Service sector

IVA: self-service solutions that work

Customers prefer the convenience of self-service, but they won’t sacrifice a great experience for convenience. They hold self-service solutions to the same high standards as live agents, expecting accurate, prompt and knowledgeable service, when they want it, in the channel of their choice.

What else. consumers believe they have the right to interact with an organization across multiple channels and, when appropriate, to switch between channels, such as when an intelligent virtual agent (IVA) needs to send information to a mobile phone a consumer via SMS during a telephone conversation. When it comes to service or sales activities, consumers are thrilled to interact with an intelligent self-service solution that knows who they are, regardless of the channel they interact on; is able to process the majority of their requests; and has the sensitivity to know when to transfer them to a live agent.

It’s time to switch from IVR to IVA

The market is witnessing a major shift in self-service systems from older keyboard- or speech-based interactive voice response (IVR) systems to new generation conversational IVAs based on artificial intelligence (AI). Interactive voice response systems were good for what they were supposed to do in the past. They were designed to automate the handling of phone inquiries and reduce the volume of calls that need to be handled by live agents to reduce the cost of service.

But these solutions could only support a limited number of options, because they were presented to customers through nested options. Equally important, these self-service solutions lacked the intelligence to identify new use cases on their own as business needs changed, rendering most of them ineffective after a few years. The vast majority of IVRs on the market have not been serviced for over five years.

The next generation of intelligent self-service solutions is conversational and designed to allow customers to make inquiries as if they were talking or writing to a live agent over voice and digital channels. Intelligent virtual agents come with low-code/no-code development environments so that the business (customer service, sales, or collections department) can make changes when new opportunities or improvements are needed. (Most companies have their initial use cases built by their IVA vendor because they lack the knowledge and expertise to do it themselves when they start.) Intelligent virtual agents are omnichannel from by design, allowing organizations to interact with customers across multiple channels, even during the same conversation. Since this is something that not even all live agents are allowed to do, customers prefer these self-service systems, especially when the IVA environment is very responsive and proactive.

IVAs are good for agents and CXs

Leading IVA solutions are already generations ahead of most IVRs, but innovations keep coming. Today’s IVAs use machine learning (ML) to identify new use cases and make recommendations on how to address them. These solutions make this information available to their human managers, who decide whether or not to add the recommendations to the self-service application. Over the next few years, IVAs will be enhanced to respond appropriately to human emotions with some level of empathy. Given the large number of complaints about the poor quality of service provided by live agents today and the growing scale of inquiries made to organizations, these innovations are a welcome opportunity for the market.

There are many misconceptions about IVAs, not the least of which is that their main purpose is to eliminate the need for live agents. (This is not the main value proposition for IVAs, although it could be a good outcome for businesses and their customers.) Businesses, and public organizations for that matter, are facing substantial increases in volumes interactions (digital and sometimes voice) while agent attrition rates increase. Even though organizations have the budget to recruit staff, most are unable to hire and retain the skilled resources they need to deliver the customer experience they are committed to. Providing self-service is a strategic and tactical necessity for organizations, and automated solutions may be available when live agents are not.

IVAs are not just a contact center solution

Intelligent virtual agents have already demonstrated their value to contact centers and other service departments, but this is only the beginning of the contributions they can make to businesses. Customers and constituents want to help themselves; they just need the systems to allow them to do so. Use cases for these solutions are growing as companies deploy them to support corporate services and operations, such as marketing, travel and entertainment, event management, human resources, and more. . As IVA expertise and resources become more readily available in the marketplace, the use cases for these solutions will grow across all businesses.

IVAs are essential for an AI transformation

The inclusion of AI technology in contact centers and CX solutions is driving the fastest pace of innovation, improvement and change ever seen in the service industry. AI has introduced a basic form of human understanding and intelligence into self-service solutions, which is one of the reasons they are becoming the preferred method of service. Although AI is still in its infancy, it is already demonstrating its ability to improve the customer experience while improving quality, productivity and the employee experience.

IVA Market Outlook

The potential of this AI-based IT sector is enormous; there are emerging use cases across the enterprise, in addition to the existing opportunity to replace all current IVR-based self-service applications in contact centers. Another consideration that will drive rapid adoption of IVAs: these solutions will sell when the economy is strong and at least as well when budgets are tight. In effect, IVAs automate the processing of enquiries, transactions and other types of business activities, reducing or eliminating the need for processing by human agents or other employees, which also reduces the expense of operations while improving the experience for customers and support personnel.

The IVA market is expected to experience “hockey stick” growth over the next few years. Now that there are several providers who deliver on the promise of IVAs; additional innovations and breakthrough improvements in AI are expected to take these solutions to an even higher level of performance year on year. DMG estimates that the number of customers using IVAs will increase by more than 100% in each of the next three years, between calendar years 2022 and 2024. In addition, we expect this IT segment to experience 50% growth in the number customers for the next two years. years, 2025 and 2026.

Donna Fluss, Founder and President of DMG Consulting LLC, offers a unique and unparalleled understanding of people, process and technology in the dynamic and rapidly changing contact center and back office markets. DMG Consulting LLC provides expert advice, industry reports, and primary research that drives the strategic direction of the customer and employee experience, contact center, and back office markets. Donna can be reached at

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