For decades, companies have been investing billions of dollars in interactive voice response (IVR) systems, which were designed to streamline business processes and speed up customer service. Recent technical advances are ushering in a replacement, the intelligent virtual assistant (IVA), with promises to push system capabilities to new heights. But the road from the old to the new is strewn with potential pitfalls, so organizations need to be realistic about IVA capabilities.
Such problems stem largely from IVR’s underlying technology and design. IVR systems were built when computer processing power was much more limited than it is today. Consequently, its functionality was constrained. As a result, the scripts outlining how calls would flow can create problems. “IVRs are rules-based systems, so they offer consumers a very limited set of options,” says Sarah Burnett, executive vice president and distinguished analyst at Everest Group, a management consulting and market research company.