Independent Contact Center Consultants: Bridging Strategy, Technology and Operations Since 2004

Will IVR Ever Win Our Hearts?

Whenever I tell people that I’m in the call center business, I brace myself for a diatribe about “those darn systems” real people too often hide behind. Without fail, an Interactive Voice Response system (IVR) takes center stage. It doesn’t have to be this way.

can ivr win our heartsImagine a world where the response from your new acquaintance is to regale you with stories about cool and wonderful experiences with voice interactions. Companies have stopped wasting time and money on bad applications and instead leverage the technology to optimize customer interactions and corporate outcomes.

Here are six key innovations that have the potential to turn this imaginary world into reality.

1.     Call steering and caller identification IVR has long had a role in identifying who is calling and why, but with improved integration, personalization, intelligent interfaces, it can be a concierge: something a customer chooses to use. Customers willingly provide a bit of information to get what they want, knowing it’s necessary and worthwhile to quickly guide them onto the right path for their needs.

2.     Personalization and customization Building on the concierge analogy, this approach captures preferences, past usage patterns, customer information and status along with logic in the application to present appropriate choices and guidance. Customers experience simplified menus, receive relevant updates, and only go down paths that make sense given their relationship and status.

3.     Improved interface Companies can offer better and fewer applications (the RIGHT ones) because so many other good channels exist. The IVR is basically freed of the burden of trying to do it all. Moreover, data and speech analytics reveal what’s working and what’s not, and help identify opportunities for tuning applications and interfaces. Judicious use of speech recognition, text-to-speech, and voice recognition further enhance application delivery.

4.     Architectural changes Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) holds the promise of easier integration of customer data with the phone contact. While we’ve been able to pop screens at an agent desktop based on IVR-entered information for 25 years, we still have a long way to go to get everyone to use it. Perhaps now that it’s “easy,” it can become commonplace. And with IVR systems increasingly able to use the same mechanism to tap data and applications as web or other interfaces, IT can build and maintain system interfaces in one place and use them in different settings.

5.     Outbound notification and alerts IVR can serve as an outbound dialer – whether connecting people to people, or delivering automated messages with options to confirm, take other action, and/or speak to someone. When notifications and alerts are personalized and customized, they truly offer a “wow” factor for customers and can preempt more expensive or less timely inbound contacts for the company.

6.     And now for something completely different Imagine that you’re interacting with an automated interface and you get stuck. You need someone to guide you to the right place in the application or help you with an answer. Just when you’re ready to throw in the towel, an agent comes on the line to sort things out. He is part of a team that works in concert with the IVR to help customers be successful. You might still need to talk to a live agent, but in most situations the “automated” application will succeed because it’s got a human behind it to help out when needed.

Interested in learning more? Read my September article in Contact Center Pipeline entitled Not Your Mother’s IVR.