voice Response and Artificial Intelligence are two prominent technologies taking the place of traditional receptionists, so let’s take a look at the difference between the two.

Interactive Voice Response (IVR)

Interactive Voice Response (IVR) is an automated telephone technology that makes it possible for callers to interact with a company’s system through speech recognition or their phone’s keypad. IVR systems can handle large call volumes and can be programed to reply with dynamically generated responses or pre-recorded audio.

Applications for IVR include:

  • Business call routing
  • Payment collection
  • Call center forwarding
  • Customer satisfaction polls
  • Emergency information

Advantages of IVR Over Traditional Receptionists

There are quite a few ways that IVR can aid a business in creating a better customer service experience.

Getting it Right, Every Time

Utilizing IVR technology means that the customer is responsible for choosing which departments/services they are interested in, and leaves a lot less room for error compared to a traditional receptionist. This saves both the company and the customer valuable time, and ensures that they find exactly what they are looking for.

Enhancing the Company Image

Companies that have an IVR system in place appear more organized and reputable in the eyes of a customer. Even if your business is a fairly small one, you can perpetuate a professional image by implementing IVR.

Saving Time and Money

Phone calls are still a big part of the sales and customer relations process for a lot of companies. By having an IVR system in place, businesses can save money on labor (having a receptionist), while still meeting the calling needs of their clients. This is especially beneficial because IVR can handle calls 24 hours a day.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology exists to incorporate human knowledge into machines by teaching them how to accomplish tasks based on rules and algorithms.

And while smartphones and voice assistants may be the first things that come to mind when thinking about day-to-day applications of AI, the technology is also finding a space in the realm of call routing. By utilizing speech recognition to transcribe and interpret (or even predict) a customer’s vocal responses, AI can process requests with marked efficiency.

The Difference Between IVR and AI

Traditional IVR and call routing through AI are quite a bit different.

IVR, while useful in many applications, is a static sequence where any interactions a caller might make have to be anticipated and pre-programed. Depending on the number of different reasons a customer might have for calling in, IVR systems may see people pressing zero in order to talk to a human being more often than not.

AI technology would help to eliminate the need for anyone calling in to ever have to speak with a live agent. A well-established AI system would be able to anticipate a customer's needs based on previous interaction and speech recognition in order to get them the right information, or to the right place, as efficiently as possible.

Know Your Audience

While AI seems to be the way of the future, it’s important to recognize the needs of your particular customer base. If the reasons for someone to call into your business are fairly standard and predictable, then a low-cost IVR solution may be just what you need. Or, if you have a customer base that might be hindered from using an AI system (possibly due to speaking different languages, not having the capacity to answer questions out loud coherently, etc.), then that is something to consider as well.

If you’re looking for a more natural way for your customers to interact with your calling system, AI can add significant value to your customer service experience. While it may have a higher price tag initially, AI technology has the potential to save both companies and customers time though a higher level of efficiency.

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