Killing time on hold; customer experience in the age of IVA

In the words of Charles Darwin, “a man who dares to waste an hour of time has not discovered the value of life”

Brands that dare waste their customers’ time do not understand the value of customer experience and loyalty. Wasted time is even worse than wasted money. A customer’s time can’t be refunded, replaced or bought back. However, too many brands are playing fast and loose with time, causing their customers to lose over 40 days of our life on hold. This huge black hole not only swallows a company’s resources but has a long-term impact on customer loyalty and, ultimately, the bottom line.

Much-needed change is here. AI and voice automation are calling time on hold, not just delivering a superior customer experience but also paying dividends for employees and organisational budgets. Intelligent Virtual Agents can automate huge swathes of calls usually handled by a human agent in charge of a line of frustrated customers waiting on hold. Now, IVAs are replacing hours on hold with instant service, using voice automation to deliver conversational self-service capabilities in numerous languages.

Such self-service is fast becoming the customer preference, with voice automation now part and parcel of people’s homes in the form of Alexa and Google Home – over 50% of UK homes have installed such voice assistants. It is predicted that nearly three-quarters of self-service interactions will be made through such speech technology by next year.

Not only can human-like virtual call agents make instant decisions and instigate immediate service for customers; they can also now discern a customer’s mood using sentiment analysis and respond appropriately. They make light work of routine service requests including delivery updates or booking appointments and leave their human colleagues open to help solve more complex and sensitive matters – a win for customers and employees alike.

Intelligent, not robotic

IVAs are also becoming increasingly life-like, which helps customers feel more at ease speaking with them. Brands can now create automated self-service experiences using synthesized human voices, including the voice of company spokesperson or a voice actor with key vocal traits that represent their brand.

Alex Baratta, Ph.D., senior lecturer in language, linguistics, and communication at the University of Manchester, recently coached a voice actor whose voice was synthesized for IVA voice technology, noting, “We look at key elements such as pitch, volume, speed, and intonation. And within those categories, there are micro-level details that contribute to whether a voice is perceived as warm, engaging, trustworthy, or any other judgments made regarding how we perceive people based on their vocal quality.”

A synthesized voice is virtually indistinguishable from the original. While this represents the cutting-edge of IVA, organisations are adopting varying technology models to solve their specific business challenges. For example, pre-built IVA application templates can be integrated via low-code platforms. These platforms enable non-technical users to launch IVAs with minimal experience, kick-starting customised IVA deployments rapidly. While the focus may be on retail right now, other key sectors are responding to a surge in demand with IVAs. For example, Frost & Sullivan reports that over 50% of healthcare providers plan to invest in this technology over the next year.

A boom is already underway. The use of Five9 IVAs has increased 180% in the last year. More than 82 million calls for healthcare providers, large retailers like Pizza Hut Australia, insurance companies, banks, local businesses, and local governments have been handled by IVA technology to fulfill customer needs quickly and efficiently.

It is not just customers who benefit from the introduction of IVAs. Employees, too, reap the rewards of digital colleagues. IVAs can help their vital human counterparts dedicate time to more meaningful and fulfilling work.

The IVA revolution is a win-win for the customer, employee and organisation, killing wasted time and delivering superior experiences for all. Now is the moment to act intelligently, with virtual agents your allies in the pursuit of time and resources well-spent.

About the Author

Callan Schebella is Executive Vice President of Product at Five9. Five9 is an industry-leading provider of cloud contact center solutions, bringing the power of cloud innovation to more than 2,000 customers worldwide and facilitating billions of customer engagements annually. The Five9 Intelligent Cloud Contact Center provides digital engagement, analytics, workflow automation, workforce optimization, and practical AI to help customers reimagine their customer experience.

Featured image: ©Storyblocks