The Omnichannel IVR Guru

In one of our internal seminars the other day, Donny Jackson, our Senior VP of Software Development, gave us a kind of point-to-point roadmap of how IVR is part of, and in many ways central to, omni-channel commerce architecture. I thought I’d share the main stops along the way with you.

It begins with intelligent call answering. When available, Caller ID is matched by the IVR to customer records. So right at the outset, customers are saved the hassle of identifying themselves. Once customers authenticate themselves (something that can never be accomplished without their input), the IVR is instantly aware of every piece of information about that customer across the omnichannel. Orders being processed, shipments in transit, payment information, recent calls and case numbers—IVR can access everything a live agent is capable of accessing.

It moves onto intelligent call handling. Putting advanced IVR features together with omnichannel customer knowledge, your IVR can cut huge blocks of inefficient time from the call. Instead of “for billing or payment press or say 1,” your customers can simply say “I want to change my credit card” or “I want to find out when my order will arrive.” That means a lot fewer handoffs to other voice menus, something that will make every customer happy.

It heads over to intelligent customer interaction. With so much relevant information available to the IVR, it doesn’t have to force the customer to enter number after number (or repeat numbers to another menu or to a live agent). Callers can easily accomplish most routine call intents entirely through the omnichannel IVR with no live agent intervention needed. That encompasses account management, payments, orders and returns, status queries, and more. Your live agents are freed up to handle complaints and to solve complex problems.

I mentioned advanced technologies a moment ago. That’s going to explode in its importance, and it’s going to happen very quickly. All of the features of advanced IVR systems will become even more valuable within the omnichannel. That includes Visual IVR, expanded vocabularies, multiple language recognition, natural speech engines, predictive intents and more.

One other thing: what happens when a call gets dropped? No, let me ask a better question, an omnichannel question. What happens if any interaction is cancelled mid-process? That could be an interaction on a tablet, telephone, online or in-store. Since the IVR has access to all the relevant information about the customer, it picks up the process where it was interrupted, without forcing the customer to repeat a thing, no matter where the interruption occurred.

What Donny said at the end of his talk was most important, and it dovetails with what I talk about in the Omnichannel Blog. I’ll just quote his last slide:

It’s important to make people realize that omnichannel IVR is not a new technology, it’s a new way to use the IVR technologies most people already have.

I really want to emphasize that. Making your IVR part of your omnichannel doesn’t mean you’ve got to replace your IVR. Just the opposite. You don’t get rid of it—you just integrate it.