Are IVAs Really That Different From IVR and Other Types of Automation?

Rebecca Jones, Senior Vice President and GM of Mosaicx at Intrado
Rebecca Jones, Senior Vice President and GM of Mosaicx at <a href='' rel='dofollow' target='_blank' style='color:blue !important'>Intrado</a>

Rebecca Jones, Senior Vice President and GM of Mosaicx at Intrado

Customers today expect speedy, personalized, and reliable responses from businesses. These shifting preferences are encouraging businesses to rethink their existing approaches to customer service and experience. At the same time, pandemic-related contact center challenges (e.g., increased call volumes, staff shortages and multichannel interactions) have introduced the opportunity for new contact center automation.

However, not all contact center tools deliver automation. Businesses can choose from several virtual solutions to ease the challenges they face and deliver on customer expectations.

What is Contact Center Automation?

Contact center automation can look different depending on the individual business and its customers’ needs. At its core, it entails automating customer support and assistance capabilities to streamline processes for both customers and agents. These tools can automate a wide range of tasks for human agents, and do so using artificial intelligence (AI), natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning (ML).

Benefits of Contact Center Automation Solutions

Businesses and customers benefit from contact center automation solutions. Outlined below are a few examples.

Benefits for Businesses

● Faster Resolution: Automation solutions can help contact centers streamline and answer common inquiries. By removing basic, repetitive, inquiries, human agents have more bandwidth to manage complex service requests. This can lead to reduced costs of customer support and increased revenue.

● Informed Communications: Advanced automation solutions can track and store customer data from a call. If the automated solution transfers the call to a human agent, it can provide contextual information about the caller, which streamlines the service.

Benefits for Customers

● Personalized Experience: Intelligent response automation software can learn about customer behaviors and understand requests. This understanding means that customers have humanlike experiences and benefit from quick resolutions. It also means they receive a completely unique and tailored interaction with the company.

● Self-Service Access: Contact center automation tools manage common requests without a live agent, enabling self-service so customers can interact with the company when and how they want.

Types of Automation Solutions

There are lots of contact center automation tools that businesses can use to realize the benefits mentioned above and overcome the challenges they face in their contact centers. Understanding the differences between contact center technologies is paramount when considering whether to utilize automation solutions.

Automatic Call Distribution

Automatic Call Distribution (ACD) is a telecom feature that automatically routes calls according to a predetermined set of rules. These predetermined rules route calls to a specific business department or individual human agent depending on a caller’s needs. Essentially, ACD connects callers to the most qualified agent for assistance in their specific inquiry the first time, eliminating any need for constant transfers and extended hold times.

Interactive Voice Response

IVR is a technology that lets callers navigate menu options using voice and touch-tone responses. Automated phone systems with IVR software help callers navigate through resolution options and provide information based on the callers' actions. IVR software then routes the caller to a specific department or specialist. Some may consider an IVR to be a simple voicebot, in part due to the fact that it does not use AI.

Intelligent Virtual Agent

An IVA is an AI-enabled communication tool that generates personalized responses to users. These virtual agents are intuitive and can understand natural-language requests through natural language understanding (NLU) or NLP. Though ACD and IVR can automate specific tasks, true automation comes from IVAs.

Unique Benefits of IVAs

ACD systems, IVR technology and IVAs largely share the same benefits: decreasing hold times, improving issue resolution and streamlining communications. The difference between the automation solutions is in each tool’s sophistication and ability to manage more complex inquiries. ACDs are only responsible for routing calls to the appropriate destination, depending on data collected through IVRs. IVRs take it one step further with touch-tone key selections and voice commands. These commands assist ACDs in moving the caller to the next-best action. IVRs accurately determine where the customer will be directed based on their specific responses.

​Intelligent Virtual Agents (IVA) are intuitive and can understand natural-language requests through natural language understanding (NLU) or NLP. Though ACD and IVR can automate specific tasks, true automation comes from IVAs


IVAs are the most sophisticated, as they act on more complex inquiries and understand human nuances. In addition to task automation, data management, personalized customer experiences and self-service access, IVAs also deliver channel flexibility, scalability and insight into customer personas.

● Channel Flexibility: IVAs give customers flexibility with the medium they use to interact with a business. This channel flexibility allows customers to call, text or message a company and still receive fast, personalized and quality resolutions. With channel flexibility, customers can also choose how they receive certain notifications. For instance, a customer can select to receive text messages for reminders about bill payments and then calls for notifications about overdrafts or suspicious account activity. Providing support and versatility across channels increases revenue-generating opportunities for businesses and gives customers agency over how they interact with customer support.

● Scalability: When faced with increased calls and a shortage of employees, businesses need the support of virtual agents that can answer calls simultaneously. If a company is experiencing a spike of calls related to a product, it can deploy more IVAs that it has trained to support those specific support requests. And, customers can resolve issues without ever needing to speak to a human agent.

● Insight into Customer Personas: Also known as buyer personas, customer personas inform how a business interacts with its customers. If a business has experienced significant growth or contact center transformations, it might not have a current pulse on its buyer personas and customers' engagement preferences. Lack of visibility can result in poor customer experiences. On the flip side, Gartner states that collecting customer feedback can increase your upselling/cross-selling success rates by up to 20%. IVAs are intuitive and provide insights into customers' evolving needs. Their ability to learn and report preferences over time helps the business understand customer personas, build relationships and improve the customer experience.

Enable Automation with Mosaicx

Mosaicx is an intelligent virtual agent that uses voice technology and digital messaging to deliver high-quality customer support, elevate business success and increase revenue. Mosaicx utilizes automatic common inquiries, which means human agents have more flexibility as the solution handles routine customer queries and simple transactions. Mosaicx can also seamlessly hand off customers to a human agent, transferring customer data and needs to the agent. By doing so, customers do not have to repeat themselves to the human agent. Our Mosaicx conversational AI solution makes digital communications more human-centered and improves the customer experience.

Contact center strategies must keep pace with evolving customer expectations and market landscapes. ACD, IVR and IVAs offer a myriad of benefits that help businesses remain competitive and ensure their customers have positive experiences. Though each contact center automation tool is valuable, IVAs are the most sophisticated, given they understand human nuances and can handle more complex inquiries.