AI Apocalypse – When IVRs Rule the Contact Center

Blockbuster sci fi films like 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Terminator, The Matrix and countless others thrilled audiences with futuristic technology that seemed so far away. But is fiction becoming reality? Recent discussion among some of the best technological and scientific minds around—people like Bill Gates and Stephen Hawking—paints an apocalyptic picture of machines becoming highly intelligent, redesigning themselves, and trying to take control of the planet.

So I started to think: how would that be applied to IVR? What would the IVR Monster (you know, like HAL 9000) be like—and the more I thought about it, the more the argument against intelligent IVR broke down completely. I’ll tell you why in a minute, but first, here’s the sort of doomsday scenario I painted for my malevolent IVR (which I call “Dummo”).

  • Dummo doesn’t answer the phone.
  • If Dummo does answer the phone, it won’t recognize the caller.
  • If Dummo does recognize the caller, it won’t know anything about her.
  • If Dummo does know something about her, it ignores it.
  • If Dummo doesn’t ignore it, it drops the call before the caller completes her call intent.
  • If Dummo doesn’t drop the call, it presents lots of irrelevant options.
  • And whatever you want to do, Dummo says, like his namesake, “I’m sorry Robb, I’m afraid I can’t do that.”

You get the point.

If malevolent IVRs ruled the call center, they would act like, well, like most IVRs behave today.

That’s why the doomsday argument implodes.

Intelligence doesn’t create a call center monster. It tames it.

Here’s how.

With a Smart IVR system, information that can be known, is known. That includes recognizing who the caller is from their Caller ID instead of making them enter their number—and reenter it as they move through the menu trees.

A Smart IVR (especially when it’s integrated into an Omnichannel infrastructure) knows about the caller. That includes basic account information, customer profile, and any recent activity (which could be a purchase, a support call, loading something in an online shopping cart, or anything else).

Dropped calls happen. It’s what happens after that makes the Smart IVR so useful. Some will automatically call you back—on the number you called in on and on other numbers it has in its account record. Others will recognize you when you call back and automatically take you to the point where the connection dropped.

A Smart IVR will present only the choices that are relevant to you—based on your past and current activity. If you just paid your monthly bill, it won’t offer you that option from its main menu. If you have a pending order, it will offer you the option to track it early in the option list.

I’m just scratching the surface of what a Smart IVR can do. (And of course you can learn all about it here.) But I hope I’ve made the point that far from being the machine that ate Milwaukee, a Smart IVR system creates a very powerful way to increase customer satisfaction.

Which I find highly logical, Captain.