IVR- Because Your Call is Important to Us

In this blog we discuss the phrase "Because Your Call is Important to Us", as it does not always ring true as organizations look to just “handle” the calls in the most inexpensive way- normally via IVR.

In some cases, this is true. If your call is likely to end in a purchase, or to pay a bill, or even to stop you venting your frustrations on Facebook, it has value. However, in some cases the last thing the enterprise or government department wants to do is to talk to a caller. Take the case of a mobile phone provider, for instance. Some UK providers have deliberately made it impossible for a pre-pay customer to speak to an agent. This is understandable: the profit on pre-paid mobile phones is only a couple of pounds per month, and one conversation with an agent will turn that profit into a loss.

For mobile phone contract customers, the situation is often not much better. Once again, tariffs are low and profit margins can be very small, so call center IVRs are designed so that callers do as much as possible through automated self-service. Two minutes of agent time can cost between £2 and £5 in operational terms, so there is a big incentive to keep callers away from agents.

Nowadays, call centers are under increasing pressure to stop being cost centers and start being profit centers. This means they have to find ways to make money from calls. The calls themselves are getting cheaper, due to the spread of SIP technology and the related fall in phone tariffs, so some call centers are able to make a bit of money by forcing callers to use premium-rate numbers, at which point the time you spend in the queue or in the IVR is pure profit. Other call centers have become very good at filtering calls, servicing the ones where they stand to make money, and leaving the others to the mercy of long queues or automated self-service. Increasingly, even valuable calls are forced down the self-service route: bill payments can be reliably automated, so some organizations tell agents not to spend time on these transactions, and instead put callers back into the IVR once they are ready to make a payment.

Things are even worse for non-profit organizations such as government departments. The tax office is unlikely to be able to sell you an upgrade when you call about your account. They have very few ways to make money from your call. So, as well as being hemmed in by legislation which requires them to have processes both tortuous and torturous, they also need to keep you in the IVR for as long as possible, in the hope that you will find what you are looking for, or will simply hang up without wasting any agent time.

It’s not all bad news. Making a payment through an IVR is probably more secure than giving your details to an agent. Any in any case, filtering calls based on their value is something we all do: when was the last time you spent a cheerful ten minutes listening to what a cold caller had to say about insulating your home, or claiming compensation, or servicing your PC? It’s human nature. Time is money, money which is in short supply for businesses and customers alike. And money is the root of many things.

The solution is obvious: customers should pay for premium service. This model works for airlines, hotels, even banks. If you pay enough, you can have a dedicated phone line to your personal banker who will always be there to answer the call. No more IVRs, no more queues, no more frustration. The Beatles were wrong: all you need is money. If you haven’t got money, of course, you are stuck. Which is why organizations like ThinkMoney, a UK bank set up for people without much money to spare, are finding ways to provide a cost-effective service through IVR technology.

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Posted by eckoh at 2:55 PM on Sep 11, 2015


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