Why the IVR is still king

Despite being a long-established component of the modern hotline, businesses around the world are reliant on IVRs for good reason.

Interactive Voice Responses (IVR) are not a new feature in the current contact center solutions. But even with modern AI and bot technologies, IVRs still rule in many contact centers – for their ability to adapt rapidly and empower the team leaders.

‘Press 1 for products, press 2 for claims…’ – it may come as a surprise that IVRs are still used in almost any hotline and that new technologies haven’t entered the market and dominated. While artificial intelligence and machine learning can, in theory, work out how to deal with customer calls in a more efficient way, Philipp Beck, CEO at Luware, explains why there’s a very good reason why the IVR is still king.

“IVRs work without data and they don’t require a month-long project setup.” Philipp Beck, Luware CEO

Situations can be unpredictable

Black Friday and Christmas can be foreseen – businesses can prepare their contact center accordingly, ramp up personnel or adapt announcements ahead of time. Many situations, however, are unpredictable: A heavy hailstorm leading to a lot of insurance claims, the outage of an online shop or IT system, or the extreme example of the coronavirus pandemic that led to customer uncertainty.

Sudden high call volumes are always a challenge in the contact center, making it almost impossible to plan the workforce ahead of time. With the right set up and management solutions, contact centers can divert and deal with large call volumes in any situation, react to recent events and deliver great customer experiences.

An agile way to adapt to changes

“Our experience has shown that bots require large amounts of data to learn from and a lot of employees to manage them. Only few enterprises have this kind of data and the personnel to set up, manage and utilize bots,” points out Philipp. He adds: “IVRs work without data and they don’t require a month-long project setup or IT specialists. They can be set up and changed within minutes by business departments.”

With a smart IVR, businesses can adapt announcements to inform customers about current issues, reshuffle input menus and prioritize the hotline for the current issue and thus reduce waiting times, improve efficiency, and boost customer satisfaction.

Furthermore, team leaders can add more employees whenever needed. Philipp points out: “This is one of the key benefit of using Microsoft Teams for customer service: With Teams as the overall communication platform within a company, additional users can easily be added to the service lines and help answering customer calls in peak times. Being familiar with the Teams user interface, they require minimal training and they can work from anywhere.”

Self-service is paramount

To adapt to situations that arise unpredictably, businesses must be able to change their IVRs quickly. In conventional phone contact center solutions, this may be the responsibility of an IT professional that configures the service lines. However, changing IVR announcements and menus may not be the IT professionals biggest concern or priority.

“It is key for the business departments – the team leaders – within your organization to have access to and ownership of their IVRs. They must be able to change announcements, menus and manage team members by themselves,” emphasizes Philipp.

It is with this flexibility that businesses can adapt and change to the situation they find themselves, and why IVRs still outperform bots and machine learning in many situations. As Philipp summarizes: “It comes down to flexibility. In a changing world it is important to be able to adapt to the conditions you find your business in and to empower the business departments to gain speed.”