Visual IVR: Fad or fashion for the self-service experience?

At the recent SpeechTEK Conference in New York City, a reoccurring topic of discussion was the emergence of visual IVRs. Many leading companies, such as Domino’s Pizza, are beginning to use visual IVRs as a means to create a more effortless and engaging experience with customers. Dena Skrbina shares her thoughts on how this functionality can enhance the caller interaction.

The term “visual IVR” has been used loosely to describe many possible ways of combining the visual display on mobile phones with speech-enabled IVRs (interactive virtual response). A visual IVR can blend native mobile app functionality with an IVR or with HTML5 from SMS triggers while in a call, but there are myriad other possibilities in the market. At the recent SpeechTEK conference in New York City, a panel of experts discussed the different flavors of visual IVR, the merits and roadblocks, and how Visual IVRs might evolve over the coming years. For me, it underscored that that the need for companies to offer fundamentally different IVRs to meet customers’ evolving service expectations is a concept that continues to gain traction.

I had the pleasure of not only attending this discussion at SpeechTEK, but also sitting on the panel. In case you couldn’t be there, here are a few of the takeaways that I noted:

The definition of “visual IVR” is broad and not well understood…yet.

Each of the panelists and many in the audience had a different view of what visual IVR is today, and what it will become. Most generally, I think of visual IVR in terms of transmodality. Transmodality means multiple interaction modes, which are both independent and inter-dependent, emphasizing the modes working in concert, and foregrounding the most efficient modality. So, a self-service IVR can effectively run independent of visual content, but could be made richer and more effective with the addition of a visual component. Visual IVR exists to make the interaction more convenient, effortless, and successful for the caller.

Some view “visual IVR” as a ‘bridge’ to mobile customer service

A growing number of retail and customer service apps now include natural language as a user input modality. Have you checked out Domino’s mobile app, featuring Dom? If you were to close your eyes while conversing with Dom in the video below, you’d swear this was an IVR interaction. As user adoption of natural language increases, the difference between a conversational IVR versus a mobile application that’s voice-enabled continues to blur- especially to the end-user.  The group discussed the importance of using visual IVR as a bridge given the slower-than-hoped-for adoption of mobile customer care apps.

Up to 40% of calls could be from smartphones

According to our Nuance enterprise clients, up to 80% of the calls coming into their self-service IVRs are from mobile phones and we know that nearly half of US adults own smartphones. Depending on your mix, up to 40% of calls coming into your IVR could be from callers on smartphones. Fully utilizing the power of the devices that are in our customers’ hands during a self-service IVR interaction just makes sense.

90% of the information transmitted to the brain is visual

Given that’s the case, it makes sense for us to look at ways to supplement the IVR audio experience with visual material.

People are 85% more likely to buy after watching a video

Because most contact centers are not just cost centers but are also looking to generate revenue, pushing a video to a smartphone, tablet, or even to the caller’s desktop can dramatically increase sales performance.

Companies still struggle with prioritizing IVR enhancements in general

We heard from the audience that it’s increasingly difficult to justify making ANY enhancements to the IVR as spending is focused on growing interactions channels like web, mobile and social.  It’s important to underscore that the phone still handles more customer service than ALL of the other channels combined.  One of the reasons to invest in visual IVR is to make channels, such as your web site, more successful.  For example, if a customer calls because they can’t find a service on your web site (even though it exists), visual IVR could push the specific web page to the caller’s phone, tablet, or even their computer. This has the benefit of meeting the caller’s needs on their terms, encouraging and increasing self-service, and even training the customer to use the web site in a non-offensive way.

It’s becoming evident that IVRs which are conversational and journey/device aware, can decrease caller effort and improve self-service performance. Download the whitepaper below to learn how to create an IVR that your customers will love.

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Dena Skrbina

About Dena Skrbina

This was a contributed post by Dena Skrbina. To see more content like this, visit the Customer experience section of our blog.