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Why Should I Replace My IVR with an IVA?

“Why should I replace my IVR with an IVA?” I’m starting to hear that question a lot from companies that I work with on a regular basis, so I’d like to address the question more broadly.

I would first like to point out that these two platforms are completely different from one another with respect to their meaning and functionality. Understanding these differences is key.

Interactive Voice Response (IVR)

IVR stands for Interactive Voice Response. The “interactive” part of IVR means the customer can interact with the application by pressing digits on their telephone keypad or speaking their choices when accessing the IVR application. The “voice” part means the interaction is initiated with, and anchored by, telephone calls. The “response” portion means the caller’s choices result in their phone call being routed to a specific group within a company, with the intention of routing to a group or individual that is best equipped to handle the caller’s specific choice selected. This last part is accomplished by integrating with a PBX (Private Branch Exchange) or ACD (Automatic Call Distribution) platform that is separate from the IVR. In most cases, the IVR front-ends the PBX/ACD in a call flow. It triages the call, determines a route, and then hands off to the PBX/ACD in most cases.

Intelligent Virtual Assistant (IVA)

IVA stands for Intelligent Virtual Assistant. The “intelligent” part means that AI (Artificial Intelligence) is a key component of the application. The “virtual” part means a bot can navigate an entire customer interaction without human intervention. The “assistant” part is where the IVA provides assistance to help solve problems based on intent, as opposed to providing a single linear response.


When you compare the two systems, they are vastly different. An IVA has many more capabilities and brings more value to address customer experience and/or self-service business strategies. That alone makes a migration worthy of consideration. But what about other aspects of the solution?

When I evaluate complex systems like these, and how to navigate a migration, I typically start by looking at the architecture. An IVR is a legacy application that started on monolithic architecture using complex source code. An IVA, on the other hand, is generally a cloud-native, containerized application based on low-code or no-code development.

Most of the IVR projects I’ve been involved with take months, sometimes even years, to complete. The initial implementation, as well as change and customization effort, is cumbersome and time-consuming. The spend for these projects is significant.

IVAs that I’ve been involved with have been implemented within weeks, with certain cloud services being turned on in days. Tuning, training, changes, and customization are performed in an agile fashion. The implementation is much more streamlined and efficient, so the costs to implement an IVA are accordingly lower, as well. The modern architecture allows that to happen.

It’s not just the cost of implementation that’s lower with an IVA. An IVA is available 24/7/365, and it provides automated assistance to the vast majority of clients. This equates to a significant return on investment in most cases. When we deploy an IVA, it is not uncommon to generate digital containment rates of 80%+, and this directly corresponds to a reduction in staffing requirements.

IVAs offer customers the ability to engage by using the channel of their choice. There’s less time spent waiting for help from a human agent because there is no queue, and it can result in a better overall experience if designed properly. Consumers are more satisfied with an IVA that’s built in a way that provides a great experience for them, so an IVA offers the potential to not only reduce cost but also to drive revenue in a positive direction. This is achieved by applying business rules logic into automated workflows that delight the end user with diverse and personalized handling of responses.

So maybe the better question to ask would be, “Why shouldn’t I migrate my IVR to an IVA?”

An IVR to IVA migration is digital transformation at its finest, essentially moving a complex self-service platform from an analog to a digital solution. Most folks will recognize these benefits, but then get overwhelmed thinking about how to make the transition from IVR to IVA seamless and successful. The key to this happening is having a sound deployment strategy or modernization roadmap.

What does your IVR to IVA modernization roadmap look like? Do you need help in developing one or having a deeper discussion about IVA best practices that apply within your organization? We can lend our expertise to help modernize your customer experience technology footprint using the latest best practices that ConvergeOne can help you identify. Unfortunately, there are some organizations that have deployed IVAs with limited success, due to a lack of strategic planning. We can help you avoid becoming one of those companies by outlining a modernization roadmap to success that aligns with your custom business objectives.

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