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What if customers turn out to really like conversational IVR?

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When US industry group Interactions sampled some 1,300 customers online earlier this year, only 3% said they actually liked using IVR services when contacting organisations.

Sabio Group – Voice Search

This contrasts dramatically with customer satisfaction numbers for popular intelligent assistants, where an Experts Exchange survey reported satisfaction levels of 82%, 68% and 60% for Siri, Google Now and Cortana respectively.

With 67% of smartphone owners now using their voice assistants regularly – a ratio that has doubled in the last three years – it’s clear that people are happy talking to machines, it’s just clunky traditional IVRs that they don’t like! And when asked why they liked AI-enabled voice assistants so much, they said it was convenient, offered faster results and – according to the 2016 Kleiner Perkins Internet Trends report – a third of respondents also reported they felt that speech technology had improved significantly.

With speech recognition continuing to improve, voice control is on its way to becoming ubiquitous. It’s this escalation that is driving the intelligent assistant providers – such as Apple, Google, Microsoft and Amazon – to find ways to weave their assistants into as many devices and services as possible. According to Amazon more than 10,000 developers have already registered to embed Alexa Voice Services – the voice engine that power’s the company’s Echo device – into their products and services.

Nuance surveys have already demonstrated that there’s strong customer demand for more conversational IVR approaches that feature both speech and natural language understanding. 73% of customers surveyed by the company agreed that interacting with an automated system that they could converse with would significantly improve their experience. So it’s no wonder that organisations are now seriously investigating AI-powered assistants as part of the self-service experience.

With this kind of enthusiasm it’s hardly surprising that organisations are looking at how they can deploy conversational voice as an integral part of their omnichannel Digital Front Door strategy. Technologies such as intelligent virtual assistants and chatbots have a valuable role to play in terms of shaping conversational engagement across IVR, web and mobile channels, and will quickly become key to any successful self-service experience. Indeed, as interacting with an automated system continues to become indistinguishable with interacting with a human agent, it’s possible that customers could find that a conversational voice powered IVR is just what they’re looking for after all.

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