ORLANDO, November 19, 2014 /PRNewswire/ --
In the world of Interactive Voice Response (or IVR), what was meant to make life easier, present cost-savings to businesses and actually increase revenue - the converse has occurred. It turns out since the current generation of IVR was born, customers are more vexed than ever. This is a result of an amalgamation of issues from poor voice user experience design that unintentionally yields interactive mazes to deployment services that have monotonous computerized voices. Overall, the natural user experience is practically extinguished. So, how can we turn this thing around and optimize the customer experience?
Who really benefits?
Well, let's talk about what makes IVR systems so great. The obvious benefits are to the companies that leverage these solutions. Simply put, it lowers overhead by reducing the number of customer service reps a business once needed. Think about it: how much money can a company save by only having to employ 40 associates in a call center, versus dozens and dozens? To put this in greater perspective, an IVR call tends to range in cost from five to 25 cents, whereas a human-to-human call can be 100 times that cost. It may sound cold. But, business is business. And, when a company stands to show its shareholders as much as a 90% savings that translates to hundreds of thousands of dollars - or more, there is no question what the executives will choose to do from an operations standpoint.
Then there are small businesses who also stand to reduce overhead. IVR systems for call routing are cheaper than ever. So, why wouldn't you cut down on costs by making it possible for a customer to enter an extension to reach the person they need to speak with without any potential roadblocks? This reduces the call time for both parties and eliminates the need for an operator. Not to mention, the customer is happier because they clearly select the specific reason for the call, which makes it possible for the IVR system to route the call to the right person or department, further eliminating the cost for call transfers and saving even more time. This is yet another instance of a win-win for the customer and the business.
The reality is the list of benefits is lengthy. But, let's illustrate a few more, and then we'll move on to some other important points that get us back to optimizing these experiences.
An effective IVR solution makes it possible for customers to make several types of inquiries: account balances, payments contact information changes - all without the need for human interaction. Plus, these interactions can be processed anytime, day or night, during or after call center hours. What's more, between prompts and transfers, there are opportunities to educate your customers about your brand. Sometimes these experiences result in the purchase or upgrade of services, further increasing margins while reducing overhead.
Why are so many customers growing impatient when engaging with automated interactions?
The first problem is the fact that some systems are horribly programmed. For instance, let's say you give the customer 9 options from which to choose. They have to select an option, no matter how appropriate. Or, worse than that, your IVR solution can't understand your customers. They repeat themselves. They change their answers. They yell obscenities your system doesn't comprehend. The next thing you know, they've transversed the phone maze and only want to talk to a live agent. That poses a problem for you in so many ways.
Now you have an angry customer who is wasting your company's time and money, when a well designed and developed system could have resulted in saving your customer time, and possibly making you more money.
But, let's go back to our scenarios and take a couple steps back. Your customer lacks technological savvy. We'll call him Frank Russell. The only thing Frank's cell phone can do is make and receive phone calls. Your system not only confuses Mr. Russell, it also got rid of the choice for dialing zero to get an operator. This was kind of smart, because your customers would skip the other nine options you presented them. So, now your system wants varying levels of verification or presents convoluted methods for reaching the end-goal. Either way, Frank is getting irritated. He pushes buttons. He starts yelling. The system recognizes a problem and offers to patch him through to the next available representative. Queue the calming soft jazz music. Ten minutes later, the wrong department answers the call. Well, that wasn't awesome, was it?
So, why did we just go through that exercise. We need to talk about the problem before we can devise a solution.
There's a wrong way and a right way
We have spoken of the benefits and the downsides. There is no question the benefits are rather appealing. So, how can you leverage best practices and integrate them into the way you do business, while increasing customer satisfaction and profits. The easy starting point is to put on your veritable customer hat. That's right. Pretend you are your customer. Pick up the phone and call your company. Do you encounter any issues? What are they? Can you easily and seamlessly reach a live agent during normal operating hours? Even though we want to mitigate the need for this, customers may need to be transferred, others are like Frank and just need to hear a human on the other end of the line. And, this should all happen with immediacy. Increased wait times increases frustration, especially when there are sensitive issues at-hand like identity theft or payment processing issues. Finally, can we simplify the system. The easier the system is for your customers, the happier they will be.
Just remember, these systems only save money when they don't disregard the end-user. Customer retention is way more critical. So, spending a little more to save a client still saves money. In other words, only design and deploy IVR systems that optimize the brand and customer experience. Otherwise, your customers will take their business to your competition. That means not stopping where the technology ends. That also means providing unparalleled customer service. A well-informed live agent generally translates to an appreciative, loyal customer.
Speaking of where the technology ends, it's really just the beginning.
Despite 90% of client interactions ending up in the voice channel, there are so many other modes to consider. These automated interactive self-service solutions now include text messaging and virtual agents. Frost & Sullivan categorizes them as "automated interactive customer contact" (AICC) solutions.
Speaking of Frost & Sullivan, there's a great article we need to share with you, from CRM magazine. Here's the link: http://www.destinationcrm.com/Articles/Columns-Departments/Insight/From-IVRs-to-Automated-Interactive-Customer-Contacts-95423.aspx
Good stuff, right? Well, there's more where that came from. In fact, Frost & Sullivan forecasts continued growth of IVR, which is the largest AICC component. However, there is an increasing demand for automated chat, which is believed to take a greater share of the web chat market in the coming years. It is also forecasted the total annual Web chat revenues will rise from dramatically over the next five years.
Concurrently, most AICC solutions have been migrating to the cloud. Cloud hosting allows companies to cut costs even further by avoiding capital outlays, and allows dynamic adjustment of solution capacity to match demand. Hosting also enables rapid application ramp-up. Furthermore, hosting improves business continuity and disaster recovery support by housing solutions at off-site facilities that provide voice, data, and power backup. What's more, this trend is clearly here to stay. It is steadily widening the revenue gap between on-premise and hosted IVR solutions.
Speaking of widening revenue gaps, it's been forecasted annual hosted Web chat revenues will more than double over the next five years. Yet, research predicts on-premise chat revenues will climb more slowly.
That's right! And, customers actually prefer interactive voice!
According to Fair Isaacs Corporation, a study concluded interactive voice calls generated significantly high levels of consumer satisfaction. This is attributed to their timely nature, along with their consistent and non-judgmental interactions. It turns out the consumers feel they control the interactions greater than in a dialogue with a live agent. And, when properly implemented, IVR calls generated a lower number of complaints.
The results of a survey by a European utility asked consumers who were notified about a missing payment how they preferred to be communicated with. Fifty-five percent of those surveyed said they would prefer interactive voice. This, of course, begged the question why there were so many customer hang-ups.
The survey concluded a wide range from an inconvenient time to a poor connection. But, most (70-80%) of the 35 percent of hang-ups that occur in the early stages of the call happen within the first few seconds, when the name of the organization calling is played. This is called "greeting block." Other hang-ups are distributed across the rest of the call, with varying reasons for the hang-ups.
So, how do we fix this aspect of interactive voice solutions?
If you called someone and the call ended abruptly, what would you do? You'd probably try to call them back. That makes sense, right? Shouldn't your system do the same thing?
When consumers hang up, it is absolutely recommended to have systems re-dial the consumer on the same number. When the call is answered, change the dialogue. "Our call was disconnected. Is now a good time?" Of course, the scripts could be adjusted to meet any need. The goal is to always complement the purpose of the call and to create as natural an interaction as possible, like addressing what happened last. In this case, we acknowledge the call ending abruptly.
Back to our anecdote. The consumer can now choose to continue the call on the automated service or choose an option to speak with a human agent. Or, they can schedule a return call. The goal here is to conclude a transaction while creating a positive customer experience.
In case you missed it, there are metrics that back this up, too.
Research indicates positive success rates with callbacks. An almost 9% up-tick in the number of correct parties connected; with approximately 17 percent of calls transferring to a live agent or self-resolve; and, the longer the customer was connected on the initial call, the increased likelihood of engaging with a reconnect call. Simply put, data demonstrates the efficacy of call-back or reconnect strategies. And, if that's not enough, it turns out more than 8% of customers reached for the purpose of finalizing a financial transaction via interactive voice callbacks converted to some form of payment arrangement.
So, this is all well-and-good, right? What's the takeaway?
Now, more than ever, is the time to embrace IVR.
Throw away that legacy system and work with a partner who delivers top-notch design, development and deployment of optimized, customer-centric IVR systems. With these natural customer experiences, you now have the opportunity to create happier customers and convert an even greater amount of automated sales. There really isn't a better way to promote your brand than by creating positive customer experiences. Creating happy customers creates loyal customers, which creates brand advocates.
Now, go make your customers happy!
VoxGen creates highly engaging and natural customer interactions by blending art, science and leading-edge technologies that enable businesses to connect customers™ to their brands.
We are an experienced group of design experts and technologists who believe there's a better way of delivering automated customer experiences. And we can proudly say we have successfully accomplished that for an impressive group of clients.
With every customer's call, you have the opportunity to dazzle or disappoint. At VoxGen, we help you create customer experiences that support, surprise and satisfy your customers - making them enthusiastic advocates of your brand. It's all about optimizing the customer experience. And that's what we do best. That's our story. Seamless. Simple. Successful.
Learn more at http://voxgen.com
Contact: Doug Berger; +1(0)4072837369; [email protected]
SOURCE Vox Generation Ltd