When smartphones began to replace traditional mobile phones, some felt it signaled the end of voice-driven communications. Among the early casualties expected were interactive voice response (IVR) systems because, truth be told, many IVR systems continue to be poorly designed. Lengthy wait times, annoying hold music, call flows that led to nowhere and routing to the wrong agents are just some of the pitfalls of the modern-day IVR.

But smartphones are actually breathing new life into the IVR experience through something called Visual IVR. As its name implies, Visual IVR is a visual version of the traditional IVR experience that works on smartphones, tablets, laptops and other “smart” devices. The idea behind Visual IVR is powerfully simple: Customers navigate better by sight than voice alone. Instead of using audio-only queues and DTMF (i.e., Touch-Tone) prompts, Visual IVR allows users to navigate customer service applications through touchscreen menus.

A lot of companies are betting their futures on Visual IVR systems. Here are five reasons why they may be right:

#1. IVRs are still the cheapest game in town.

For companies, a self-service IVR session is a lot cheaper than a session with a live customer agent. It’s also around 3X cheaper than an online chat session or answering an email query. At a time when companies are trying to keep costs down, Visual IVR may be the cost-effective key to keeping customers happy.


#2. Muzak doesn’t soothe the savage beast.

No one enjoys listening to endless loops of bland music (well, maybe elevator operators, but then again…). With a Visual IVR application, companies can actually use the wait time to entertain, educate and, yes, market to customers through visual ads and video content. That makes you more money, makes customers more happy and brings the world one step closer to making muzak a bad memory.


#3. Visual IVR can leverage the IVR apps you already have.

You don’t need to re-create your existing IVR system from scratch to Visual-ize it; Visual IVR systems can re-use the same call flows and VoiceXML scripts as your existing IVR apps. In fact, companies today are now able to develop Voice IVR and Visual IVR apps at the same time using tools like VBVoice from Pronexus, a leading IVR application development toolkit (and a Dialogic partner).


#4. It’s easy to elevate the visual experience into a live call.

Sometimes, it can feel like companies have intentionally hidden the “operator” option in their IVR applications, but it’s just as likely to be a badly designed call flow. Click-to-call capabilities allow customers to easily elevate the session into a live audio chat (or online chat, if desired) at any point in the call—before frustration levels are high.


#5. Online is where your customers are looking.

According to a recent study by Nuance, 82% of customers call customer service only after they’ve exhausted looking for the answer online. Call centers have become a last resort for many because of long hold times, inefficient routing and complex IVR menus. With a Visual IVR application, companies can deliver a better experience that combines the simplicity of an online interaction with the high-touch customer care of a live agent when needed.