Shaping the IVR of the Future Will Require New Technology and Some Common Sense

Ken Landoline

Ken Landoline

Summary Bullets:

  • As any customer service satisfaction survey will reveal, today’s interactive voice response (IVR) systems, which were designed to encourage self-service, cut costs and speed up interactions, are brimming with problems and often result in an increase in customer calls to live agents and diminished overall customer satisfaction and loyalty.
  • While there has clearly been an increase in the technological tools and data applications available to boost IVR performance, it is also clear that common sense often remains the key missing ingredient in many implementations.

As I have discussed in previous blogs, despite the intent to make customer service faster and better, I believe IVR systems continue to cause more problems than they fix in today’s customer service marketplace. Without a doubt, they continue to be the source of a growing amount of frustration in the minds of the customers they were designed to help. While there is little doubt that the expanding set of technological advances ranging from the ubiquitous nature of cloud applications and services to the availability of big data analysis and context-related personalization will help, we should not overlook the benefits of common sense to improve customer service using today’s available tools and those yet to be introduced.

There are several easily identifiable areas in which the IVR interface and process can be improved with added personalization, including the initial greeting, personalized messaging and the addition of ‘context’ as it relates to where the customer is in the service journey.

  • Greeting Personalization – After caller identification and authentication, a process which is rapidly being improved by new technologies including speech recognition and voice authentication, greeting the caller by name and reference to his/her account status (e.g., Premier Member, 25-Year-Plus Customer, Valued Platinum Member) goes a long way toward putting the customer in a positive frame of mind and happy to proceed with the business process, whether in an automated or live agent-handled call. This personalization requires no more than simple management of a few pieces of information supplied by your customer relationship management (CRM) system.
  • Personalized Message Creation – Personalized customer messages should be developed and delivered whenever possible to avoid unproductive customer wait times as well as to benefit the sale of products and services. For example, when a customer dials into a bank or credit union IVR to check a savings account balance and the system determines the customer’s account has a relatively high balance that has been sitting dormant for a while, a message suggesting the customer might consider a high-yield, multiple-year CD offering a bonus interest rate for signing up today might be appropriate and beneficial to the customer.
  • Context Preservation – In the new omnichannel world of customer service, carrying the information and the ‘context’ of the customer’s journey from point to point and channel to channel through the service interaction is becoming fundamental to good customer service. It is clear that in the contact center of the future, there will be no tolerance for making the customer re-start his or her journey each time he interrupts the continuity of the call with a pause or channel change. Context is the new ‘holy grail’ of customer care, and to preserve context, there must be a trail of information that travels with the customer from interaction to interaction and across channels in order to avoid reintroductions and lengthy explanations throughout the customer service journey. This was a rule followed long before contact centers were invented, but somehow the practice was lost with the passing of the corner store.

While there is little doubt that evolving technology has a great deal of promise for significantly enhancing or ultimately replacing automated, self-service customer interaction in the future, customers would not have to settle for impersonal, inflexible IVR interfaces today if businesses would simply use common sense coupled with today’s technology to improve the customer’s experience.

About Ken Landoline
As Principal Analyst within the Current Analysis Business Technology and Software group Ken Landoline tracks the enterprise unified communications and contact center (UCCC) markets.

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