November 2, 2020

Benefits of Conversational IVR Programming

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Inbound call volume has surged to unprecedented levels since the onset of the pandemic, and conversational IVR programming is an invaluable tool to help manage it. Combining interactive voice response with intelligent virtual agents can make a measurable difference in the heavy load customer service agents are expected to carry.

Thanks to creative applications of artificial intelligence and machine learning, IVRs can now gather information more accurately, predict customers’ needs, and save valuable time.

What is conversational IVR?

Conversational IVR is a voice-driven self-service solution that relies on natural language processing (NLP) to resolve queries. 

Powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning, it allows customers to interact with a phone system naturally, the way they would in a real conversation, rather than acting as if they’re talking to a machine. In a conversational IVR interaction, a customer could use the phrase “my bill has a mistake,” rather than relying on one-word phrases like “billing” (or the desperate “speak to agent!”).

In a conversational IVR phone system, customers lead the direction of the call based on their voice inputs rather than choosing from a list of static menu items. For example, instead of only offering the option to press one for billing or two for technical support, a conversational IVR program’s AI capabilities can recommend a specific, closely matching option based on the exact phrases the customer used. Thanks to machine learning, the system gets more and more accurate over time. 

Forcing customers to box themselves into a set of predetermined menu options can lead to frustration, and often extends the call duration as customers are forced to listen through multiple sets of prompts looking for the right choice. Conversational IVR, on the other hand, makes for quicker, more seamless interactions that feel like talking to an actual, helpful human being.

Conversational IVR programming versus standard IVR

Standard IVR vs. Conversational IVR

In order to fully understand the capabilities and shortcomings of your IVR systems, it’s important to understand the difference between standard IVR and conversational IVR. Many phone systems offer the ability to interact via voice responses. However, this alone does not make for a conversational IVR system. 

Standard IVR offers speech recognition, but its capabilities are limited to simple ‘yes’ and ‘no’ responses or those options that are pre-programmed into the system. If the caller uses a phrase the system doesn’t expect or recognize, they’re out of luck and will likely be sent in to the call queue to wait to speak with an agent. 

Conversational IVR, on the other hand, can understand both content–the words a caller is saying–and context–the meaning and intent behind the words. It’s the difference between being able to process a one-word input like ‘billing’ and a complex, multi-phrase input like ‘I want to be billed every quarter instead of every month.’

Conversational IVR allows customers to speak in complete sentences, use phrases they’re comfortable with, and even speak in their native language if it’s different from the one used by most agents. Instead of describing their issue in one or two words, which doesn’t offer much context, callers can explain their issue in detail, leading to much more nuanced IVR interactions than the set of canned options offered by standard IVR systems.

Benefits of conversational IVR

Using conversational IVR with intelligent routing can save agents and customers time and frustration because front-end information gathering helps agents better serve customers. 

When customers can tell the IVR exactly what they want and receive the necessary information for resolution before ever having to interact with a human agent, everyone saves time. 

Conversational IVR also gives you the ability to automate routine calls. Instead of answering mundane FAQs or scheduling appointments, human agents can be used where their specific knowledge and experience is needed most.

benefits of conversational IVR

But, I’m not an engineer! 

Conversational IVR and intelligent virtual agents use machine learning and NLP to gather and sort information. But, how do you effectively tell your virtual agents what information to gather? How do you program the IVR workflow if you don’t have engineering knowledge or resources? The task of programming a virtual agent can seem like a daunting one, but it doesn’t have to. 

A no-code IVR software solution can greatly simplify this process. Let’s take a look at what kind of effort contact centers must exert when deploying a virtual agent traditionally.

 Initial setup

Investing time into the initial setup of the virtual agents pays off, literally. Businesses that take care when setting up a virtual agent see a decrease in inbound call volume that must be handled by human agents. IVR software that works with a no-code graphical interface limits the amount of machine learning knowledge necessary during setup to almost none. Businesses can create virtual agents quickly and easily. 

The graphical interface of  IVR software makes developing IVR workflows as easy as dragging and dropping. IVR workflows can be configured and viewed in a way that allows contact centers to get a full grasp of how customers will be approached by virtual agents. 

With NLP and AI, virtual agents can understand and record responses. They can then “learn” from these interactions. Using a graphical interface human agents can review how the IVR workflow is being updated. Using AI-driven insights contact centers can even see where further automation in the customer service process can be applied. 


IVR of the past used a project rather than product-based format when rolling out virtual agents. Every IVR workflow had to be reworked each time a project changed, costing time, energy, and money. 

But now, with no-code conversational IVR, contact centers can reduce maintenance costs and become more agile as their IVR use cases or workflows evolve.

 A product-focused approach creates virtual agents that can be utilized in not just one area of your business but many. It also can save as much as 10-20 seconds of human agent time per call by front-loading the information gathering process. The cost of having to do constant maintenance to fit the changing needs of your business is minimized. 

When the focus of IVR software is on coding rather than configuration, businesses must rely on IT or outside consultants for changes in the system. The graphical drag-and-drop interface of a no-code solution allows contact centers to make changes to the IVR workflow without the help of an outside, tech-savvy source.

High ROI at low TCO

When considering whether or not deploying virtual agents is beneficial to your business your ROI and TCO must be taken into consideration.

ROI stands for return on investment. It’s a metric used to measure the profitability or effectiveness of an investment. If we’re talking about financial ROI, how many dollars did you make (or save) for every dollar that you spent? To calculate ROI, divide the return of an investment by its cost. 

TCO stands for total cost of ownership. It’s a projection that explains the anticipated costs over the life of a product or service. With a good investment, TCO decreases the longer you employ a solution because it continues to produce a return that offsets your initial costs. In an ideal business scenario, ROI is high and TCO is low. 

Deploying virtual agents is:

  • Easy to set up when done in a product vs. project implementation (minimal maintenance)
  • Low cost to maintain
  • Low reliance on outside sources to maintain
  • Time-saving
  • Effective use of human agents (10-20 seconds per call time savings for escalations)

IBM recently estimated that $1.3 trillion is spent on customer service. When you calculate the savings gained from 10-20 seconds per call that equates to millions kept in your coffers.

If you are pursuing a more effective customer service strategy, deploying intelligent virtual agents and conversational IVR programming should be top priorities. No-code virtual agents make this priority well within reach.

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About LiveVox

LiveVox (Nasdaq: LVOX) is a next generation contact center platform that powers more than 14 billion omnichannel interactions a year. By seamlessly unifying blended omnichannel communications, CRM, AI, and WEM capabilities, the Company’s technology delivers exceptional agent and customer experiences, while helping to mitigate compliance risk. With 20 years of cloud experience and expertise, LiveVox’s CCaaS 2.0 platform is at the forefront of cloud contact center innovation. The Company has more than 650 global employees and is headquartered in San Francisco, with offices in Atlanta; Columbus; Denver; St. Louis; Medellin, Colombia; and Bangalore, India. To stay up to date with everything LiveVox, follow us at @LiveVox or visit

To stay up to date with everything LiveVox, follow us at @LiveVox, visit or call one of our specialists at (844) 207-6663.

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