Business owners who want to improve the customer journey have relied on customer satisfaction surveys to get actionable feedback. This feedback can be aimed at an interactive voice response (IVR) system to better route current customers and leads. Once that’s been optimized, there’s still room to expand with the help of visual IVR systems.

To get an understanding of how visual IVR can help your business, you need a complete understanding of the inner workings of traditional IVR.



What is IVR?


Interactive voice response (IVR) systems use the customer’s touchtone pads to help better carry the customer through the system. In practice; an IVR system will ask you to hit a few keys so that you can be sent to the right department. Modern voice IVR systems may even ask a customer to state the department or the name of the agent that they wish to contact.

These systems serve as a method of gathering information while an agent is working with another client/customer/lead because the system uses voice to narrow down the reasons for a call. This technology has been used for decades, and it continues to advance with many VoIP and telephony providers adding in conversational AI to predict caller intent. IVR is also gaining more advanced routing algorithms that send customers to the right specialists, which can reduce contact time.

IVRs are sometimes the first point of contact with a brand and serve as a useful means to communicate a brand’s personality to inbound and outbound callers. Inbound and outbound IVR convey your brand’s unique music, tone, and style, which will go a long way when looking to bolster customer experience.

Current-wave IVR systems even provide actionable insights through call center analytics data. These also serve as one of the best ways to track the quality of the customer journey. With the data gathered, you can even tweak the IVR experience for smoother customer flow.

Still, IVR is far from perfect. Here are a few weaknesses.

  • When customers enter the wrong number, they can easily be sent to the incorrect department.
  • The majority of callers opt out of an IVR system by pressing “0” to be connected with an agent.
  • IVR voice recognition can be flawed, especially with easy to mistake pronunciations of certain words and accents.
  • IVR just isn’t great at gathering complex data from customers.


What is Visual IVR?

visual ivr

Visual interactive voice response (visual IVR) is an IVR system that adds a multichannel visual interface to the traditional IVR experience. These systems utilize communications channels like smartphones and computers to make the information gathering process about a caller more streamlined and comprehensive.

Visual IVR systems utilize websites or company mobile apps to help a customer navigate menus quickly and improve the way callers perceive your business’s customer service skills. The visual IVR system gathers real-time information at every touchpoint can have an agent reach out to the customer, and when contact is made, the rep will have all of the pertinent information. Without this kind of software, any information plugged into a website or a mobile app is lost, which means that the agent will have to gather the data again, which wastes valuable calling time.

IT can implement a visual IVR system using simple script editors for voice, mobile, and the web. Because this system isn’t touchtone-based, there’s a reduced chance for customer IVR mistakes – typing and using dropdown IVR menus are simply more reliable than simple key input. This means that there’s less potential for having a customer bounced around through multiple departments, which is horrible for customer service.

Links to visual IVR menus are sent automatically to the customer via a link to either SMS or a company app. The visual menus often have the same structure as standard IVR or can be augmented to provide options that would not be available through dial tone multi-frequency DTMF inputs. If a customer ends up being connected to an agent instead of having their issue resolved, then that agent will be well-prepared and can pick up where the customer left off.


How Does Visual IVR Streamline Business?


visual IVR also tends to have more detailed routing processes, and in many cases, the customer will be able to solve their own issues because there’s less impetus to press “0” to reach a representative.


1. Personalized Customer Interactions

All IVR systems can be used to receive a faster resolution status for customers, but visual IVR makes the system faster by using scripts to gather better data. The system automates its effort to free up live chat agents to handle the call volume. That means that your agents can better spend their time with customers that have more urgent concerns.

At the base level, a visual IVR system will save an agent more than a minute per call when speaking to a live customer. The agent can tell the customer, “Thank you, Mr./Mrs. X, I have your information right here,” and continue the process organically.


2. Self-Service Options

These savings on active call time are augmented by the fact that visual IVR has a better rate of caller and IVR containment than standard IVR because the visual experience is much more likely to provide a customer with resolution without talking to an agent. This is why visual IVR is considered a better option for providing customer self-service.

Customers also read at their own pace, and in many situations, they can find the option that they need quicker than they would when listening through drawn-out IVR scripts. Many customers are more comfortable typing on a smartphone keypad since it serves as both a means of dialing numbers and alphanumeric text messages.


3. Convert to Omnichannel

Whereas IVR is usable on phones, visual IVR embraces the multichannel contact methodologies that are being adopted by many corporations. Users are increasingly reaching out to their favorite brands via smartphone browsers, mobile apps, SMS, and desktops. Visual IVR allows these modern users to use these new platforms with ease and complete the IVR process at their own pace without negatively impacting the time that an agent has to make outbound calls.

Visual IVR also has extended options to create detailed contact trees for customers that can gather and provide much more detailed information than what’s available through standard IVR. Basic IVR systems may have four trees that a customer can navigate with a keypress but easily extended to omnichannel customer service with visual IVR systems.


4. Improve Security

It’s critical to remember that not every interaction with a brand happens at home, and when this is the case, a customer may not want to speak their sensitive information out loud into an IVR. This is where visual IVR can really make a difference because a customer can quickly load their data in a secure manner. This is critical because more than 95% of Americans have mobile devices and interacting with brands needs to feel secure, even when the customer is going about their business while out.

Most visual IVR providers also utilize encryption so that users can rest easy, even when they are using public machines. For those in healthcare, HIPAA encryption that will protect patient’s data is often included in visual IVR solutions.


5. Eliminate Wait Times

IVR systems are useful for routing phone calls so that there’s significantly reduced wait times while a customer is waiting for an agent. These systems still use hold music, and there are still are periods of downtime. A significant benefit to a visual IVR system is that there are no wait times or hold music; the customer controls the pace of the experience and inputs the information at their leisure.

Once they have progressed through the experience on their device, an agent will reach out to them without any wait time. From this point, the call will go quickly with a faster resolution, which will lead to more satisfied customers.


Visual IVR Grants Businesses More Credibility

Businesses with professional-grade systems like visual IVR have a higher degree of credibility with customers. As a result, even smaller businesses will look at enterprise-level when they have a visual IVR system that works through a company app or website. Giving customers an option to reach a contact center with self-service options provides a user experience that puts them first.


What’s the Difference Between Visual IVR and Traditional IVR?

chatbot vs conversational ivr


Both IVR and visual IVR systems clearly have advantages, and both add a layer of professionalism even for the smallest of businesses. Still, it can help to take a look at each as they compare to one another.

IVR Visual IVR
Methods of Promoting Brand Image Brand-specific prompts and branded transfer and hold music Logos, use through company app, brand-specific prompts, and unique messaging
Input methodologies for customers Voice and dial tone multi-frequency (DTMF) input Smartphone touch screens, keypads, and keyboards
Devices supported Touchtone phones Smartphones applications, dedicated computer software, and web browsers
Containment rate (self-service without agent interaction) 15 to 20%(This percentage can be bolstered by AI) 60 to 70%


What are the Downsides of Visual IVR?


Visual IVRs biggest downside is user familiarity.

Smartphones and other devices are everywhere, but many customers still prefer the traditional IVR experience because it’s familiar. Receiving an SMS link that sends a customer to a web form doesn’t always feel organic, which is why many businesses that are adopting visual IVR are also keeping their traditional IVR systems intact. There’s nothing really wrong with this – both systems can complement each other when considering the customer experience.

Visual IVR systems add a lot of conveniences, but they are primarily designed to yield more efficiency in the call center rather than perfect the customer support experience. An agent’s time is more efficiently managed, but those customers that prefer the traditional customer care experience may feel as if they are being shoehorned into using their phones to contact someone about their issues.

Finally, some IVR systems, like the one offered by Grasshopper, are straightforward to set up. With a visual IVR system, a company may need IT specialists or web/app developers for full implementation. Usually, to implement the trees for visual IVR, simple auto attendant scripts will be added to the existing code, but this can be a major step for a small business without an IT team with the required skills.


Visual IVR is the Future of Routing


A well-implemented IVR system prepares your agents for each customer and shortens wait times. However, it must be well-implemented to deliver positive experiences. Vonage recently published a study that said that up to 61% of customers feel that IVR can provide negative experiences.

Visual IVR expands the potential of traditional IVR by eliminating hold music and providing customers with a more comfortable and secure method of providing their information. There are multiple providers out there that deliver visual IVR solutions to clients. Some include:

  • Five9
  • Plum Voice
  • Jacada
  • Radial

Each of these solutions significantly bolsters containment rates and makes your customers more likely to reach out to your brand. They will ensure that agents are prepared and ready to deal with customer issues so that handle time is decreased significantly.

Visual IVR and traditional IVR don’t need to be mutually exclusive. Both systems allow a company to firmly embrace the multi/omnichannel experience while still provisioning for customers that want a more traditional experience. Customers will confidently interact with a brand through landline and smartphones using traditional IVR and utilize visual IVR for those circumstances when they are on the go.

The customer experience is critical for contact centers and visual IVR is a useful system that will do that while adding more efficiency to the contact process. If you want to a little more about how a company might use IVR to better route and queue calls as well as improve the customer journey, check out our guide on call priority queuing.