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How to make a good first impression with call center voice AI

December 21, 2023


Traditional IVRs have given call center voice AI a bad name. We are so used to being misunderstood by automated systems that many users will shout AGENT, mash their keypads, or just swear a lot in an attempt to bypass the system.

Call center voice AI is a great way to enable self-service over the phone, reducing call volume and freeing up your agents to deliver more value. But if customers don’t like the system, they’re not going to use it. They’re going to do whatever it takes to speak to a live agent.

Best case scenario, you’re back where you started with too many calls and not enough people to answer them. Worst case scenario, you’re paying for each call twice. You’re paying for the time your customer speaks to an agent, but also the time they spent persuading the voice assistant to put them through.

So the first thing you need to consider, if you’re automating customer support queries is, how do I get around existing attitudes towards voice AI?

The answer is using a natural voice that sounds like a real person. You can do this with voice actors or specialized text-to-speech vendors. At PolyAI, we use both because it enables us to create something that sounds very much like a real person.

Listen to this call.



Emily’s table reservation from PolyAI on Vimeo.

Often, callers don’t recognize that they’re talking to a robot. They think they’re talking to a person. They say please and thank you and happily go on their way.

But that’s not to say that you should trick callers into thinking they’re talking to a person. Sometimes, there will be hiccups where it becomes obvious that the caller is speaking with an automated system. That can be jarring if you thought you were talking to a person.

Instead, you need to enable callers to forget they’re talking to a robot.

In 10 or 20 years, maybe we won’t need voices that sound human. Maybe we’ll call a company, hear that robotic voice, and think, oh great, now I can have my problem solved immediately by something that just works.

But we’re not there now. We need to consider what we’re up against and how we can give callers a great first impression that encourages them to at least try to engage before insisting on speaking to a person.

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