Tuesday, December 4, 2007

When is an IVR system satisfactory?

Any company or service that must handle a large number of callers will inevitably install an IVR system. What factors does the owner of such a system consider in deciding whether performance is satisfactory? Here are some of the important ones:

  • the cost of running the system
  • the number of calls the system handles
  • the proportion of calls that must be handled by a human operator
  • the number of complaints about the system

Unfortunately the general level of satisfaction with IVR systems is low, so people may not complain even if they’re not completely satisfied. That’s why some IVR system owners adopt some of the ruses mentioned by Carl Turner in his recent article Tricking the caller to stay in the IVR. Here is a sample of what he is discussing:

I don’t think I’ve worked on an IVR project when the business people didn’t suggest using “tricks” to keep callers in the system. You know what I mean by tricks: disabling the zero key, or playing a routing menu when zero is pressed, or using a non-zero key for transfers, messages that falsely state long queue times, or putting the caller back in the system after they request a transfer. Often the tricks that are used in IVRs can create pure misery for the caller.
It’s all very well to try to reduce the cost of the operation but that’s not the whole picture. Callers are often customers. Without them the business is nothing. So when is an IVR system satisfactory. The only sensible answer must be when callers find it satisfactory. That’s why Carl Turner offers the following advice:
My recommendation to companies considering using tricks to keep customers in the automation: work on the quality of your IVR first. Monitor, survey, read the reports, improve. Once you’re satisfied that the IVR operates flawlessly you can consider using some small inducements (a nice way of saying a subtle trick) to keep callers in the IVR. If it’s done properly you might be able to increase your automation rate slightly with no cost to the user experience. However, it all depends on first getting the IVR right.

Business owners should not find this thinking difficult to accept. Customers are much more in control in this Internet age. It is very much easier for them to check out the competition and switch if they’re not completely happy. That’s why it’s essential to be customer-centric. You’ve got to see it from the customer’s point of view. So once more, what is the only possible answer to that question, “When is an IVR system satisfactory?” It’s when the customer tells you it’s satisfactory.

It’s True: Your Customer Can Love Your IVR (or at least be good friends)

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