Customer Experience Consulting and Publications


Improving the Customer Experience

IVR self-service must reflect customer needs and expectations

Many companies are now realizing the importance of aligning internal quality measurements with customer expectations—measuring the “customer experience” rather than management’s interpretation of the customer experience. This philosophy should be incorporated into all customer-facing operations and technologies. However, many self-service technology options fall short of achieving customer expectations, for many reasons.

It is critical to understand and incorporate your customers’ needs and expectations into IVR self-service applications. Customer research can confirm fundamental needs and expectations and help identify opportunities to fine-tune the customer self-service experience. Prototypical testing of IVR self-service options further ensures that customer needs are met.

Our research studies confirm that “best-in-class” companies conduct extensive customer research in conjunction with IVR design changes or additions. Best performers incorporate customer feedback to establish customer expectations and the demand for self-service options—to test design prototypes, validate scripting and prompts, and confirm menu options.

IVR self-service technology offers companies more cost effective call management through call segmentation, automated call handling, and informational messaging. IVR technology offers customers 24-hour services and privacy. IVRs can also help companies manage peak call volumes, enabling companies to be more responsive to more customers, and more accessible.  However, it’s important to work through these goals to ensure that your technology is properly aligned to your strategy and that your strategy meets customer needs. No matter how badly you may want to maximize your cost savings with IVR technology, if the customer experience is poor, so goes your entire deployment.

Ultimately, IVR success rests on the quality and outcome of the conversation or interaction, just like calls into the call center or visits to a web site. Regardless of the channel—IVR, email, letter, voice, website—it all comes down to the customer experience.  Evaluate the performance of your IVR as you would any agent—productivity, quality, and call resolution. IVR performance measures should track caller outcome and not just internal process flow. In other words, make sure you can measure performance from the caller’s perspective, how it impacts what he or she was trying to accomplish. Track voluntary and involuntary opt-out rates, at each menu decision point. These measures will help you understand if the caller has all the information necessary to complete a transaction. They can also indicate a lack of knowledge or familiarity with system scripts and applications, indicating a need for education. Track hang-ups at each decision point. This measures satisfaction or dissatisfaction with the system. 

Keep in mind that there are many excellent service companies interacting with your customers day in and day out. These interactions influence your customers’ expectations about your service. With this in mind, all your customer-facing technologies must be scrutinized to make sure they support your customer service strategies and deliver the expected, and if possible even the preferred, experience to your customers. Review your customer interfaces frequently to increase adoption levels and ensure self-service success.

IVR applications are fluid systems and customer expectations are ever changing. Make sure you have the ability to routinely monitor whether your customers' needs are being met with your customer-facing technologies.

We are updating our study of IVR self-service options. Share your story to participate in our research (and receive a complimentary copy of IVR Self-Service Improvement Strategies upon publication).