IVR Applications and Speech – Why Customers Are Frustrated By It

So if it’s not about the technology, what are organizations doing wrong?

A lot of self-service speech and IVR applications are born to frustrate customers just simply because they have been designed the wrong way round.

The focus really has to be on meeting the customer’s expectations. The focus shouldn’t be on IVR applications and it shouldn’t be about making it possible for businesses to cut costs or reduce call queues by simply automating their internal processes. The focus really has to be on meeting the customer’s expectations and choosing the right transaction to be automated.

This is really about getting the basics right. It’s really important for organizations to concentrate on implementing solutions that are appropriate for the related task. For example, while it’s technically possible to create an entirely reliable speech-based funds transfer application, it may not be something consumers would feel comfortable with. To be truly successful, you need to pick the right transaction for automation. If the transaction doesn’t suit automation, don’t automate it.

It can be too easy to get sucked in to the latest technology issues such as how many speech tokens they should have in their application grammar. This isn’t what the focus should be about. Don’t think about the technology, think about the users instead – in this case by concentrating on how the IVR applications will be used and what the most appropriate user interface is for this.

My experience is that you’ll get a much more effective system if you first think about what your customer wants to do and then work to try and pre-empt that requirement.

As consumers we all – quite reasonably – expect easy and quick access to an organization and its services. If I’m calling an energy company, for example, I may want to have my most recent bill changed because it is based on an estimated meter reading. That’s a quite specific goal. I’m probably going to have to provide a new meter reading as part of the process, but it’s not what I originally called to do. As a caller, I’m expecting a process flow that is logical and will move forward in common sense steps. I really don’t want to have to think about it.

So many self-service IVR applications seem to focus only on reducing call center operating costs and the volume of calls to agents. While these may be ‘pain points’ for the organization in question, as a consumer I simply don’t care about their internal complexities, I just want a comfortable and successful interaction.

So when you’re designing IVR applications systems, don’t just build a solution that works for the way you do things in your company or organization. Think about what your customer wants to do and what their experience will be when they contact you. Do some mystery shopping, and try and live your customer experience from the other side of the fence – it can be an enlightening experience.

Think about the end-to-end customer experience

The last two years particularly, with the growth of the self-service culture, have also seen a dramatic change in how consumers want to communicate with the organizations they choose to. An increasingly important requirement is consistency across the different channels we use – whether it’s IVR, speech, web, voice, e-mail or SMS. That means that all of an organization’s different contact center systems and processes need to be aligned to help enable a joined-up service culture and deliver a consistent brand experience.

So if I start a transaction in one channel and end in another, it’s important that the process isn’t disjointed; it should be like an efficient journey, with the technology in place to support it.

If, for example, you’re in the middle of an IVR session and require further assistance, you shouldn’t have to explain everything you have just done when you get to an agent. In this case, an agent should pick up the transaction and know exactly how far along the process you were.

Bring the contact center and self-service systems together

This kind of integration between IVR and agent is an important reminder that IVR applications are an essential part of an organization’s overall customer contact strategy. Too many organizations still see the IVR as a largely ignored box in the corner of the contact center and not as an integral component. It’s time for those who are responsible for customer contact to get a better handle on what’s happening in the IVR before the caller speaks to an agent.

With the latest real time CTI and IVR monitoring and reporting tools, it’s now possible for organizations to combine IVR applications with their other channels to gain a more realistic overview of their customer service performance and experience. This is an important stage as it will mean that IVR is no longer considered as a distinct component, and greater visibility will lead to an increased focus on IVR applications performance standards.

In the past we’ve perhaps all been guilty of treating IVR applications as a technical challenge rather than considering its implications for the people involved – your customers.

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Posted by eckoh at 11:25 AM on Jan 29, 2012


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