IVR Deflection Tackles High Call Volumes during COVID-19

By 4 Minute Read

IVR Deflection Tackles High Call Volumes during COVID-19 1

A good call or IVR deflection solution that leverages the power of a digital AI assistant, powered by conversational AI chatbots, helps contact centers and helplines respond to a surge in customer calls amidst the Coronavirus pandemic.

COVID-19 created major repercussions across many industries as they dealt with spiking customer concerns, cancellations, refund requests, or information updates. Whether it was an insurance company answering questions about travel or health insurance coverage, or airlines and hotels managing cancelations and refunds, the unprecedented global spread of the virus put consumers and businesses into a spin. Customer service, helplines, and contact centers faced higher than normal volumes of incoming calls and chats, putting pressure on their agents, their systems, and their ability to respond and deflect incoming calls from their IVR.

IVR Deflection vs Automation

In Washington State, calls to the Coronavirus hotline were experiencing 20 minute wait times and then being dropped as call volumes spiked. In the UK, call volumes to the NHS 111 line jumped by a third compared to this period last year.  Hold times of 4+ hours and dropped calls were not uncommon as concerned consumers tried to change or cancel bookings, check the status of their insurance cover, or make other urgent requests.  

For many, the response was to add more staff to handle consumer requests. In some cases, this was feasible, albeit costly. However, in other cases, adding more agents was not an option.

When call volumes surge in a contact center, shifting customers from a voice to a text-based channel where they can self-serve brings many benefits to both the consumer and the business. It doesn’t have to be a complex, costly or time-intensive solution, but it can be extremely effective in managing the additional volumes more cost-effectively and giving customers the information that they want in a more convenient and automated manner.

The Simplicity of IVR Deflection: Shifting incoming Voice Calls to More Efficient Digital Channels

Think of this scenario. Call volumes are out of control, agents are frazzled, and customers are anxiously waiting long periods before they can speak to an agent. What about sending them a link to a bot where they can engage and address their queries?  If the bot satisfies their immediate needs then there’s no need for agent involvement but there can still be a path to human handover for customers that require further assistance.

By shifting customers from the traditional IVR channel to a more efficient conversational IVR or digital assistant channel, you open up more potential for automation, out-of-hours accessibility, and thoughtful call deflection. 

Whether your IVR is based on legacy technology or is a modern cloud-based solution, the concept of shifting customers from an inbound voice channel to a messaging channel is possible. We know because we have done this for a client who considered this impossible with their legacy on-premise IVR system. Spinning up a solution took a matter of 2 days but allowed them to successfully deflect calls, automate the response, and still have a path to live chat.

Sending out an AI Assistant to Automate Customer Service

Once a customer is willing to engage via a messaging channel, sending a bot or virtual assistant opens up a whole path to automation.  Once the customer opens the AI Assistant and starts to engage, the bot can handle simple requests, point them to the place on your website to find information, or help them transact in a self-service manner. All this can happen without the need for them to engage with an agent unless they specifically request this or the bot escalates to an agent.

An AI assistant can simply be used to point a customer to the COVID-19 FAQ page or it can be a more extensive customer service bot that offers multiple capabilities, beyond just simple FAQ responses. The point is that this is a highly effective way of deflecting incoming calls.

Listen to this webinar recording to see how the AA Ireland quickly deflected over 11% of their incoming calls and took the pressure off their live agents as they handled increased customer requests during the crisis. And it only took less than 2 days to build and deploy this call deflection solution.

Check out this short demo video to see how an IVR deflection solution using a virtual assistant can work:

In times like this, where an influx of concerned customers needs to be handled, IVR deflection using a virtual assistant makes a lot of sense. It takes the pressure off contact center agents but it also introduces an automation path, one that can help customers out of hours as well as in hours. The bot can even be integrated with your live chat systems so that the bot works in parallel with live agents when needed.

What’s more, creating and deploying a simple virtual assistant that can automate responses to customer queries doesn’t have to be as complex, expensive, or time-consuming as you may think. 

And if you have no AI assistants in production, fear not. In a short period of time, you can launch a very simple bot that can train over the course of a week or so to start automating your AI customer service. On day one the AI bot may not be too clever and may just quickly handoff to a live agent but by gathering the training phrases from customer chats, it can become smarter and add capabilities so that after a week it can start automating to become more self-sufficient. This then takes more of the burden from your live agents, allowing them to handle more complex customer issues.

To learn more about very quickly deploying an IVR deflection solution that alleviates the pressure from your contact center agents and serves your customers more efficiently, contact our experts.

If you’re looking for more ways to automate customer engagement read our blogpost,  “How AI Assistants Take Automation to a Superior Level”

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