The Next-Gen Model for Customer Service: Conversational IVR


Conversational AI is a solution to the challenges that conventional customer service models currently face. It is a new and disruptive model for the customer service industry that promises higher customer satisfaction, lower operational costs and more brand loyalty. In this blog, we aim to explain how conversational IVR transforms customer service.


The challenge of conventional customer service models

Customer service is one of the leading sectors that is highly disrupted by digitization. Conventional customer service models based on call centers with long wait times and confusing and frustrating IVR systems do not fulfill the expectations of today’s digital customers who want to get the response for any query instantly and accurately. These expectations are designed by digital born companies and set at such a high level that all the industries have to follow these digital companies to be aligned with them. 

Today’s customers prefer to solve their issues through digital self-service channels on websites and mobile apps, but when it comes to more complicated problems they prefer to call a customer service to get assistance. In this process, they are frustrated by the queues and IVR menus and try to bypass the IVR and directly reach a live agent. This whole process results in unsatisfied customers, rising operational costs, high inefficiency and an unsustainable service model.

Conversational IVR as a solution to inefficient conventional customer services

Customer service field had to adapt to the rising customer expectations while managing the rising costs. This adaptation means setting a balance between meeting growing customer needs and reducing operational costs. The only way for it is to design a well-structured customer service by understanding the customer expectations very well and using the capabilities of the technology to fulfill them in an efficient way. The crucial points here are to have a holistic view of the customer and to smartly manage the customer service end-to-end taking all the necessary components into consideration. Conversational IVR helps the companies boost customer engagement while reducing operational costs at the same time. It gives the opportunity to offer a consistent, intuitive and conversational IVR experience.

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

Let’s focus on the basic components of an end-to-end intelligent conversational IVR.

Offer a multi-channel / multi-model service 

Today’s customers want to communicate with the companies in a multi-model and multi-channel structure. They want to use voice, chat, apps, web – all modes of interactions should be at the disposal of the customer. Companies from all sectors have to create very well-structured customer service models that are capable of dealing with customer queries whichever channel it comes from such as WhatsApp, live chat or IVR.

Conversational mode of communication empowered with AI technology, namely “Conversational IVR” definitely has to be part of this picture. Companies have to find a way to offer a leveraged experience combining all modes of communication in a seamless way through all possible channels.

Keep the conversation within the IVR, when possible 

Thanks to conversational IVR, customers can state their questions or concerns in plain language, instead of being constrained with the fixed IVR menus, which do not always respond to the exact situation that the customers live in. After letting the customer express the issue in a natural daily language, conversational IVR can ask for more information and offer clarifying questions when necessary. In this model, if the NLP (natural language processing) and speech recognition (SR) technologies are advanced enough and if the customer query is within the predefined scope of the AI training, conversational IVR can understand the customer query with a high accuracy and respond in the appropriate way. The company offers a natural, intuitive experience that is very close to a live agent. In order to increase efficiency, companies should prefer to resolve the issue within the IVR whenever possible. In other words,  automating the calls that are suitable for automation is important to sustain efficiency. In the last couple of years, hyper automation, automating all relevant fields through new technologies in an institution, has been a big trend.

Faster call routing to digital channels or chatbots 

Designing an end-to-end customer service journey requires defining on which points the customer will be transferred to digital self service channels. If the issue is within the predefined cases that require to be deflected to a digital self-service channel such as a web or mobile app, or even an AI-based chatbot, it should be deflected in an intelligent, fast and seamless manner. It might be for filling a digital form, or completing a very basic transaction. This intuitive call steering enables the customer to reach the right place very easily. The important point here is to make it faster by understanding the customer queries accurately and enable the customer to reach what he / she is looking for instantly. As it is still within the automated environment, it decreases the workload of the employees and lets them focus on more complicated issues that require human judgement.

Always keep human in the loop

When it is about AI, humans should always be within the loop to help the customer when needed. Companies should let the customer reach a human when they cannot find what they are looking for while talking to an AI-based system whether it is conversational IVR or a chatbot. This transfer can occur because the customer is getting more angry, or just because the company wants to offer him/her a white glove treatment. The system should allow the company to be as flexible as possible about the business rules of human handover.

In some cases, live agents can intervene proactively, but the rules should be set clearly for such scenarios. In addition, humans can be positioned as an AI trainer and live agents’ responses to customer queries may train the AI system behind the conversational IVR to increase the accuracy of the intent. In this case, the aim is to make the intent to be resolved within the conversational IVR next time, without being handovered to the live agent.

Design the structure of the collaboration between human & AI

The collaboration between human & AI should be defined very clearly considering which queries will be handovered to humans and vice versa. For the cases that conversational IVR cannot satisfy the customer query, it handovers the conversation to the live agent. The live agent deals with the issue, but throughout the conversation, there might be points which are more suitable to be handled with an automated system more efficiently such as capturing the address, setting a password, making a payment, etc. For such cases, the system should allow the bot-to-human transfer as well. Therefore, a two sided interaction between human & AI is an important feature of an advanced conversational IVR system. 

Create seamless and smooth experiences 

Whichever the channel or the mode of interactions is and whatever direction the transfer occurs, companies should always focus on the customer experience putting the customer at the center of everything. Designing the experiences as seamlessly as possible is crucial. By doing this, companies should never forget transparency as well. For example, when a customer is being transferred to a live agent, he/she should know it. It is important to inform the customer about who is helping while transferring him / her smoothly across systems. For the customer, solving an issue easily and quickly will be important.

Empower the live agent with AI in the conversational IVR system

It is discussed that AI does not replace humans but augments it. Companies creating an intelligent conversational IVR system should always keep this in mind. AI is a good tool to empower the human agents besides helping the customers. For live agents managing the information sources is not an easy task, as there are numerous sources from varying channels, like regulations, emails, corporate documents, intranet platforms etc. For a specific customer query, AI can check all the sources in seconds, get the most updated information and provide the most accurate response, and whisper it to the agent. The agent can click the “accept” button if the response is accurate, or edit the response if needed. This is a feature that is possible thanks to AI technologies. It increases the efficiency of the agent 4 times compared to a no whisper model.

Monitor and analyze the conversational IVR System

Talking with the numbers is the first step to take intelligent actions. Tracking the performance of the system based on some predefined metrics enables the companies to understand the pain points and fields of improvement better. Which intents are mostly asked, which intents are ambiguous, how do agents perform, how are the accuracy and coverage rates for the conversational IVR, which intents do need human involvement, which are resolved within the IVR – all these questions should be tracked and analyzed by the company to create actionable insights for both the performance of the IVR and for overall the KPIs of the company. This is only possible if the conversational IVR system provides a dashboard for monitoring and reports that can be customized for the needs of the company.  


All in all, these are the basic components of a conversational IVR that should be taken into consideration by the companies who want to design and execute a successful customer service and make their customers’ lives easier.

A well-structured conversational IVR helps brands boost customer satisfaction, engagement and loyalty while reducing operational costs by decreasing the average call duration, lowering the number of misrouted calls and reducing the need for customers to speak to an agent. This, of course, will affect the bottom line and create a competitive power for the companies. 

CBOT offers an end-to-end conversational IVR tool that covers all the components described above, you can check out CBOT SPEECH to learn more.