Improve Your Customer Experience by Reinventing Your IVR

It’s no surprise that consumers still believe that IVR systems are one of the most annoying technologies on the planet. In a recent Nuance survey, consumers likened IVR to the incessant sting of biting mosquitoes. It’s fairly easy to see why: they aggravate callers with confusing menu mazes, alienate them with impersonal radio-announcer voices and inundate them with requests for PINs and passwords they can’t—and shouldn’t have to—remember. On the flip side, consumers prefer the control and convenience they get when they’re able to serve themselves.

One Nuance survey found that 66 percent believe that self-service is generally more convenient. This preference is even higher—82 percent—among Gen Y consumers. And despite the growth in the use of channels such as social media, the Web, and mobile devices, the majority of consumers still prefer the phone for customer service. In fact, contact centers spend nearly $150 billion each year on agent salaries and supporting infrastructure to handle customer service calls.

Improving self-service for the phone will not only reduce costs. Here are two additional reasons to consider a new approach to interactive voice response (IVR).

Consumer Expectations for Self-Service Have Evolved

Consumers continue to adopt new technologies and services, relying more on their personal devices to manage everyday tasks. Over half of U.S. adults now own a smartphone with some surveys revealing even higher numbers among certain demographics. Regardless of age, people just can’t seem to separate themselves from their devices.

According to a Harris Interactive survey, 72 percent of smartphone owners are within five feet of their devices the majority of the time. These personal devices store everything from family photos, business contacts, favorite restaurants and games, to user IDs, passwords and communications history. What’s more, mobile apps combine contextual information such as location, date, weather and time with personal information, such as your name, financial data or your transaction history. The apps’ ability to combine this data intelligently produces a highly tailored experience that makes it faster and easier to get what you need. A perfect example is the Starbucks mobile app. It alerts you when there’s a store nearby, delivers a coupon for your favorite drink and allows you to pay for that drink with a simple barcode swipe. 

With that type of intelligence at their fingertips, it’s no wonder your customers expect more intelligent interaction from your IVR. Just a few years back, callers found it a little creepy when IVRs greeted them by name. Today, usability studies show that greeting a caller by name has a positive impact on the IVR experience. Whenever possible, IVR should meet caller expectations for intelligent, personalized self-service.

Reducing Customer Effort Increases Loyalty

One of the largest customer satisfactions studies conducted by Customer Contact Council, a division of the Corporate Executive Board, found the predictive power of customer effort to be strong. Ninety-four percent of participants who reported low effort for getting service expressed an intention to repurchase, and 88 percent said they would increase their spending. Conversely, 81 percent of those who had a hard time solving their problems reported an intention to spread negative word-of-mouth.

An old fashioned touchtone IVR with layers of menu trees actually increases caller effort. In a recent Nuance consumer survey, 40 percent of respondents indicated they would only listen to the IVR through the first list of choices. If they don’t recognize a choice that matches the reason they’ve called, they’ll immediately transfer to an agent.

To maximize automation and reduce effort, tailor the IVR to offer personalized, journey-aware experiences leveraging your CRM system, transaction logs and caller preferences, making your IVR feel more like a personal assistant. Make efforts to eliminate multi-level menu trees and unnatural conversation flows. Doing so further reduces caller effort and will add to your savings. Usability studies show that with each menu tier you eliminate you increase your automation audience by 3 percent to 5 percent. As an example, replacing a three-tier menu with a single ‘How may I help you?’ prompt could increase your automation audience by 50 percent, while at the same time making it easy for callers to get exactly what they need. 

A Reinvented IVR Can Help You Get it “Right” on the Phone (and Save Money)

IVR may be a decades-old technology, but it’s being reinvented to meet the demands of the “I want easy, I want it now” consumer. There are 150 billion and two reasons for you to make sure you get it right on the phone. With an average cost of $5.90 per agent call compared to only pennies per IVR call, building a more engaging IVR that meets consumer self-service expectations and reduces caller effort will not only result in huge operational savings but an even bigger impact to your business through improved satisfaction and loyalty. 

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