Inbound call volume has surged to unprecedented levels since the onset of the pandemic, and conversational IVR programming is an invaluable tool to help manage it. Combining interactive voice response with intelligent virtual agents can make a measurable difference in the heavy load customer service agents are expected to carry.

What is conversational IVR?

If you find yourself asking, “What is conversational IVR?” don’t worry—the answer is simple. Conversational IVR, an innovation poised to transform customer interactions, is an advanced iteration of the traditional interactive voice response (IVR) system. Unlike its predecessors, conversational IVR doesn’t merely present callers with a series of rigid menu options; it engages in fluid, human-like conversations.

Conversational IVR leverages cutting-edge technologies, including NLP and speech recognition, to comprehend spoken or typed language. This enables customers to interact with the system using their own words, just as they would when talking to a live agent.

Imagine calling a customer support line and being greeted by an IVR that says, “Hello! How can I assist you today?” Instead of selecting options using numerical keys, you can respond naturally, saying something like, “I need help with a billing issue.” The conversational IVR system then understands your intent and responds appropriately, guiding you through the process or directing you to the right department.

Conversational IVR offers a host of benefits. It enhances customer satisfaction by making interactions more personalized and efficient. Customers no longer need to navigate complex menus, reducing frustration and effort. It accelerates query resolution by swiftly understanding and routing calls to the appropriate resources. Moreover, it empowers contact center agents by handling routine tasks, allowing them to focus on more complex and strategic conversations.

Long story short, conversational IVR is what bridges the gap between technology and human communication. It introduces a level of engagement, empathy, and convenience that was previously elusive in IVR systems. As businesses strive to provide exceptional customer experiences, conversational IVR emerges as a pivotal tool that not only improves operational efficiency but also fosters stronger customer relationships.

Conversational IVR is a voice-driven self-service solution that relies on natural language processing (NLP) to resolve queries. 

Powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning, it allows customers to interact with a phone system naturally, the way they would in a real conversation, rather than acting as if they’re talking to a machine. In a conversational IVR interaction, a customer could use the phrase “my bill has a mistake,” rather than relying on one-word phrases like “billing” (or the desperate “speak to agent!”).

In a conversational IVR phone system, customers lead the direction of the call based on their voice inputs rather than choosing from a list of static menu items. For example, instead of only offering the option to press one for billing or two for technical support, a conversational IVR program’s AI capabilities can recommend a specific, closely matching option based on the exact phrases the customer used. Thanks to machine learning, the system gets more and more accurate over time. 

Forcing customers to box themselves into a set of predetermined menu options can lead to frustration, and often extends the call duration as customers are forced to listen through multiple sets of prompts looking for the right choice. Conversational IVR, on the other hand, makes for quicker, more seamless interactions that feel like talking to an actual, helpful human being.

What benefits does a conversational IVR offer to contact centers?

In the dynamic landscape of contact centers, embracing technological advancements is the key to delivering exceptional customer experiences. Enter the realm of conversational IVR—a game-changing solution that brings a plethora of benefits to modern contact centers.

Conversational IVR, the cutting-edge evolution of traditional interactive voice response systems, revolutionizes customer interactions. Imagine a caller engaging in natural, human-like conversations with your automated system. This not only fosters a sense of connection but also streamlines the entire customer journey.

First and foremost, conversational IVR enhances customer satisfaction. By enabling callers to express their queries in their own words, it eliminates the frustration of navigating complex menus. This personalized touch makes customers feel valued and understood, setting the stage for positive interactions.

Moreover, the benefits of conversational IVR extend to operational efficiency. Its advanced speech recognition and natural language processing capabilities swiftly route customers to the right departments or provide self-service options, saving time for both customers and agents. This leads to reduced call handling times and increased first-call resolution rates – metrics that speak volumes in the contact center realm.

Conversational IVR also empowers contact center agents. By handling routine queries, it frees up agents to focus on more complex and meaningful interactions. This shift from mundane tasks to strategic conversations not only boosts agent morale but also raises the overall quality of customer interactions.

In our fast-paced world, where customer expectations are soaring, conversational IVR is the beacon of innovation. It aligns seamlessly with the needs of modern consumers, delivering instant gratification through personalized, efficient, and engaging interactions.

More Benefits of conversational IVR

Using conversational IVR with intelligent routing can save agents and customers time and frustration because front-end information gathering helps agents better serve customers. 

When customers can tell the IVR exactly what they want and receive the necessary information for resolution before ever having to interact with a human agent, everyone saves time. 

Conversational IVR also gives you the ability to automate routine calls. Instead of answering mundane FAQs or scheduling appointments, human agents can be used where their specific knowledge and experience is needed most.

But, I’m not an engineer! 

Conversational IVR and intelligent virtual agents use machine learning and NLP to gather and sort information. But, how do you effectively tell your virtual agents what information to gather? How do you program the IVR workflow if you don’t have engineering knowledge or resources? The task of programming a virtual agent can seem like a daunting one, but it doesn’t have to. 

A no-code IVR software solution can greatly simplify this process. Let’s take a look at what kind of effort contact centers must exert when deploying a virtual agent traditionally.

Standard IVR vs. Conversational IVR

In order to fully understand the capabilities and shortcomings of your IVR systems, it’s important to understand the difference between standard IVR and conversational IVR. Many phone systems offer the ability to interact via voice responses. However, this alone does not make for a conversational IVR system. 

Standard IVR offers speech recognition, but its capabilities are limited to simple ‘yes’ and ‘no’ responses or those options that are pre-programmed into the system. If the caller uses a phrase the system doesn’t expect or recognize, they’re out of luck and will likely be sent in to the call queue to wait to speak with an agent. 

Conversational IVR, on the other hand, can understand both content–the words a caller is saying–and context–the meaning and intent behind the words. It’s the difference between being able to process a one-word input like ‘billing’ and a complex, multi-phrase input like ‘I want to be billed every quarter instead of every month.’

Conversational IVR allows customers to speak in complete sentences, use phrases they’re comfortable with, and even speak in their native language if it’s different from the one used by most agents. Instead of describing their issue in one or two words, which doesn’t offer much context, callers can explain their issue in detail, leading to much more nuanced IVR interactions than the set of canned options offered by standard IVR systems.

Initial setup

Investing time into the initial setup of the virtual agents pays off, literally. Businesses that take care when setting up a virtual agent see a decrease in inbound call volume that must be handled by human agents. IVR software that works with a no-code graphical interface limits the amount of machine learning knowledge necessary during setup to almost none. Businesses can create virtual agents quickly and easily. 

The graphical interface of  IVR software makes developing IVR workflows as easy as dragging and dropping. IVR workflows can be configured and viewed in a way that allows contact centers to get a full grasp of how customers will be approached by virtual agents. 

With NLP and AI, virtual agents can understand and record responses. They can then “learn” from these interactions. Using a graphical interface human agents can review how the IVR workflow is being updated. Using AI-driven insights contact centers can even see where further automation in the customer service process can be applied. 


IVR of the past used a project rather than product-based format when rolling out virtual agents. Every IVR workflow had to be reworked each time a project changed, costing time, energy, and money. 

But now, with no-code conversational IVR, contact centers can reduce maintenance costs and become more agile as their IVR use cases or workflows evolve.

 A product-focused approach creates virtual agents that can be utilized in not just one area of your business but many. It also can save as much as 10-20 seconds of human agent time per call by front-loading the information gathering process. The cost of having to do constant maintenance to fit the changing needs of your business is minimized. 

When the focus of IVR software is on coding rather than configuration, businesses must rely on IT or outside consultants for changes in the system. The graphical drag-and-drop interface of a no-code solution allows contact centers to make changes to the IVR workflow without the help of an outside, tech-savvy source.

High ROI at low TCO

When considering whether or not deploying virtual agents is beneficial to your business your ROI and TCO must be taken into consideration.

ROI stands for return on investment. It’s a metric used to measure the profitability or effectiveness of an investment. If we’re talking about financial ROI, how many dollars did you make (or save) for every dollar that you spent? To calculate ROI, divide the return of an investment by its cost. 

TCO stands for total cost of ownership. It’s a projection that explains the anticipated costs over the life of a product or service. With a good investment, TCO decreases the longer you employ a solution because it continues to produce a return that offsets your initial costs. In an ideal business scenario, ROI is high and TCO is low. 

Deploying virtual agents is:

  • Easy to set up when done in a product vs. project implementation (minimal maintenance)
  • Low cost to maintain
  • Low reliance on outside sources to maintain
  • Time-saving
  • Effective use of human agents (10-20 seconds per call time savings for escalations)

IBM recently estimated that $1.3 trillion is spent on customer service. When you calculate the savings gained from 10-20 seconds per call that equates to millions kept in your coffers.

If you are pursuing a more effective customer service strategy, deploying intelligent virtual agents and conversational IVR programming should be top priorities. No-code virtual agents make this priority well within reach.

What benefits does a conversational IVR provide for customer interactions?

In the realm of customer interactions, conversational IVR benefits shine brightly, reshaping the way businesses connect with their clientele. This innovative technology goes beyond traditional IVR systems, adding a human touch to automated interactions and yielding a host of advantages.

  • Enhanced personalization: Conversational IVR benefits include a new era of personalization. By allowing customers to express their needs naturally, it creates a sense of individualized attention, fostering stronger customer relationships right from the start.
  • Effortless navigation: Bid farewell to the maze of menu options. Conversational IVR understands spoken language, allowing customers to articulate their queries in the way they find most comfortable. This eliminates frustration, making navigation a breeze.
  • Faster issue resolution: Thanks to advanced speech recognition and natural language processing, conversational IVR swiftly identifies customer needs and routes them to the right solutions. This reduces wait times, minimizing customer effort and boosting satisfaction.
  • Consistent service: Conversational IVR benefits also include improved consistency in service delivery. Regardless of the time or day, every interaction follows predefined protocols, ensuring that customers receive accurate information and assistance at all times.
  • 24/7 availability: With conversational IVR, the concept of business hours fades away. Customers can engage with your services round the clock, meeting their needs whenever they arise.
  • Empowered self-service: For customers who prefer self-service, conversational IVR is a game-changer. It enables them to accomplish tasks autonomously, from checking their account balances to updating personal information, saving time for both parties.
  • Smooth escalation: When customer issues require human intervention, conversational IVR seamlessly transfers the conversation to live agents. It provides agents with context, ensuring a smooth transition and avoiding repetitive explanations.In essence, there are many conversational IVR benefits for your contact center. Conversational IVR redefines customer interactions by prioritizing personalization, ease of use, and efficiency. Embracing this technology isn’t just about adapting to the future; it’s about crafting interactions that resonate, empower, and elevate customer relationships to new heights.

How does natural language processing enhance IVR systems?

The integration of natural language processing (NLP) with IVR systems has ushered in a transformative era for customer interactions. Natural language IVR represents a seismic shift from traditional touch-tone menus, revolutionizing the way businesses engage with their customers.

At its core, NLP empowers IVR systems to comprehend and respond to human language in a manner that mimics human understanding. This enhancement brings forth a multitude of benefits:

  • Human-like conversations: Natural language IVR allows customers to interact with the system just as they would with a human agent. Customers can express their queries naturally, in their own words, eliminating the need to navigate complex menu options.
  • Enhanced customer experience: By understanding context and nuances, NLP-infused IVR systems deliver a more personalized experience. Customers feel valued as they engage in seamless, meaningful conversations that cater to their specific needs.
  • Reduced customer effort: With NLP, customers no longer need to adapt to the technology; the technology adapts to them. This reduces customer effort, frustration, and the time it takes to find the information they seek.
  • Precise query resolution: Natural language IVR systems excel at identifying customer intent and extracting relevant information from spoken or typed inputs. This precision ensures accurate query resolution, minimizing errors and misunderstandings.
  • Streamlined routing: NLP-driven IVR systems excel at intelligent call routing. They swiftly direct customers to the most appropriate departments or self-service options based on the context of their requests.
  • Data-driven insights: The insights gleaned from customer interactions with NLP IVR systems provide businesses with valuable data. This data can be used to refine processes, identify common pain points, and continually enhance the customer journey.
  • Consistency and availability: Natural language IVR ensures consistent service, regardless of the time of day or the volume of calls. Customers receive accurate information and assistance around the clock.

As businesses strive to provide exceptional customer experiences, embracing natural language IVR is not just a choice; it’s a strategic imperative that elevates interactions to unprecedented levels of satisfaction and effectiveness.