IVR Solutions – Your Call May Be Recorded

Why do government departments and large corporations have such painful IVR systems? It isn’t a new situation, but it has become topical again.

Why, for instance, does the UK tax office helpline, according to a recent report subject its callers to one of the worst IVR experiences in the country?

Is it because they don’t care, don’t try, or don’t want to help you?

“Your call may be recorded”

Contact centers don’t record calls because they want to. They record calls because they have to: It’s a legal requirement in many cases, and a sensible precaution in general. The same applies to IVRs: they are a necessary evil, a way of making customer contact cheap enough so that businesses can make a profit. An IVR exists to save agent time, either by collecting information the agent needs to handle the call, or by servicing the call without the need for any agent involvement.

I went into a shop a couple of months ago, to take out a mobile phone contract. I sat down with a human at a desk, and I had their undivided attention. At one point, the human sales assistant had to read out a legal statement regarding the payments or the insurance or some such: it took about three minutes, and I was fidgety before the end of it. If I had been on the phone, listening to an IVR read out the same statement, I would probably have been furious. In both cases, the problem is not that the company wants to torture you: it is simply a legal requirement for you to hear he whole statement. I tried asking my apologetic torturer if I could read the statement myself, or if we could just skip it, but my unwilling torturer explained that he had to read it and I had to listen.

Government departments, financial services, and many other organizations are hemmed in by legislation which makes it impossible for them to provide a comfortable IVR experience. When you have to be offered different languages, informed that you can use the web or visit our offices (opening hours such and such), told the per-minute cost of the call, and given all sorts of legal advice before you even reach the first menu, the telephone channel becomes a frustration rather than a facilitator.

On the other hand, do you really want to go back to personal service, face-to-face at a counter? Have you ever written to the tax office, or visited the office in person? I have not, but I expect it is at least as frustrating as calling them on the phone. I did visit the UK passport office in person recently, when I needed to renew a passport in a hurry, and I would happily have queued on the phone for a very long time instead. Sometimes it doesn’t matter what technology you use: the process is just painful.

So next time you’re stuck in a long and complex IVR maze, try to remember that it was probably designed to mimic a long and complex human maze, or to fulfil the legal requirements of our untrusting and untrustworthy society.

So What?

Sometimes you can’t just have what you want. Wireless electricity. Instant mail-order delivery. A simple way to get to an agent in a call center. Get over it. The IVR is generally there to help you: work with it, or find a better way.

You can have better service if you’re prepared to pay for it. What’s more important to you, a good hospital, or a good way to contact the hospital?

If you want something to work, design it well. If you want something designed well, ask the experts. If you want something designed to a budget, accept the consequences.

And finally, as the late Douglas Adams succinctly put it, “people are a problem.”

Read the other blogs in this three part series:

”Your call is important to us”

“We are currently experiencing a large volume of calls”

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Posted by eckoh at 2:43 PM on Sep 23, 2013

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