The IVR is an integral part of any call center. Customers can call the center and get what they need without ever talking to a human, allowing agents greater availability to handle the more pressing calls. Yet despite their obvious advantages, most IVR systems aren’t perfect and can benefit from some improvements.
Want to Hear More?
Elaine Cascio will be leading the workshop Winning with Self Service on June 13 at ICMI’s ACCE 2011 Conference and Expo in New Orleans. Elaine can also be heard in the ICMI webinar Show Customers How Much You Care.
You can also learn more about contact center technology at one of the Today’s Technology – And Tomorrow’s sessions being offered at ACCE.
How do you know when your IVR is due for some revamping? One of the best ways is to dial the number yourself. By putting yourself in the shoes of the customer, you’ll get to experience the IVR just as they do. If you find the IVR confusing or feel the desire to hang up in frustration, there’s a good chance your customers feel the same way. And that means it’s probably time to build a better IVR.
So, where do you start? Elaine Cascio, Vice President of Vanguard Communications Corporation and an expert in customer experience, shares some tips for ways to improve your IVR.
Make it Familiar and Easy to Use – Cascio’s first suggestion is to make your IVR more inviting. Again, if you wouldn’t want to stay on the call with your own IVR, there’s little chance your customers are that fond of it either. Cascio suggests to “emulate the processes used by agents wherever possible.” Just as how an agent will try to keep the call as brief and efficient as possible, in order to meet service level and move on to the next call, the same theory should be in place for the IVR. You don’t want to overload the customer with too much information, have them listen to a long, drawn-out message or give them too many steps to get the information they need.
Be Conversational – While brevity is important when developing an IVR, you should still make your IVR conversational and easy to understand. Cascio says to focus on what is being said and how it is presented. She states, “Don’t use jargon – use clear, concise and commonly understood language and terminology.” Additionally, she recommends putting the time into creating a script that is not only easy to follow and inviting, but also reflects the character and services of your brand. Furthermore, it is a good idea to read the scripts aloud before putting them into production and conduct focus groups to see how people respond to the content. Cascio also suggests hiring experienced voice talent to record the messaging.
Leverage Data and Technology – Just as customers will be put off if they have to listen to more information than is necessary, they shouldn’t have to provide the same information each time they call. The IVR can be set up to recognize the number calling or ask callers for their unique pass code and use information already on file to speed the process along. Cascio recommends that IVR systems have the capability for callers to transfer to a live agent, in case they need further assistance. If so, the caller’s data should be easily transferrable from the IVR to the agent, so they don’t have to provide their information once again.
Manage and Measure – Cascio stresses that it is important to perform quality monitoring on calls handled by the IVR in addition to calls handled by live agents. Doing so will keep you informed about how your customers are handling the IVR, and allow you to make sure that it is working properly and helping the business meet its goals. Cascio adds, “Make sure that your measures of success are strategic, customer centric and make a difference in how your business operates.” Quality monitoring can also provide key insight into how successful the IVR is. If a large percentage of callers are hanging up or spending too much time on the IVR, then you’ll know that it may need some more work.
Test, Test and Test Again – Of course, once you’ve made the necessary improvements to the IVR system, you’ll want to make sure they are right. That’s where testing comes in. Cascio recommends setting up focus groups to see if the average caller will understand the language and processes presented by the IVR. Additionally, usability tests will let you know if the IVR is usable and intuitive, and comprehensive user acceptance tests should be conducted prior to deployment.
A good IVR will make the contact center’s operations more efficient and be more cost effective. On the other hand, a poorly developed or executed IVR can be inefficient and wasteful and might even scare your customers away. Since this is the first and often only interaction they’ll have with your business, you’ll want them to be greeted by a coherent and easy-to-use IVR system. By using these tips, you’ll be well on your way to creating a better IVR and, in time, enjoying increased operational efficiency and more customer loyalty.