Reason #1 of 5 to use conversational speech: Today’s consumers expect it

While more and more consumers are adopting conversational speech to interact with systems and devices, too many IVRs are stuck in the past. With 51% of consumers preferring the phone over other customer service channels, adding conversational speech to your IVR simply makes business sense. In the first of a five-part blog series, Dena Skrbina offers tips for increasing consumer expectations for conversational speech including how natural language usage can help your IVR deliver a better caller experience and reduce contact center costs.
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In recent years, there’s been a major shift in consumer adoption of speech recognition technology for interacting with systems and devices. Today, the majority of consumers (83%) prefer having the option of a conversation with their personal assistants and apps, and an overwhelming majority says that a positive experience with a company’s mobile app will make them more likely to continue doing business with the company. This exposure continues to expand as conversational speech technology is integrated into tablets, TVs, cars, and other consumer products to make our lives easier, more efficient, and more connected than ever before.

Unfortunately, even as consumers increasingly embrace conversational speech interfaces, too many interactive voice response systems (IVRs) have failed to keep pace. Given that the phone is still the most preferred and impactful customer service channel, this just doesn’t make good business sense. When customers call your company, chances are they’ve already attempted to find what they need on your website. Plus, they’re likely to be calling from their mobile phones, which suggests they’re on the go or multi-tasking. These factors make delivery of fast, effortless service all the more important. So imagine a caller’s reaction when your IVR presents a complex menu maze like this one:

Clearly this type of interface doesn’t make it easy for a mobile, multi-tasking consumer to get service quickly and efficiently. All it does is incite frustration and make a bad impression. Fortunately, conversational speech changes all that. When a business adds natural language understanding (NLU) to its IVR, callers can describe their request in their own words, rather than trying to map their specific need to a fixed set of menu choices. NLU automatically determines intent based on the spoken input and routes the caller to the right agent or self-service task—often in a single step. Listen to the difference:

The benefits of making your IVR conversational can add up quickly. Nuance usability studies show that with each IVR menu tier you remove, self-service potential increases by more than 3%.  That means that conversational speech not only improves the customer experience, but it increases self-service automation rates for bottom-line savings. Talk about a win-win!

Check back next week to learn the next reason for using conversational speech in phone-based customer service.

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Dena Skrbina

About Dena Skrbina

Dena Skrbina is Solutions Marketing Director for the Nuance OnDemand Speech/IVR and Multi-Channel Virtual Assistant Platform. Dena is passionate about IVR and has spent her career focused on contact center solutions with a single goal: to improve the customer experience. Her attraction to this decades-old technology is simply this; consumers don’t like IVR. Or, to clarify, they don’t like *bad* IVR. Having spent her 25-year career designing, programming, and marketing innovative contact center apps for some of the world's leading companies, she is dedicated to ensuring customers have a positive experience with IVR. Previous to Nuance, Dena held positions at BeVocal, Tellme Networks, Edify, Aspect Communications, and VMX Inc. She received her B.S. in Computer Science from National University. Dena programmed her first IVR in 1989 and has never looked back.