Voice AI: The superior alternative to IVRs
Voice AI beat IVR on customer experience, efficiency, and intelligence
If we go by books and films, you’d think poor communication was the root of most of the world’s ills. Classic literature is littered with examples of things turning tragic because of misunderstandings (think Romeo and Juliet, or Hamlet), and too many movie plots hinge on conflicts that could have been resolved with better communication!
It’s just as damaging in business. Poor communication with customers erodes engagement, loyalty, and trust, while ineffective communication with employees could cost organisations an average of US$62.4 million every year.
One such tool is voice technology, which improves the efficiency and accuracy of your interactions with customers without losing that sought-after human touch.
Not all voice technology is created equal, however. Traditional interactive voice response (IVR) can be limiting and can turn customers off. In fact, research by Vonage found that 51% of callers abandoned a business altogether because their call has been routed to an IVR. This cost the company about US$262 per customer per year.
Voice Assistants powered by AI, on the other hand, can take automated customer interactions to the next level.
Before diving into how AI Voice Assistants can enhance your customer experience, let’s clear up some basic definitions of commonly used terms in this space:
While chatbots and IVR have been helping businesses save time and money through automation, the rise of voice-based, AI-powered customer service is now allowing organisations to do more. This is made possible through natural language processing (NLP), AI’s ability to understand human language in its natural spoken or written state. It’s what makes the technology conversational—users can talk to voice assistants the same way they would talk to another human being, and the assistant would understand and respond accordingly.
There are several subcategories under NLP, including
- Automatic speech recognition—allows computers to turn speech into text
- Natural language understanding—lets machines process the meaning of words
- Natural language generation—turns data into speech that’s as close to natural language as possible
- Sentiment analysis—enables machines to assess whether discussions are positive or negative, and determine which topics have been covered
All these capabilities combine to allow AI Voice Assistants to interact with users in a natural, human-like way. There’s more flexibility compared to chatbots and IVR, and it’s the option that requires the least amount of effort from users.
Although IVR can cut contact centre costs and aid in first-contact issue resolution, there are serious downsides that negatively impact the customer experience.
For one, callers may need to endure longer wait times because IVR systems typically need to run through the entire menu of services before a caller can select an option. The pre-set options may also fail to cover your customers’ real issues, or they could confuse callers if the phrasing is unclear or if the customer is unsure which option best applies to their concern. This system also does not let customers get help for multiple concerns in one go, resulting in longer resolution times and an overall more frustrating experience.
In short, IVR puts the burden of communication on your customers.
In contrast, AI Voice Assistants can vastly improve your customer experience by making it easy for customers to have an actual conversation with you.
AI Voice Assistants can boost efficiency and profits by
- Providing 24/7 support
- Accessing your knowledge database faster and with more precision than a human agent could, resulting in quicker, more accurate issue resolution
- Scaling your customer service systems by allowing for multiple simultaneous calls
- Automating repetitive tasks, such as sending payment reminders to customers
- Reducing operational costs by cutting down on expenses for office space rent, HR, and training and management
- Freeing up your customer support agents’ time for higher-value tasks
Voice technology also imbues these interactions with the kind of human touch that many callers look for but IVR systems sorely lack.
The best AI Voice Assistants will also allow you to tap on data analytics. For instance, some services can automatically record calls and analyse call data, yielding actionable insights into how you could improve your customer experience.
While IVR delivers cost and time optimisations to businesses, its nonintuitive user experience has been shown to turn customers away. Which, if you think about it, is unsurprising: the last thing a confused or irate customer wants to do is interact with a clunky, impersonal interface.
IVR’s optimisations may have significantly advanced the state of customer support in the past few years, but AI Voice Assistants may lead the way into the future of customer service. They are the superior alternative for organisations that want to offer a better customer experience. Not only can they keep your customers satisfied through quality service, they could also help you understand your business better using data analytics.