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Intelligent Virtual Agent vs. Interactive Voice Response: What’s the Difference and Which Is Better To Use?
Today, every contact center knows what IVR is, and many companies employ this technology successfully. However, since it became commercially available, AI has come a long way and can do much more than provide just a simple voicebox or chatbot.
Customers can become wary of lengthy calls to customer support or long menus on websites, and businesses must enhance their user experience as much as possible. As a result, many companies are dipping their toes into voice recognition self-service to keep up with demand for the first time. These businesses usually come in two types: those that still utilize IVRs and those that opt for a more sophisticated solution – virtual agents.
IVA vs IVR: The Differences
Although these two technologies are similar in purpose and can complete similar tasks delegated to them, it is crucial to distinguish IVA (Intelligent Virtual Agent) from IVR (Interactive Voice Response) and know each system’s limitations.
What Is IVR?
An IVR conversion system — such as the one featured in Phonexa’s all-encompassing call distribution platform, Call Logic — is a type of interactive telephone system that is often used in call centers to route calls to the proper agent and, in some instances, to allow callers to execute self-service transactions. The key advantage of an IVR is that it enables businesses to optimize the customer experience and obtain vital information from the answers provided by individuals who call.
Nowadays, most IVR systems are far from conversational, depending instead on menu browsing via touch-tone user inputs. IVR system costs vary based on which services you use and the technology’s quality. As a rule, IVRs are less expensive than AI-based voice assistants.
What Is an IVA?
An IVA is a digital assistant that mimics the actions of a human agent. It delivers some of the services traditionally given by a contact center representative through human-to-human conversation with users via voice or text channels.
IVA is not a simple voicebot, however. Unlike IVR, IVA can handle more complicated issues and conduct extremely comprehensive exchanges without transferring callers to a live person. Even if the IVA system cannot address all client issues completely, it may nevertheless capture critical information and generate a thorough support ticket, which assists team members in expediting the customer care solution process.
The functionality of IVA products may vary depending on where you purchase your software. However, the essential functionality remains unchanged. Virtual agents employ AI, speech recognition, and interfaces with backend systems.
What Can an IVA Do?
Unlike IVR systems that can only redirect customer calls to contact center agents, virtual assistants can not only resolve queries but also enhance the user experience and all that is possible without any human involvement. But if you decide to opt for this technology, you would probably like to know just what IVA is capable of. So here are just a few things virtual assistance can help you with:
- Automate tasks and support live agents: IVA’s primary purpose is to save time for your clients and agents. At the same time, a virtual agent reduces the workload of human agents and enables them to automate simple tasks and free up time for more important calls.
- Recognize both speech and text: Modern IVAs can understand and recognize human voices in different languages and respond to your clients’ queries using text-to-speech technology.
- Ability to make callbacks: IVA systems can allow customers to ask for a callback instead of waiting in line during the call. The virtual assistant then redirects the call to the appropriate human agent.
- Biometrics: Similar to IVR, virtual assistants can be used to verify the caller’s identity based on their voice biometrics from previous calls. In addition, voice biometrics can also act as a security measure.
- Sentiment analysis: Some virtual assistants can automatically identify if customers are frustrated and route the call to an agent.
Some of the high-tech IVA systems can sound almost indistinguishable from human agents in regard to simple queries. In addition, modern AI suites allow for a deep level of customization, which allows for designing your virtual assistant capable of doing virtually anything a human agent can.
Pros And Cons of IVA
IVA is one of the most effective tools available today for businesses to empower and improve self-service operations for their clients. Self-service is gradually gaining popularity, as technologically aware clients choose to address service demands on their own before contacting human agents.
If you were hiring a human agent, you would need to consider what languages they know and what type of system they need to work with. IVA agent is similar in terms of these specific skills. You pay them just like any human agent. However, IVA allows you to save money by only training one virtual agent instead of a whole department. It is important to point out that a virtual agent also needs to be prepared with that in mind. However, it takes less time, and AI can start working right off the bat, unlike regular agents.
Virtual agents learn from what they do, conversations, and experiences with clients. Furthermore, depending on their level of expertise, they can learn how to convey the information to live agents, saving your clients time in the long run.
Organizations realize the true potential of AI by going one step further with predictive capabilities to do tasks even faster. After covering what IVR and IVA can offer, let’s take a brief look at your options to determine which solution will work best for your business:
- IVR systems are great for smaller businesses and are cheap, but they can lack certain functionality
- IVRs take less time to install and don’t require maintenance often
- IVA solutions offer better flexibility to companies with a more extensive client base but are more expensive
- IVA is a complex solution that requires maintenance more often than traditional IVR systems
Consumers expect companies to have a self-service solution on their websites. So there is little doubt why the use of IVAs increased by 46% in 2020. This trend won’t stop anytime soon, and the IVA systems are becoming more accessible to small businesses and even startups. As a result, we can expect a significant surge in the popularity of virtual agents and IVA systems.
Author: Stanislav Bilenkyi is a content writer at Phonexa. He is passionate about technology and AI which he has covered for over 7 years.