Blog 13 March 2020

Three ways to get more from IVR systems in the Golden Age of Voice

by Richard Farrell

IVR Systems

Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems are enjoying a renaissance thanks to the rise of voice interfaces. Here are our three tips for getting the most from these platforms.

We’re now in a golden age of voice. Siri, Alexa, Google, and even messaging services like WhatsApp, have normalised person-to-machine interactions and this trend is only going one way.

This is all good news for businesses.

The right voice interface can help you improve the customer experience by creating a more convenient and natural communications platform. It can also help you reduce costs, automate certain interactions and you can redeploy agents on more complex and worthwhile tasks.

The question is how do you get started?

Some businesses dive into the deep end and invest in Alexa skills but this can be expensive and time-consuming. It won’t work for all of your customers either. Only 20% of UK households own a smart speaker and only a portion of these are Amazon Echos.

It makes more sense to consider an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system.

Here’s why.

Why an IVR system makes sense
The first step in capitalising on voice is to meet customers where they’re trying to engage you. The reality is that few customers will be asking Alexa to call you. They’re a lot more likely to pick up their phone or click “call” on your website.

That means the quickest and easiest way to tap into the potential of voice is to install an IVR system.

And you don’t have to compromise on any of the benefits of Alexa, Siri etc. either. IVR can help you dramatically improve customer experience and reduce costs, providing you apply it correctly.

How to get the most from your IVR solution – Three tips

1. Work out where it fits
It can be tempting to apply time-saving technologies like IVR to every use case but the reality is it won’t be relevant at every touchpoint or for every user.

You need to identify where it fits in your omnichannel mix. To do that you need to work backwards from the desired customer outcome.

Let’s say a customer wants to make a payment over the phone. They’ll have to share some personal details with you, including their card number and expiry date. It makes a lot more sense to use touch-tone for this specific use case given the process and the customer need. If they mispronounce their number, you’ll have to ask them to repeat it and that’s likely to trigger frustration.

On the other hand, if you apply speech recognition where you already have volumes of incoming voice, you’ll get better outcomes. If a customer is calling your switchboard hoping to speak to a specific person, then an IVR solution makes sense. It can recognise the person’s name and redirect the call in seconds.

It’s likely IVR will only be one channel in a vast omnichannel mix but it may fill a gap that no other solution can fill.

2. Feed it the right data
A great IVR experience is seamless and natural. The conversation doesn’t have to flow per se but you shouldn’t be asking the customer to repeat themselves again and again.

You can only create this type of experience by feeding your IVR solution the right data. Notice we say the “right data” here. You don’t necessarily need to integrate your IVR system with every data source at your disposal. It makes a lot more sense to choose data sources based on the use case.

For example, if you’re using an IVR platform to reroute calls, it makes sense to connect it to your directory.

The important thing is that this data input is to be continuous – so when new names are added to the directory, they’re fed through to your IVR solution. Otherwise your IVR experience will deteriorate, fast.

It’s also worth establishing a feedback loop. So if your IVR is failing to recognise a certain name you can rapidly identify and resolve this issue.

3. Don’t see it as a replacement for agents
An IVR solution can do some of the things your agents can do but it can’t do everything. This is an important distinction that some businesses fail to understand. They try and replace some of their agents with IVR and end up eroding agent morale (and the customer experience) as a result.

One of the best ways to maximise the value of IVR is to identify the mundane jobs that are holding agents back and automate them with IVR.

These are likely to be low-value, simple tasks that are also time-consuming and boring. Think data entry or switchboard maintenance or feedback capture.

Focusing IVR on these use cases is better for your agents and better for your customers.

IVR: A channel reborn
IVR used to be a cost-saving solution – a way of minimising call queues and reducing agent workloads. But the customer experience suffered as a result. People rang businesses hoping to deal with a person and were instead presented with a clunky and unhelpful bot.

Today, the scenario is completely different.

Customers expect and often want to engage with a bot. And that means IVR can be a powerful way of cutting costs and improving the customer experience.

But you have to apply it the right way – where it can make the biggest impact, fueled by the right data.

Find out how IVR systems can impact your business.

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