AI IVR: The 3 components you need to radically improve traditional call routing and save ££££

Natalie Smithson
AI enthusiast | Tea addict | Focused on using AI assistants to win the working week
Illustration of an AI assistant on a phone with an audio icon sits next to an AI assistant and a speech bubble

Customer service support is changing at a phenomenal rate with the introduction of artificial intelligence and your IVR call routing setup is next.

AI can not only help you significantly improve the customer experience, it can save you tens of thousands of pounds when you use all three key components to reduce call volumes and costs.

Find out what the three AI components are and how to migrate over seamlessly using your current systems as a base.


  • The three key components for successful AI-powered call routing and query resolution are AI IVR, AI telephony, and a chat based AI assistant
  • AI IVR is a better experience for customers who won’t have to listen to a list of choices, figure out which one they need, and potentially end up with another list of choices or the wrong department
  • To reduce call volumes overall and therefore save tens of thousands of pounds on call routing, you’ll need AI assistance with both voice and chat components
  • Use AI telephony (voice) to give customers immediate help for routine, repetitive or monotonous queries, and add a chat-based AI assistant to your website, app, social channels, or any communication platform, to immediately start reducing call volumes overall
  • Barking & Dagenham Council saved £48,000 in just six months, and leisure providers Mytime Active saved the cost of having to hire two new human agents to deal with routine enquiries

What is AI IVR?

AI IVR (Interactive Voice Response) revamps traditional automated phone systems, moving away from structured prompts like ‘Dial 1 for X, Dial 2 for Y’ and replacing them with natural conversation to more efficiently route customers to the right department. Additional AI-driven tools help reduce call volume overall.

Customers have a far better experience since they can simply ask for the help they need without being forced down a rigid options-based system, and it opens up opportunities for your support teams to benefit from less stressful and more enjoyable customer interactions as a result.

The 3 combined components of AI-powered call routing

AI-driven call routing is the new way to manage the bulk of your general enquiries, but it’s important to understand how three different elements work together to reduce your call volumes permanently: AI IVR, AI telephony, and a chat based AI assistant.

1) AI IVR to improve the customer experience

Call routing component

Anyone who’s ever made a call to a customer support centre knows the rigid structure of the traditional phone system IVR can be frustrating:

  • Perhaps you ask customers to press 1, 2, 3 or 4 but none of the options cover their query
  • Maybe they don’t understand what some of the options mean and so struggle to choose
  • Customers might choose the right option and, annoyingly, be faced with a second list of options too
  • Surely the worst example of all is finally getting through, only to be told you haven’t ended up with the right department and have to be transferred (or start all over again)

Using AI IVR, customers can ask for what they want in their own words. The AI system works out which department they need to speak to using natural language processing (NLP).

Say the query is a customer wanting to dispute a parking ticket:

  • With traditional IVR the customer has to choose between options like ‘Roads and traffic’ and ‘Parking’, but it might not be clear which department deals with fines, so they might make a guess and get it wrong, having to go through the traditional IVR system again.
  • With AI IVR, the customer simply says “I want to dispute a parking ticket” and, if the request is understood, they’re automatically transferred to the right department.

This is a better experience since the customer doesn’t have to listen to a list of choices, figure out which one they need, and potentially end up with another list of choices or the wrong department.

Add AI telephony, and an AI assistant can go on to deal with the whole query without transferring the call to your teams at all.

2) AI telephony to tackle queries end to end

Voice component

Instead of passing a phone query over to your teams, you can use an AI telephony component to give your customers immediate help for routine, repetitive or monotonous queries.

Using robust NLP capability the most advanced AI assistants can understand what your customer needs ready to give them information or solve the query entirely wherever they can.

Using AI-powered responses, customers can find out information, make transactions and solve their queries immediately at any time of the night or day, on any channel and in any language.

Next, add a chat-based AI assistant to the your customer support set up and you can start to actively reduce your overall call volumes.

Illustration of a lady sitting cross-legged on the phone, having a telephone conversation with an AI assistant: AI assistant: Hello, how can I help you today? Customer: I want to dispute a parking ticket AI assistant: Sure. All challenges against Penalty Charge Notices must be made in writing, either online (here) or by post. You’ll find more information about the formal process on our website here. I’ve also sent you an SMS with a link to the information. AI assistant: Is there anything else I can help you with?

3) Online AI assistant to reduce call volumes

Chat component

IVR, whether it’s a traditional automated phone system or powered by AI is about accepting phone calls from customers and routing them through to the right department. No matter how much AI improves this experience, enhancing IVR alone won’t help decrease your number of calls, and since the average cost per call is £6.26 in the UK and AI-driven chats for our clients are only 5p, the ultimate goal is reduce the need for customers to call at all. This saves customers time and energy, and reduces your support costs as well as your customer effort score.

Add a chat-based AI assistant to your website, app, social channels, or any communication platform, and you can deliver information to people instantly, giving them immediate answers to their most common queries. This saved Barking & Dagenham Council $48,000 in just six months.

When routine queries are handled upfront like this, there’s no need for customers to make a call into your support centre and, when they do, you know it’s a more complex, sensitive or unusual query that needs the skill and knowledge your human agents are specially trained to provide.

“The ability to deliver such high levels of accuracy without needing further interaction from the contact centre has helped us reduce our wait times considerably and know that queries that come through will be things that need direct answers from the contact centre team. Without [our AI assistant] our call volumes would have continued at an exceptionally high level and we are confident the system has saved us the equivalent of 2 additional heads due to us being open 7 days a week.” ~ John Branigan, Director of IT & Transformation at Mytime Active

Rethinking the customer service pie to improve experience

Until now, the main method of communication for handling customer queries has been telephone. Introducing AI-driven call routing respects the need for timely, helpful, humanised responses and helps you deliver them in a far more efficient way.

With the average call duration now 7 minutes and 6 seconds, which is the highest it’s been in 20 years, and costs per call equally high, finding a new way to give customers the help they need while saving time and reducing costs is a priority for business leaders across all sectors. They’re rethinking the customer service pie with phone now having the smallest slice of that pie and AI-powered services the largest.

Rethinking the customer service pie: 80% AI chatbot, 15% live chat, 5% phone

Using all three elements of AI-driven call routing (AI IVR, voice and chat) together helps you move your customers seamlessly across to a new experience using AI and human agents together to deliver the support they need depending on the circumstance.

The goal over time is to increase freedom for agents not to be tied to the phone lines or for customers to be stuck in a frustrating queue, and so a better experience for all.

Successfully making the shift to AI-driven call routing

To introduce AI into your call routing setup, you don’t need to change everything all at once. You can start by replacing traditional IVR with AI IVR to dramatically improve the call routing experience for customers.

When Watford Council took the plunge, we used their previous IVR system to train their new AI IVR component to recognise common customer queries and learn which department to send their customers to. Once we’ve identified and fixed any issues with the data, like “Council Tax” frequently being misheard as “cancel techs”, we can make sure every customer finds their way to the correct department using the new AI IVR system. With expert implementation, Watford’s AI IVR has successfully routed through 99% of calls correctly from day one.

Once you’re up and running, AI IVR can be integrated with your current phone system for your agents to continue to log in as normal and handle every query personally, but it’s far cheaper to make the switch to AI telephony.

It typically costs £6.26 per call in the UK for human agents to deal with routine, repetitive enquiries. Using AI telephony, that cost per enquiry can come right down to 20 pence with customers still getting their query fully resolved in real time.

Illustration of a phone screen, an AI assistant and a woman leaning on the giant phone, alongside the text

When you take around 11,000 calls every month as Watford Council does, that’s a gigantic annual savings of hundreds of thousands of pounds just from switching from traditional option-based IVR and human call handling to AI IVR and AI telephony. Add an AI assistant to reduce call volumes overall and you’ll save even more, freeing up your phone lines for the more unusual or sensitive enquiries that demand the human touch.

Calculate your savings

Calculate the cost savings that will be achieved by adding an AI assistant to your website

Monthly savings
Return on investment (ROI)
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Equivalent saved resource
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Total calls, emails & live chats
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Move the slider above to match your total customer service load per month (including calls, emails and live chats).
To calculate accurate savings for your business, put your real figures in the boxes below to replace these benchmarks.

your current average cost per enquiry (calls, emails, and live chats)
of enquiries you wish to be handled by your AI assistant (without the need for a call, email or live chat)
your average hourly rate for customer service rep / agent (including costs such as training, equipment, recruitment)

Start saving now

AI-powered call routing and enquiry resolution is significantly cheaper and more efficient, so you can focus your resources on higher value tasks and increasing profits in the long term, ready to scale your support services successfully.

Watford Council went live with AI IVR in less than four weeks from their first discovery call with our experienced team.

Illustration of a man in a green top at his laptop working on a project plan. A rocket leaves his laptop with a visual of him celebrating through the appearance of confetti

Let us know what frustrations you’re currently having with call routing systems and we’ll show you how AI can help to fix them. Reduced costs per call, a reduced customer effort score, and more time for your teams to do their best work are all a given : )


What is Amazon Lex?

Amazon Lex is a cloud service by Amazon Web Services (AWS) that developers use to build conversational AI interfaces using voice and text. It offers advanced natural language understanding and speech recognition capabilities, so developers can create AI assistants for various applications. Amazon Lex also integrates with other AWS services, making it easier to launch AI assistants across different platforms like websites, mobile apps, and messaging applications.

Does AI call routing replace systems like 8x8 and Netcaller?

If you already use 8×8 or Netcaller for call routing tasks, you can add AI IVR without replacing your current system and the two can work seamlessly together. AI call routing is a technology used within traditional call centre systems to intelligently direct incoming calls, but platforms like 8×8 and Netcaller include other features beyond call routing for customer support.

Will AI replace customer service teams?

While AI enhances operational efficiency by handling routine enquiries and tasks, human agents are crucial for complex problem-solving, empathy, and personalised interactions. AI complements and opens up many new opportunities for customer service teams, allowing them to focus on more strategic and high-touch customer interactions.

How does AI help improve customer support?

AI enhances customer support by giving customers instant responses to their enquiries, personalised recommendations, and automating routine tasks. It speeds up your first response time, which often leads to an improved customer satisfaction score. AI also helps analyse data to transform your customer insights, ultimately improving the overall support experience.

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