IVA vs. IVR: Which Contact Center Solution Is Best for Your Business?

Like clockwork, new technologies come along, introducing new acronyms into call center industry lingo. Blink…and you might just miss the memo on what separates one abbreviation or bit of jargon from another.

As their names suggest, there’s some overlap between IVA and IVR technologies. While they can both deliver greater value and efficiency to different call center operations, key differences in capabilities separate the two software options. Understand those differences—and see which tech might serve your own operation best—in this quick primer on IVA vs. IVR as we cover: 

  • What is IVA?
  • What is IVR?
  • What is IVA used for?
  • What about uses for IVR?
  • Should you use IVA or IVR in your call center?

What Is IVA?

An Intelligent Virtual Agent (IVA) is an AI-enabled chat assistant capable of interacting with humans through natural language processing (NLP) and dialogue. It was developed to supplement human customer service and sales representatives in customer-facing roles. As IVA technology continues to advance, it offers more and more capabilities and value to call centers and outbound sales teams, in particular.

But more on that below.

 

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What Is IVR?

IVR, short for Interactive Voice Response, is an automated (but not always AI-driven) telephony system that interacts with callers through voice and touch-tone keypads. Revolutionary in their own right when first introduced, IVR solutions are designed to streamline call distribution by routing callers to an agent best equipped to handle the caller’s needs. While an IVR solution may rely on natural language processing to understand customer requests, the AI that may be used in IVR is not deployed in outbound calls. As a result, IVR is typically limited to use in inbound and blended call center settings.

 

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What Is IVA Used For?

This difference in the call center settings in which the two technologies are used is key to understanding the difference between IVA and IVR. 

 

IVA for Customer Service

Though IVA is used for customer service, it is much more advanced than IVR. Think of IVA solutions for call centers as much more sophisticated versions of virtual assistants like Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant. 

When a call center receives an inbound call from a customer, an IVA can field their query, respond with remarkably human-like fluency, and guide them toward resolving simple issues without the involvement of a live agent. Because the AI that underlies them enables self-learning, these tools only grow more powerful as they gather more customer input and handle more situations. Also, AI never sleeps, so IVAs can be deployed to provide 24/7 service.

Used strategically, IVA in customer service can help teams greatly improve their handle times and increase first call resolution. Importantly, they also free up customer service reps and call center agents to focus on resolving more complex issues that can only be done by a human.

 

IVA for Outbound Sales

Thanks to their incredible facility with language, IVA is also increasingly used in outbound call center operations. As part of powerful outbound contact center software, IVA can effectively be deployed as an additional agent capable of generating leads, scheduling and confirming appointments, and more. (So long as it’s done in adherence with TCPA compliance.)

Deployed over both voice and SMS as part of an omnichannel strategy, IVAs can improve speed to lead. They can even be used to dial and convert aged leads, enabling your talented sales agents to focus on warmer, higher-value prospects while the IVA works away autonomously in the background. 

All told, IVA can deliver big improvements to sales and lead-gen organizations. Plugging it into the right places in their businesses, outbound call centers can significantly increase productivity and efficiency, while also improving lead penetration and follow-up times.

 

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What Is IVR Used For?

When a customer calls a call center, they are greeted by a pre-recorded voice that provides them with options to choose from through their phone’s keypad or voice recognition system. The options presented to the customer may include things like checking their account balance, making a payment, or speaking to a customer service representative.

Once the customer selects an option, the IVR system may provide further instructions or transfer the call to a specific agent or department. IVR systems can also collect and route customer data to the appropriate agent, improving efficiency and reducing wait times for the customer. By automating certain tasks and routing calls more effectively, IVR systems can help call centers manage high volumes of calls and improve the overall customer experience.

 

Should I Use IVA or IVR?

Ultimately, the answer to the question of whether you should use IVA or IVR depends upon your business’s particular needs. Of course, there’s no denying that the latest IVA technology represents a marked improvement upon IVR software in a number of ways:

  • IVA can guide customers and leads to a resolution (or conversion) without a live agent, whereas IVR typically guides them to the right agent.
  • IVA can personalize its approach and provide more detailed support by relying on data contained in a company’s CRM. Meanwhile, IVR must rely on customer input and is limited to interpreting answers to pre-set prompts.
  • IVR directing customers to live agents is restricted to operating fully during open hours. IVA can deliver quality customer service at any time.

Despite IVA’s advances, though, IVR still proves useful to many call center businesses. After all, simplicity isn’t always a bad thing. While outbound call centers will solely benefit from the implementation of IVA technology, blended and inbound operations may be best served by call center software solutions that can offer them the flexibility of using either or both technologies, according to their needs.

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