Interactive voice response systems can revolutionise customer experience

(Source: Twilio)

In an era when consumers expect brands to respond rapidly to queries about products, delivery schedules and any other interaction, a growing number of retailers are turning to interactive voice response (IVR) systems to enhance customer experience. 

As the technology that drives IVRs dramatically improves, the systems are becoming a key tool in elevating customer interactions to new heights, leaving lasting impressions and fostering unwavering loyalty, says Robert Woolfrey, RVP APJ sales, communications, at Twilio, the customer engagement platform that drives real-time, personalised experiences for today’s leading brands.

On any given day, there could be 150 million calls in and out of Twilio happening around the world, with the company’s customers including global appliances brand Electrolux, US ride-hailing service Lyft, and motor vehicle maker Toyota.  

The concept of IVR has come a long way since the bygone era of people phoning a business and being asked to push a different number for a different department – or the subsequent stage when customers were invited to ask to speak to a person or a department by speaking their name. Such solutions may have seemed the leading edge 20 years or more ago, but technology has advanced dramatically since then, explains Woolfrey. 

“Businesses today can transform their customer service operations with scalable IVR systems, streamlining operations, reducing costs, and significantly enhancing customer satisfaction. Retailers can now deliver personalised engagement using our technology, which is supported by artificial intelligence (AI).”

Woolfrey says traditional voice response systems have often suffered from slow response times – latency in more technical terms – which spoils the user experience.  

“This not only refers to the intake of understanding what an end customer is saying on a call and responding but post-call as well. Companies today need to be able to respond in milliseconds, to understand the person speaking and come back to them.”

That requires infrastructure – including cloud-based data capacity – to ensure the business can scale, not only during peak calling times but as the business grows. 

“Speed is part of the user experience. I look at it like visual designs online – some applications can look beautiful, but if they are slow to load, that is not fun for the end consumer. Other applications might not look the best, but they are so fast and easy, so you get things done very quickly. The same principles apply with voice recognition,” says Woolfrey.

“Speed and latency are critical because that’s what we’re used to when talking to another person across the room.”

Such technology has become possible thanks to massive advancements in voice recognition software over recent years. The integration of voice AI technologies, such as speech-to-text (STT) and large language model (LLM) with Twilio’s infrastructure enables personalised and context-aware interactions.

Twilio’s voice intelligence works by taking previously inaccessible voice call data and turning it into useful content that unlocks consistent, scalable, and highly personalised experiences.

Omnichannel messaging

Besides IVR, new-generation voice recognition technology is driving automated messaging capabilities across multiple platforms including SMS, MMS, chat and messaging platform WhatsApp. 

“Using Twilio’s centralised platform, a retail business can seamlessly orchestrate messaging campaigns, ensuring consistent and impactful communication across diverse channels,” explains Woolfrey.

“This can give a company a significant edge in its marketing and customer relationships, effectively enabling conversations between many customers simultaneously – broadening the reach far further than can be achieved using humans in a call centre, for example.”

With segmentation allowed via a customer data platform, retailers can use omnichannel messaging to communicate with customers personally, drawing on data stored in the cloud that includes their demographics, past purchasing and browsing history and likely product interests.