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

Don’t Let Your IVR Languish

We see common situations in our contact center assessment projects: The IVR needs fixing. It’s been static for years. But nobody thinks it matters too much. Or they are afraid to touch it, out of fear it will “break” something. Without reports, they lack visibility to the problems and the data to show the potential value of changes.

What do I do?In the rarer cases where awareness exists, they often feel it is too big a problem to fix. It involves multiple departments. They lack internal resources with IVR know-how, creating more inertia around how to find an available, qualified third party, not to mention the budget to pay for their services. At the same time, other emerging channels seem to demand more attention… and money, and resources. IVR is passé, so why bother!

No matter how much you may feel like it’s not worth the investment or you don’t know where to start, you can’t take a passive approach. IVR plays a critical role as the “front door” or “concierge,” providing routing segmentation to guide people to the right agents. For some verticals like financial services and utilities, it still provides substantial self-service. And in many cases, IVR plays a key role in authentication, identifying and verifying customers to ensure a secure transaction, whether they self-serve or seek assistance.

Tossing the IVR out is not an option either, unless you have a major initiative, supported by a commensurate investment in additional staff. Model the “what if” of moving calls handled by the IVR to agents, and be prepared for a startling impact on handle time without the IVR front-ending routing and identification. You will be dismayed as you look at metrics like service level and cost. Other ripple effects, like the impact of not segmenting call types and subsequently driving more transfers or lengthening training as you try to create “universal agents,” can be dramatic as well.

If your IVR technology isn’t too old and out of support from your vendor, fixing your IVR starts with assessing the current state. The cardinal sins we see include:

  • bad ivr menuBad user interfaces, characterized by long menus, non-consecutive numbers, too many choices, dead ends, etc. Admit it, you hate these too!
  • Non-professional menu recordings with varying voices, poor quality, or “voice talent” who simply lack the skills or vocal quality for the task.
  • No screen pop or use of information already gathered in the IVR, leading to the dreaded customer experience of repeating what they (painfully, perhaps reluctantly) just entered!
  • Little to no reporting, much less analysis and optimization, perpetuating the “ignorance is bliss” mindset that so often clouds IVRs!

The top targets for change should address each of these issues. Improve identification and verification to address both security and success rates, then use that information. Simplify by getting rid of the clutter, removing unused or little used options and paths. Tweak, if not revamp, scripting, menus, and prompts, and re-record where appropriate with appropriate voice talent. Integrate so nobody ever feels abused with repetition. And institute better reporting and analytics so you can evaluate and improve going forward.

While you’re at it, consider whether you underutilize the IVR and decide if you can muster the resources to move beyond fixing to enhancing. Dynamic menus that use data about the customer (like account status, past behavior) have been possible for a long time, but few have implemented these valuable improvements. You may be able to add speech, which can improve the interface and lead to greater customer success. And if your customers are likely smartphone users, explore the “visual IVR” options that enable you to make interacting easier.

Read the full article »