Types of Customer Support: IVR vs Conversational AI Support

By Rachana Chotia / In Customer Support / May 4, 2021 / 6 Mins read

IVR vs Conversational AI competition is an ongoing debate for many. In this post, we look at their pros and cons and which support method is better for your business.

Conversational AI vs interactive voice response (IVR) customer support is an ongoing debate. Both these innovations have modernised and automated the customer service sector.

Despite the credible success attributed to both, we have to know which of these methods meet the high standards set by customers of the future.

It is not new to pit one technology against another, especially when both are responsible for achieving the same or similar goals.

Interactive voice response technology is telephone-based and has been functioning for a long time. Conversational AI, on the other hand, facilitates virtual exchange and is relatively new.

Suggested Reading: Phone vs Conversational AI Support

These both have several features in common. One of them is their function to transfer calls or chats to the right department. Let us understand the nature of these customer service tools before we compare them. 

IVR Support

IVR support enables the customer to interact with a computer using DTMF (Dual-Tone Multi-Frequency) and voice tones instilled via the keypad. It uses speech recognition or a telephone keypad to help direct customer queries to the ideal department and, in some cases, allow customers to self-serve. 

Pros of IVR Support

IVR can function without breaks

The objective of automated customer service is to empower staff and reduce their load. So, it is no surprise that a machine with zero need for breaks can assist agents during non-business hours.

IVR, like automated chatbots, can run 24/7 throughout the year with no vacations. By directing the queries to the right person, IVR boosts your agent’s productivity and reduces the load on staff. 

IVR is affordable

There is a notion that only large companies can cover the costs of installing an IVR system. It was true when IVR first introduced itself, but today it is a thing of the past.

Because new technology is replacing IVR, its prices have dropped significantly. IVR is cheap enough to function within a home-based business and small companies.

IVR is reliable and familiar

Since IVR is now old technology, there is hardly anything left to explore or modify in it.

People know the extent of IVR support, so they do not have unrealistically high expectations. The familiarity of IVR also makes it easy to implement in any company. 

IVR is more accessible

IVR is more suitable for people who cannot see, read, or do not have an internet connection. It functions on mobile networks. IVR

At present, it is one of the leading aspects in favour of this technology in the Conversational AI vs IVR debate. 

Cons of IVR Support

IVR has long menus

IVR functions on an extensive menu of services to guide customers, and too big a menu is confusing.

This system works well for small companies, where a handful of services are available, but one cannot say the same for large brands. 

Customer engagement

IVR doesn’t really engage with customers. It collects answers from users and, based on these, connects them to an agent. It’s a one-way interaction.

Customer Support

On it’s own, IVR doesn’t answer customers queries. It’s a routing tool to connect them to customer service representatives.

Conversational AI Support

Conversational AI is an artificially intelligent platform that businesses deploy on their websites or as their messaging representatives to solve customer queries.

They help in self-service, empower agents to quickly resolve issues and collect data to improve customer support further.

You may have seen them on messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger and companies’ websites.

They are the perfect tool for customers who prefer to opt for self-service and answer simple questions that don’t need a human agent. For complex questions, it transfers the chat to an online agent.

One of the functions of a conversational AI platform is to ask users a set of questions and connect them to the right department/agent. Hence, they are also known as a modernized version of IVR.

Pros of Conversational AI 

They are cost-effective 

This aspect is why several companies opt for conversational chatbots. They do not need training regularly and can work overtime with no time off.

It reduces the time, money, and effort on finding the right staff and paying them. Thus, chatbots seem like an ideal option for big or rapidly growing companies. 

Even small companies and start-ups consider installing this technology as it saves a lot of money in the long run.

The advantage of installing conversational AI lies in reducing overall staff load and relocating the remaining employees to tackle complex queries, resulting in better service.

Advanced services 

Conversational AI is more than a customer support platform. The conversations with the chatbot can lead to better engagement with customers. They also play a crucial role in forming first impressions, shaping the customer’s dedication to the company.

Chatbots are less prone to error, as self-learning AI algorithms power them. Also, they provide a consistent experience, unlike humans, who have different responses to different customers.

Conversational chatbots can also be programmed to converse in multiple languages. The multilingualism of a single chatbot can increase the consumer base.

Conversational AI can also proactively communicate with customers, helping them out before they seek help for an issue. Chatbots are also available 24/7, which is an added advantage.

Their ability to send updates to customers on a timely basis helps in marketing new products. In brief, well-programmed chatbots can convert queries into marketing opportunities and loyal customers.

Natural language

Conversational AI interacts with users in a natural language, making the engagement human-like.

It uses technology like NLP and NLU to engage customers in conversations. Its AI also ensures that it understands customer’s intent, emotions and sentiment. This makes engagement more personal and human-like.

They help in data collection

Conversational AI has seen rapid advancements related to chatbot security. It can provide knowledge about consumer preferences, behaviour, concerns, and so on.

A conversational AI platform can also sort and highlight common queries so that consumers have an upfront and quick answer. A well-encrypted chatbot can collect and store large data pools, helping develop customer and market research.

Cons of Conversational AI 

High expectations of consumers

The masses expect artificial intelligence to develop so that it resembles the world in sci-fi movies. The AI technology depicted in media is scarily similar to humans (or more advanced, in some cases), but such expectations seem far-fetched and unrealistic.

Conversational AI is human-like and has a personality, but it can not replace humans. It’s best used to empower human agents.

Customer’s high expectations can cause frustration when they remain unmet, declining the overall quality of customer service.

To have a proper human-like conversation, the AI needs to know various details about the customer, which people are hesitant to give to a machine. It is crucial to resolve the chatbot security issues before encouraging people to divulge sensitive information about themselves.

The difference between IVR and Conversational AI

The debate about IVR vs Conversational AI has a lot to do with the way people perceive these technologies.

Although better than conversational AI in terms of accessibility and affordability, IVR is thought of as old-fashioned. Companies using chatbots make an impression of being high-tech and modern. Besides, the familiarity of IVR frustrates customers because there is nothing to improve, while the excitement surrounding chatbots leaves people wanting more. 

Accessibility

IVR is available offline. This is a good customer support method if your business operates in regions where the network isn’t strong, or the Internet isn’t easily available.

Conversational AI, on the other hand, needs the Internet. However, as compared to IVR, it can be implemented on multiple channels like website, mobile, messaging apps and social media platforms.

Suggested reading: Email vs Conversational AI

Community sentiment

IVR is dreaded. It’s slow and irritating. Most of the time, it connects the user to a call centre, and the phone goes unanswered. This is after answering multiple questions to get through to a live agent.

Conversational AI, as compared to IVR, is modern technology. It has more success in engaging customers actively, and people are more thrilled to use it.

Engagement

IVR is generally a one-sided conversation where you are talking or typing while interacting with an automated systems. If you are shouting, it falls on deaf ear. It can also mishear your voice, in case you are using a voice based IVR.

Conversational AI is a two-way interaction with the customer. It uses sentiment analysis and can be trained to connect the user to a human agent as soon as it recognises the user is frustrated or angry.

Use Cases

IVR is almost exclusively used to connect customers to the right department.

A Conversational AI platform is a one-stop solution to support customers. It bundles a company’s help page, live chat and IVR in one. In addition to this, it also helps in proactively communicating with customers.

The winner in IVR vs conversational AI debate

It’s early to select a winner in Conversational AI vs IVR contest because there is room for innovation for both.

Chatbots are more flexible because they serve functions other than answering queries. IVR cannot conduct sentiment analysis, send newsletters, or study customer data.

At the end of the day, businesses need to figure out what their customers want. Understanding the customer’s preference and improving customer support on those channels is the way forward for a better customer experience.

Verloop.io is a leading conversational AI platform that helps companies deliver delightful experiences to their customers. We have trained the AI to under multiple intents and on different industry’s use cases. Our conversational AI platform also allows customers to communicate using voice messages and has one of the best routing systems.

If this sounds interesting, let’s talk. We can implement a conversational AI platform on your website, mobile, WhatsApp or Facebook pages.

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Rachana Chotia

Content and Marketing, Verloop.io

Here to write about all things Customer Support Automation. If I’m not writing, I’m either reading or planning a trip.