The role your voice channel still plays in customer service & satisfaction

The year 2017 has brought forward many trends and tendencies in the world of contact centers, which are discussed in a multitude of papers, blog posts and online columns. Because it’s 2017, trends include omnichannel, personalization, virtual hold, chatbots, virtual assistants, social networking, and so on and so forth. Meanwhile, customers calling most contact centers feel like they’ve been teleported to a different century: “please listen carefully as our options have changed” (three years ago), “to ensure the quality of our service, please listen carefully to the following options” (because if the quality of our service is poor, it’s because you didn’t pay attention!), “your call is important to us” (really?), “if the answer is yes, say yes, if not, say no”, “we invite you to visit our website for assistance at www.dontcallus.com” (this is where I found the phone number in the first place!).

Yes, you have neglected your interactive voice response system! It was put in place 10 or 15 years ago, you add or remove options once in a while, you record new messages whenever you need to, you adjust a little bit of this, a little bit of that, but you never really bother with revisiting it because it seems to be working well enough. You figure that people will inevitably use it less and less in favor of your website or of your brand new mobile application that cost a fortune in development, so why would you invest in your old IVR?

There are a variety of good reasons to do so:

  • Even with new communication channels being made available and increasingly sophisticated self-service applications, there will always remain situations where your customers will need to speak to someone.
  • You’re only as good as your weakest channel: you may have the most awesome website, the most advanced mobile application, the most up-to-date SMS and chat functionalities, it’s that awful call that your clients will remember, and it’s that experience that they will make sure to share on social media.
  • A customer who had a hard time in the IVR will let your agents know: this generates costs in time, but also has a negative impact on your agents’ morale. (And as a contact center manager, you know what that means: a higher turnover rate, higher training costs, etc.)
  • Every customer routed to the wrong agent will have to be transferred: this also generates productivity losses and significant costs.
  • Each transaction started but not completed through self-service also generates important costs: a call made to an IVR is significantly less costly than a call handled by an agent.
  • A customer who has a bad experience in an IVR is potentially a lost customer: many studies have shown that customers will likely stop doing business with an organization after a bad customer experience, no matter the communication channel.

In other words, you can’t afford to neglect your IVR.

Optimizing your IVR has the potential to provide significant benefits in many respects:

By reducing routing errors and transfers between agents, significant productivity gains can be attained, which will translate not only into cost savings, but also into customer satisfaction improvements. Nobody likes to get to an agent after waiting in queue for several minutes, only to be put back in queue after explaining their issue, wait some more, and explain it again to the next agent.

By reducing the time a caller has to spend in the IVR, there is an immediate improvement in customer experience. This will in turn likely reduce zero out rates, since callers will identify the right option more quickly in the IVR and be less prone to press zero.

Increasing self-service transactions and, by extension, increasing the success of existing self-service transactions, can help achieve significant cost reductions. The average inbound call cost is around $5 or more while the average cost of a self-service IVR call is about 6 or 7 times less. That’s an opportunity you don’t want to miss, but to increase the use of self-services in the IVR, they need to be carefully designed and tested with end users.

Improving the IVR will also reduce the rate of abandoned calls by allowing callers to quickly find the option they are looking for. This clearly reduces the risk of losing them due to a bad customer experience.

Callers zeroing out early in the IVR are usually routed to generic agents, who need to identify the purpose of the call before transferring the caller to another agent group or queue. This has significant impacts on productivity and service levels. Reducing zero out rates improves productivity, service levels and also call duration (when the caller selects the right option, it is displayed on the agent desktop, providing them with important information without having to ask the caller). In addition, when the caller selects the right option instead of zero in the IVR, they are directed to the right agent on the first try and don’t need to be transferred.

Optimizing the IVR also means improving the identification and authentication processes, and by extension, success rates. Advanced technologies such as voice biometrics can be used to achieve this goal, but other, less costly solutions, can also be explored. Allowing the caller to easily and efficiently authenticate in the IVR has a positive impact on customer experience, but first and foremost, it reduces agent average handle time (AHT), and consequently, increases productivity and reduces costs.

Exploring new technologies such as natural language and personalization (you may consult this white paper from Genesys for information on that topic) can also have a huge impact on several metrics, such as automation, productivity, AHT, and overall customer experience and satisfaction.

In addition to productivity increases and cost savings, all the improvements that can be achieved by optimizing your current IVR and exploring new solutions will allow your organization to be one step ahead in offering a satisfying customer experience.

And as a result, your organization will just look better.

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