Press ‘3’ for Reasons Why Amelia Is Better Than an IVR System

3 minute read

For several decades, Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems were the best way to automate voice interactions. Now, as AI technologies have morphed into advanced cognitive agents like Amelia, user expectations have dramatically shifted. Here are just some of the ways Amelia outshines IVR systems.

Cognitive agents with advanced Natural Language Understanding (NLU) open new possibilities for the automation of the user experience (UX), particularly when it comes to voice interactions. Digital colleagues like Amelia aren’t the first technological solutions to automate the voice-based UX, but they are taking this functionality to a whole different next level.

Beginning in the 1970s, Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems enabled users to find information or self-route their calls through their phone’s keypad (for example “Press one to speak with the Sales department”), while more recent developments enabled them to process basic voice commands (such as when users confirm their identity by saying the last four digits of a Social Security number). While IVR systems are able to automate certain aspects of voice interactions, they aren’t able to match the functionality of an advanced Artificial Intelligence (AI)-powered cognitive agent.

There is a wide spectrum of IVR systems on the market with different feature-sets, but here are three standout ways that Amelia consistently outshines them all.

AI-Powered NLU

Some IVR systems are able to understand a limited set of human utterances (if they can understand speech at all), however Amelia is able to understand a wide spectrum of user inputs, including ones she’s never previously encountered or specifically been programmed to react to.

Amelia’s industry-leading intent-recognition engine allows her to specify user intent from the noise of human language. This advanced functionality allows users to ask her complex questions that a simpler IVR system would be unable to handle. This means an employee can “ask” their HR system, “How many PTO hours will I have by the end of November?,” as well as ,“How many vacation days will I have accumulated at the end of next month?” This versatility allows users to ask for information as they would with a live human agent, using their own language and speech patterns, rather than guessing how they need to phrase a question to an IVR system in order to get a helpful answer.  (Read more about the cutting-edge technology inside Amelia’s brain here.)

Back-end Integrations

IVR systems serve two main functions: 1) Allow users to discover information within the confines of a static script (e.g. “Press one to hear more information”), and 2) Route users to the correct department (e.g. “Press 1 to speak with the Repairs department, press 2 to speak to an operator… “).

Cognitive agents have the ability to locate information and route calls, but also have the power to assist users with executing tasks through secure backend integrations to various data sets and systems. For example, while both an IVR system and a cognitive agent can provide a banking customer their account balance over the phone, only a cognitive agent like Amelia can execute complicated financial management processes like scheduling recurring transactions or opening a new account.

Furthermore, while some IVR systems can be useful for automating FAQs, Amelia can take these interactions one step further; she can answer questions and then also prompt customers to see if they require services or support related to the provided information.  For example, if an insurance customer asks Amelia if their policy covers a car accident that occurs on black ice, she can confirm that information and then ask the customer whether they need to open a claim, and begin the claims process. IVRs lack this level of sophistication when it comes to business processes.

Prolonged, Complex Interactions

IVR systems are not designed to handle complex, prolonged interactions (such as applying for a mortgage). These tasks have multiple steps that often require the ability to jump between different steps within different processes, a feature known as context switching. This is something only an advanced cognitive agent like Amelia can deliver.

For example, when customizing a new car, a human sales agent would have no trouble going back to change one part of the order without starting all over (e.g. the customer says at the end of the order “actually, I do want the sunroof”). Many automated systems, such as standard IVR systems, can’t handle context switching like this without starting the entire process again, which can be a frustrating ordeal for users.

Context switching is particularly crucial when automating lengthy processes such as applying for car insurance. Amelia could easily assist a user who wants to change a previous answer without affecting the rest of their answers (for example, while filing an application, a customer who previously provided an address to Amelia could say, “Actually, I just got a new email address and would prefer to use that one”). Amelia can simply go back to that part of the process, make the change, and then pick-up where she left off. This is a crucial function many less advanced systems simply can’t offer.

Press 1 for the Future

While IVR systems played an important part in technological history, automating everything from movie times to weather forecasts to office directories, the AI era has dramatically raised the bar of user expectations. The organizations that take advantage of these technologies will be the ones to thrive moving forward, particularly when it comes to using cognitive AI agents like Amelia to provide fully interactive and more fulfilling customer experiences.



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The Intelligent Contact Center

Companies have spent decades implementing Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems in their call and customer care centers, but they've proven unable to keep up with customers' expectations.

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