IVRs Conversational Platforms

Evolving IVRs to conversational platforms: The critical leadership issues

Gartner predicts that by 2025, 30% of major enterprises will have selected a single, enterprise wide, conversational platform that is leveraged as a frontend by business applications, both for customer service and to improve employee effectiveness.

One of the main fields that is expected to be affected by the rise of AI-based conversational interactions will be call centers and IVR systems. These systems are famous to be poor in terms of customer satisfaction even from the moment they come to the scene as a tool to help customers and solve their solutions. Since 1970s when we started to see call centers as points of customer interaction, companies invested huge amounts to change the modes, to improve the experiences and to diminish the operational costs. However it is obvious that we are at a turning point where the IVRs will be transformed in a revolutionary way as conversational AI gets more mature and is being experimented in various use cases. In this new environment, enterprise executives should understand and asses all the business, organizational and technical issues to develop an appropriate strategy for the very unique circumstances of their company. In August 2019, Gartner published a report “Evolving IVRs to Conversational Platforms — Critical Leadership Issues” that focuses on critical issues to help leaders making convenient choices. Our blog tries to highlight the important points explained in this report.

No way other than investing in conversational business

Gartner predicts that by 2025, 30% of major enterprises will have selected a single, enterprise wide, conversational platform that is leveraged as a frontend by business applications, both for customer service and to improve employee effectiveness. It continues making the prediction that “Through 2023, the primary reason for failure in IVR-to-conversational-platform migration projects will be lack of adequate leadership and resulting lack of cohesion across the involved groups. Failures include cost overruns and/or the inability to meet service objectives.” As technologies enable better conversational experiences, enterprises prioritize to deploy them for customer facing purposes or as assistant for the use of employees. Therefore, maintaining classical IVR systems and conversational platform as separate structures does not seem to be sensible, cost effective and optimal. On the contrary, these systems needs to be more merged and intertwined. It is easy to say but hard to do. Migration from classical IVR models to conversational platforms and managing the them with a holistic view is not a painless task specifically in terms of leadership and management issues. Obviously, the business and leadership related issues are only a part of the whole spectrum of the issues to be addressed considering the implementation of conversational experiences. Other issues are around organizational, technical, and intent modeling.

Why are the two models, classical IVR Systems and Conversational Platform Solutions, different? 

What is the best formula for successful implementations?

IVRs and conversational platforms are very different from different angles so this creates a complicated and challenging situation for the enterprises. To create a successful customer interaction model enterprises need to have a broader strategic approach assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the both systems. However, it is easy to say but hard to do as enterprises have entirely separated IVR and virtual assistant operations. IVR systems are led by contact center managers while virtual assistants are often initiated by business teams like marketing, digital channels, etc.

What is the best formula for successful implementations?

According to Gartner several points are crucial to led successfully projects that evolve IVRs to conversational platform:

-First, while investing in conversational platform technologies enterprise executives should have a broader approach, taking into consideration multiple potential use cases across the organization involving employee assistants, sales assistants, search assistants or customer support assistants. 

-The c-level support should be sustained and the project should be perceived as a long term investment.

-All options regarding the IVR and conversational platforms should be evaluated such as  migration, replacement, incremental migration, or separate voice and text operations. It is about the business results so there should be business perspective while evaluating these options rather than a technical one. 

-All the customer or employee journeys should be considered to decide which needs to be redesigned, replaced or migrated. For instance, it can be suggested that potentially growing services might be better candidates for migration to new platforms. In addition, new digital businesses might be build on new platforms. 

-Also, the new capabilities that will leverage the service should be taken into consideration such as biometrics, multiple channels like Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, etc.

-The focus and the main goal of the projects should be well-defined. In some cases the main driver is cost reduction, in others it is customer satisfaction. However it might be the combination of several drivers.

-Obviously the key metrics and the method of their measurement should be decided and agreed.

-The disruption to the existing customer operations should be minimized.


Building a self service strategy became a very important part of the overall strategy of an enterprise as the conversational platforms, artificial intelligence technologies and human + AI models matured and offered more efficient and satisfactory experiences for the customers and employees. They really disturbed the classical IVR models that often lack the capability of providing enhanced, satisfactory, fast experiences. However, it is challenging to create a stabilized model that combines the two approaches to obtain ROIs for the self service strategy covering all the possible channels such as IVR, digital, web, voice. 

However, the groups that manage all these channels may have different in terms of culture, motivations and organizations. Moreover, technology operations requiring high tech investments and it is not easy to evaluate all of them that have their own strengths and weaknesses. There is no one right answer but there are many, and different options might be more appropriate within the unique circumstances of each and every enterprise. 

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