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What is a Smart IVR and why do we care?

October 27, 2023


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Interactive Voice Response Systems (IVRs) have been around a long time. They are sometimes helpful, and sometimes frustrating. Early attempts, and even some current attempts, to make them smarter haven't always gone well. (Has anyone else shouted at the phone because the speech recognition technology couldn't get it right? Or repeatedly stabbed the zero key to try to get out of the IVR? No? Just us?)

The good news is that the technology has gotten significantly better. While there will always be times when a live representative is needed, common issues can be resolved faster with the aid of smart IVRs.

So, what makes an IVR smart? A smart IVR may include any of the following:

  • Natural Language Processing (NLP)
  • Natural Language Generation (NLG)
  • Phone number recognition
  • Predictive call handling - particularly useful if someone calls in within an area experiencing an outage

Key benefits include:

  • Improve customer experience (when done right)
  • Reduced wait times
  • Increased efficiency
  • Reduced costs

Many utilities are already using Smart IVRs for bill pay. It is less common to find them used for outages. We find that over 90% of callers that are greeted with a message about the outage and given the option to receive a link with updates choose to receive the link. That same link can give the customer the option to upload photos and notes, which can help crews understand on-scene conditions before the arrive. This can save call takers from an inundation of calls about the same thing and callers from wait times, while giving crews more useful information.

Get a more in depth look at the features, benefits, and uses of Smart IVRs for utilities in this tip sheet.

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