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

Technology Optimization: Interactive Voice Response

telephone keypadMy friends and family love to tell me their latest miserable customer interaction experiences, and I bet yours do too. I’d also bet that new acquaintances offer an animated account of a recent IVR horror story when they find out what you do. Of course the good news is you can readily share your favorite nightmare, and are quickly fast friends with something in common. The bad news is they want you to fix all those bad systems out there or make them go away. It’s time IVR stopped being a conversation piece and started being a centerpiece of service excellence.

Here are some things you can do to optimize IVR technology and its application in the center:

FIRST: Get your hands on a set of IVR best practices (just do a quick search and you’ll find many) and use them to audit your applications. You can assign this as a special project, or ask your CSRs to chip in during lulls in contact center activity. If you’ve got the budget, hire an expert to guide your assessment and design changes. Document “quick hit” fixes – e.g., establish consistent navigation, refine scripts, remove unnecessary prompts or self-service applications, remove dead ends, re-record using professional voice talent in a studio. Then find a way to make those changes happen soon.

SECOND: Set up a routine optimization plan. Make frequent calls into the system to assess performance. Develop a quality review protocol for IVR calls to hear how customers interact with and react to your system. Ask CSRs about the feedback they receive from customers. Summarize findings for quarterly reviews with IVR stakeholders (contact center, IT, and perhaps business units and marketing). Discuss what’s working and what needs to change and build and execute action plans accordingly.

FINALLY: Identify new applications that could reduce call volumes and build the business case for their implementation. Here are some key factors to consider with new applications:

  • As you plan for new applications, give careful consideration regarding when to use touch tone and when to use ASR for your user interface. Focus on the user needs, expectations, and demographics. And keep in mind you may need to offer both.
  • Include a plan for integrating IVR with your other contact center technologies if you don’t already. Bring an expert on board to help with design. [You don’t do yourself any favors by pinching pennies here!]
  • Do lots of usability testing with real customers and incorporate their feedback into the design before you go into production.
  • Build proper reporting capabilities into your designs and use them to analyze and optimize your applications.