Why You Should Care about Your IVR

By Donna Fluss

Contact centers are finally becoming omni-channel organizations where customers can interact using their channel of choice. Technology such as WebRTC is altering the service experience by allowing customers to change modes – moving from a chat session to a phone call, for example – without changing medium. Outbound environments can chase customers using many channels, as long as they comply with regulations. Despite all of this welcome innovation, the traditional, dependable interactive voice response (IVR) systems continue to handle a large percentage of both inbound and outbound calls cost-effectively.

Back to the Future: While the Millennial generation has a strong preference for using non-voice channels that are accessible from their smartphones, they are not opposed to using an IVR, as they often prefer any form of self-service over talking to a live agent. Of course, the IVR experience has to be a good one, which we all know is much less common than it should be. Enterprises need to invest in enhancing their Web and voice self-service channels.

The service experience delivered by these channels needs to be consistent, as should the information available to customers. The self-service channels should be optimized to allow users to easily access the information or transact their business. Web and voice self-service channels should mirror as many activities as possible, as there will be times when customers are unable to call or cannot get online.

Millennials are giving voice self-service a fresh beginning, even if voice is not their preferred channel. But Millennials will not put up with the many poorly designed IVR implementations in the market today. This means that if companies are willing to invest in enhancing the scripts, voice user interfaces (VUIs), and integrations between the system and agents, then they have a great opportunity to use their IVRs, which remain one of the most inexpensive forms of service.

Tips for Using IVRs with Millennials: Here are a few ideas for using an IVR to deliver service to the Millennial generation:

  • Make it speech-enabled, and be sure it works: Millennials don’t have a lot of patience. They may try it once, but if something doesn’t work, you’ve lost them, and even worse, there is a good chance they’ll share their grievances on social media.
  • Make it easy, and give callers the options they want: In the “old days” companies put up the options they wanted callers to use on an IVR. This didn’t work then, and it doesn’t work now. If you want callers to use an IVR, automate the tasks they want to do on this channel.
  • Do not torture callers who do you the favor of using your IVR: Make sure it’s painless for a caller to transfer from the IVR to a live agent. Transfer the customer’s account number, and tell the agent what the customer already did in the IVR. Forcing callers to input and validate their identity in the IVR and then asking them to do it again when they get to a live agent is a waste of time and money for your company – and a total turnoff for any customer, particularly a Millennial.
  • Optimize your IVR scripts and options: Continuously look for ways to improve the performance of your IVR. Callers are open to changing scripts, especially if it improves the service.
  • Personalize the IVR: Use analytics to personalize the IVR experience. If callers always do the same thing on the system, either give them this information after they authenticate, or present it as their first option when reading them the script.
  • Tap technology: Use visual IVR tools to build consistency in your self-service channels.
  • Invest in voice biometrics to reduce fraud risk: Once customers pass the initial verification screening, give them what they want, and if they need to transfer to an agent, make sure they are not asked to re-verify.

Final Thoughts: When scripts and VUIs are well-designed and optimized, customers welcome IVRs as a useful form of self-service. This means that the old days of building an IVR application and leaving it alone for months, if not years, is no longer an option.

There has been innovation in the IVR market, and there is good technology available from on-premise and cloud-based vendors. But companies that want to succeed with voice self-service today must continuously invest in their application to ensure that it’s meeting customers’ ever-changing needs.

Donna Fluss is the founder of DMG, a vendor-independent research and consulting firm that analyzes contact center and back-office technology and best practices. Contact her at donna.fluss@dmgconsult.com with any questions you may have or to learn how to make today’s innovative and powerful technologies and best practices work for your organization.

[From Connection MagazineMay/June 2016]

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