ASCENT GROUP
Customer Experience Consulting and Publications

Insight

Improving the Customer Experience

Enhancing the Self-Service Customer Experience

To understand how self-service IVR technology improves service delivery and the customer experience, we asked companies to share IVR self-service strategies and experiences.

The results of our research are documented in our recent report, IVR Self-Service Strategies, including current practices, lessons learned, challenges overcome, plans for the future, and business practices lead to improved performance.

Summary of Findings:

Participants rank providing optional self-services as the most important IVR deployment strategy. Also ranked highly, deploying the IVR for routing purposes. Selectively forcing callers through the IVR, operating solely as a back-end overflow system and handling all calls (with no opting out to an agent) figure less prominently.

Several participants have the capability to send a percentage of calls to an outside vendor’s IVR, transparent to the customer. This option is usually used during heavy call volume to supplement existing in-house resources or to provide specialized functionality.

Appropriate deployment of customer-facing technology is a key determinant of customer satisfaction. Successful deployment of IVR technology requires extensive research and design to ensure a customer-friendly application that will meet customer needs. 

Nearly all participants reported benefits of reduced or avoided costs and improved customer satisfaction. Companies migrating from touch-tone to ASR generally reported a 10 to 15 percent gain in call completions. Others reported increased customer satisfaction for after-hours self-service options. Estimating the number of agent-equivalents that would have been required to handle IVR completed calls—our panel averaged 1,082 equivalents—very real cost benefits.

IVRs must be considerate of the customer experience.

It is critical that you understand and incorporate your customers’ needs and expectations into your IVR applications. Customer research through phone and mail surveys or focus groups can confirm fundamental needs and expectations. Further testing of IVR prototypes and subsequent enhancements can ensure that customer needs are met.

Speech Recognition improves IVR utilization, but is more costly to develop and maintain.

Overcoming the learning curve and other challenges introduced by adding speech recognition is possible and rewarding. However, continual fine-tuning of grammar, user dictionary, and other speech thresholds can become costly.

Accept IVR Self-Service Payments.

Accepting and processing payments through the IVR offers significant time and cost savings. Make sure your IVR accepts customer payments by e-check, ACH, credit, and debit card.

Measure and Track IVR Performance to Understand the Caller Experience

Take advantage of a service or tool to actively test and monitor your IVR applications. These services can point out application, network, and system inefficiencies and failures that you may not recognize or hear about from customers. These tools can also track transactions, system availability, and system reliability, and even test your applications under varying degrees of stress and at varying times of the day, week, month, and year.

Target Research and Promotional Campaigns at Callers who Voluntarily Opt-Out or Frequently Talk with Agents.

Few of our participants promote IVR features through targeted campaigns. Even fewer offer customers incentives to use IVR services. Talk to these customers to better understand why they are opting out. This research might yield insight that will improve the design of your system or increase its functionality. Try a combination of agent promotion and a targeted mail or email campaign. Agents can point out the instances when it makes sense to use the IVR while the targeted campaign can reinforce the benefits.

Train Agents to Promote IVR Services.

By far one of the most successful, and probably least expensive, educational efforts a company can undertake is to encourage call center agents to suggest that callers access and complete transactions within the IVR. When appropriate, agents can inform callers that the transaction just completed with the agent could have been completed, without a wait, through the IVR.

Monitor IVR Call Quality.

Regardless of the channel, monitor the quality of each type of customer contact to make sure the quality is up to your standards as well as your customers.

Christine Kozlosky