Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Increase Caller Satisfaction with IVR Scripts that Work

A recent article with TMCnet, Business Phone Systems Important for Enhancing Customer Experience, notes that “choosing the right business phone system is as important as having a pleasing and friendly voice while interacting with a customer”. One of the most important components of a good voice recognition system is an effective voice recognition script. Callers can easily inform agents of their needs, but it isn’t so easy with an automated IVR system. Either callers wait around while the system rolls through an endless parade of menu options, or else they’re stuck repeating phrases that the speech recognition software does not recognize.

Dealing with a voice recognition system that doesn’t consider caller needs can dramatically decrease customer satisfaction. That is why the script for a voice recognition system is so crucial to the success of the overall IVR system. Optimizing the system functionality to consider the needs of callers can simulate the experience of talking to an agent and give the call an increased feel of spontaneity.

The TMC article addresses the problems associated with poor phone systems:
Often, we hear people complaining about poor customer service and it’s usually due to long hold, being rerouted to the wrong official, or poor sound quality. These glitches hamper the image of the company and the customer may not call again.
Thus, having a system that considers caller needs is crucial. Imagine how much faster and more pleasant it is for customers to call and ask a speech recognition system for store hours and have the necessary information in seconds. Rather than sitting there waiting for “Option 1… Option 2… Option 3…” and getting tied up in an endless list of menu items asking callers what they want, callers can go straight to the source of the issue, just as though talking to a live agent.

To function optimally, the IVR system has to know what callers want, and it takes extensive research of call history and IVR call monitoring to find out the kind of reasons people call. There need to be effective prompts and a logical call progression. Also, it’s important to keep in mind that there are many options available for the design of voice recognition systems. As the TMC article states, “Functionalities and options available in each system are different and depending upon their needs, a company should decide in favor of a system that benefits them most.”

At the end of the day, an IVR system can’t replace a live agent for complex calls. A human agent is needed to resolve in-depth issues and mediate conflicts. But with a well-designed IVR script, agents are freed from simple, repetitive calls. Problems with call routing disappear with automatic IVR call-directing, and custom-designed IVR scripts can even interact with customers on hold to troubleshoot and try to resolve the problem independently, as well as to collect information for agents. The result? TMC puts it best:
In all, customer loyalty, profitable ROI and an improved business image are the results of having a good phone system in place.
Well-designed IVR scripting is one of the best means of enhancing caller experience and company image with a good voice recognition system.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

How Mobile Self-Service has Upped IVR Revenue

Recently, a company in India implemented a retail IVR system for passersby to call and order items they see in ads. The phone number appears in the ad, and users can identify the particular item they want and pay via credit card. CEO Deven Limayae explains:
The logic is to use cell phones as an interaction medium with screen, where the user's cell phone number acts as the customer's identity, and the retailer can actually come across the potential buyers or customers. Also, the generated customer data helps the retailer to understand customer's behavior and psychology.
Tailoring voice recognition systems to be used on mobile phones is particularly attractive for consumers, travelers, or anyone on the go. IVR applications in mobile systems tap into the spontaneity of consumer behavior, as opposed to the traditional IVR systems that are generally targeted towards landline calls.

Whatever its use, nowadays IVR is largely about self-service. The ability to call from anywhere, at any time, is part of the advantage of a voice recognition system. For companies, one of the biggest benefits of self-service IVR implementation is financial gain. If callers can check flight times, make appointments, or purchase products on their own, callers will not have to queue at all and agent time will be significantly freed up. Steve Morrell, author of a report on self-service IVR comments on the benefits of self-service:
We believe that this is only the beginning of what telephone self-service can deliver. Of course, not all calls are suitable for self-service-- respondents estimate that an average of only 31 percent of inbound calls would suit it- and over-use of this channel can frustrate customers and severely damage a brand. However, for simple and repetitive tasks, such as account balances, meter readings and ticket bookings, self-service works for both customer and business, as there’s never a queue to wait in. This should also mean that if a customer needs to speak to a real person, then it’s more likely that there’ll be someone available to help them.
In fact, self-service is cited as one of the reasons for the incredible growth in the voice recognition industry:
Growth in the IVR market is being driven by strong demand for self-service applications ...
Recent estimates have placed worldwide IVR revenue at $1.867 billion at the end of 2007, and predictions place the continued growth at $2.4 billion by 2010.

Still, self-service has plenty of room to improve, with only 31 percent of inbound calls being entirely self-service. If IVR systems are built to be more efficient, handling calls in a complete and independent manner, we should expect continued growth in the industry.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Voice Recognition Projects Bring More Than Just ROI

In these belt-tightening times, any new voice recognition project must pay its way in the short term with a satisfactory near-term return on investment. It should also improve the customer experience, since customers are often alienated by ineffective customer service centers. Since IVR projects can be introduced incrementally to complement human agents, it is usually not difficult to show that, in the short term, service is improved at a lower overall cost. On cost savings alone, the ROI is often acceptable.

Even a basic IVR project can sometimes have an ROI to brag about. Just think about the system recently launched by Victrio to fight credit card fraud. A report on the new system reads:
Victrio introduces a new credit risk management services that identifies fraudsters by their voice during credit card authorisation phone calls. The service works by comparing the callers' voice against a database of known criminals. Authorisation is denied if a match between a caller's voice and a fraudster's voice is found. The service is aimed at online merchants as well as banks and other credit card issuers.

Compare that with how present systems handle the same problem. Try calling your bank branch by telephone. The agent will quite rightly ask you a series of questions to verify that you are who you say you are. Unfortunately, in most cases all the answers could easily have been provided by someone who had stolen your identity from fairly public records. So the agent and you are tied up for a little while in a meaningless exercise. Systems based on PINs and passwords are fine but are still not unbreakable. They may also frustrate customers who forget their passwords or even the answers to the security questions.

On the other hand, voice data contains so much information that it can provide a very strong and clearly unbreakable identification system. At the same time, it speeds up the authorization process for much higher customer satisfaction at a lower system cost. The customer is very happy and the agent is only involved with operations that require a human agent.

Let us assume that the authentication/authorization process with a live agent takes an average of 20 seconds, whereas IVR authentication takes approximately 5 seconds. The agent time that is saved can be channelled to assist in other tasks, meaning that wait time would be shortened. Thus, clients would wait less and have shorter calls – a good recipe for increased customer satisfaction. That having been said, this is a very simplistic way of doing ROI. This evaluation only means that we have shortened the call authorization time to ¼ of the initial length, but the question is, have the operational costs been cut accordingly?

In order to really properly perform ROI analysis for your company, you will have to evaluate the overall costs of the IVR project and quantify the benefits in dollar savings. Doing so will show how the organization can cut costs and still improve its customer service. In addition, ROI analysis can evaluate how the company can reap the benefits of fraud detection, which translates into greater financial savings.

Overall, ROI involves detailed planning in order to calculate the estimated savings in operational costs and to forecast whether or not a project is worthwhile. ROI analysis allows the organization to give a green light for a project, with concrete steps to ensure a win-win situation all around.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

What do IVR Systems Have to Do with the Election?

A polling company has recently instated automated IVR calling to predict the outcome of the election. The concerns raised by the recent changes showcase some of the prevalent suspicions regarding IVR technology. Read an article on the move to IVR polling here.

The article cites George Bishop, a professor of political science at the University of Cincinnati, who highlights common concerns regarding IVR:
What if you don't understand the question? There's no opportunity for clarification. There's also no one there to probe you to answer the question if the person isn't sure.

Bishop’s statement reflects a skepticism regarding the usability of IVR systems. He betrays the same preference for human agents that call centers often see in their callers. The same issues with respect to usability and system intelligence often return in discussion regarding voice recognition software systems. Still, the issue is not whether or not IVR is the best method for election polling. The issue surrounds how to build a voice recognition system that fits the bill. For example, there needs to be proper testing to ensure the IVR interface is tailored to the needs of its users. A good IVR system accounts for potential deviations from the script and is tailored to the expectations of callers. This can only be accomplished with usability testing. In addition to usability testing, system monitoring is often needed. Election polling is only implemented for a matter of days; but organizations that implement ongoing IVR systems require constant post-deployment monitoring to ensure that users are continually provided the best and most efficient service. The context of how the IVR system is used must be taken into consideration, with the expectations and mental model of users being considered. Of course companies want to maximize the ROI of an IVR project, and initial ROI analysis ensures that a voice recognition software project will yield the expected outcome.

So how to respond to the concerns raised by Bishop? Again, it’s a matter of having a customized IVR system that has been properly designed, tested, piloted, and tuned. Whether the IVR uses speech recognition software or responds to touch-tone dialing, the system needs to be tailored to the needs of the respondent to ensure optimal functioning. Proper usability research and testing reduces any concern over understanding the question.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Achieve Call Center Success with IVR Self-Service

A recent IVR article in CRM Daily highlights the rising incidence of self-service in contact centers. With so many channels of communication—from phone, to email, to text messaging, to chat—the methods of customer service are increasing. Still, call centers today make up the essence of customer service, and so quality IVR systems are critical. Not only are they important to the client, but they are important to businesses, too. The article cites results from a recent Benchmarking report estimating that it is nearly five times less expensive to use IVR self-service than agent-assisted calls.

Says Grant Sainsbury, practice director of Customer Interactive Solutions, Dimension Data Americas:

"Ten years ago, enterprises were focused on improving service and moving away
from face-to-face interactions toward a phone experience. Today, the reality is
that the choice of channel varies and is dependent on the type of transaction.
High-value customers may be more than happy to use automated self-service
channels to pay a bill or view their balance -- they don't need a live agent for
every interaction."

Thus, moving away from live agents towards an IVR system doesn’t mean dissatisfied customers. With effective voice recognition systems, businesses can cut costs while keeping clients happy. Now, the growing influence of IVR technologies in the call centre industry means it is no longer just large-size businesses that benefit. Being able to cut costs and maintain customer satisfaction means it is time for small and medium-size businesses to get into better IVR—or risk being one-upped by the competition.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Good vs. Bad IVR

Which is better – a poor human call agent or poor IVR?

At least a human agent always tries to work with you

Low-quality IVR systems can be frustrating but that can also be true in dealing with a human agent. Sometimes human agents do not perform as well as they might. That may be due to poor training, lack of motivation or merely that you have hit them on the wrong day. Let us analyze some of those reasons to determine which is more likely to satisfy a caller.

The following table compares the caller experience between a poor agent and poor IVR for different aspects of the call:

Aspects of the call Poor agent Poor IVR
unusual request with difficulty creates frustration if no clear choice is available
unusual accent frustration due to many repetitions frustration due to many repetitions; recognition might be impossible
delay in making contact frustration not a problem
speedy reaction usually OK can be slow with repetitive checking of responses
data capture error prone limited to simple numeric data only

Thinking about these challenging situations, I think most of us would prefer to struggle with a poor agent than try to make the IVR system do our bidding.

Which is best - good IVR or a good human call agent?

High-quality IVR matches the responsiveness of a good human agent

IVR cannot replace human agents entirely. Some customer support questions may be ill defined and complex. Nor will any irate caller be happy to be fobbed off with a robot, however pleasant. In such cases the IVR agent will rapidly hand the caller on to a human agent.

Even a relatively good call agent may not give complete satisfaction to a caller. In some cases the caller may be at fault. Perhaps the call agent is under a time pressure or is slightly distracted by other problems they may have. Let us compare how a good IVR system may match up against a good call agent.

The following table compares the caller experience between a good IVR and a good agent for different aspects of the call:

Aspects of the call Good IVR Good agent
unusual request Good by handling or by transferring to a human agent good
unusual accent good good
delay in making contact not a problem can be frustrating
speedy reaction excellent good
data capture excellent may be error prone

The IVR system is tireless, not subject to bad mood or memory loss, is repeatable, and has instant access to an incredible databank of information. Even the best call agent will have a problem matching up to that. In some cases, a caller may even prefer an IVR agent over a human agent for personal and sensitive subjects, as in the case of returning cheques, or getting results of some medical exams.

In summary, for technical well-defined transactions, the IVR agent will often be the best choice. Part of the quality inherent in the overall IVR solution is to have the right options available (human as well as IVR agents) and utilize them in the best complementary way according to their strength.

The order of callers’ preferences

High-quality IVR is at the top and low-quality IVR is at the bottom.

Since callers clearly prefer good call agents to poor call agents, we have thus established a clear order of preference here. That is:

Good IVR or good call agent* > poor call agent > poor IVR

* The right mix of good IVR and good call agents, considering each one’s strengths in context of the particular service requested, can guarantee best caller experience and highest caller satisfaction.

Confirming IVR performance

IVR always includes ongoing monitoring of performance

The other merit of a natural language IVR system is that performance data are continually being measured. Part of the ongoing performance improvement process within an IVR system comes from the continual monitoring of the interactions between the IVR agent and the caller. Based on this data, the IVR system can be improved so that possible weaknesses are corrected.


This analysis shows why caller satisfaction can be greater with a good IVR system. Since the costs of running such a system are much better than using an equivalent wholly human agent system, the decision to implement an IVR system is usually not a difficult one to take.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

IVR Can Give More Secure Calls

IVR systems are often suggested for call centers to minimize costs. It seems to be assumed that such a system will inevitably deliver a poorer caller experience than talking to a human agent. In this age where identity theft is much more prevalent, this overlooks a major advantage that an IVR system can offer.

The standard questions that a human agent may ask, like home telephone number or postal code, are no barrier for the expert identity thief. For such an identity thief, a bit of “dumpster diving” can sometimes provide a rich harvest of personal information - information that could be used to fool any human agent. Unfortunately not everyone follows the detailed advice that is available to avoid such deception.

A report released by ContactBabel and VoiceVault on U.S. Contact Centers shows what it costs currently to protect against such identity theft. They estimate that in the USA, it will cost $11.7 Billion and more than 11,000 Years of Contact Center Agents’ time to check Callers’ Identities in 2007. Thankfully there is another way as the report suggests.

The report highlights that biometric technology will be a key to successful identity verification. Voice verification systems, the only biometric technology that can be used over the phone, are now delivering levels of accuracy and security that have proven robust enough for use by banks and insurers. Voice verification can be combined with the answer to a memorable question in cases where a two-factor authentication process is required.The report shows that implementing a voice verification system in a contact center receiving 10 million inbound calls per year with existing identity verification procedures taking on average 20 seconds could save $6.5 million each year. For procedures such as Internet password resetting, the higher level of security achieved with voice verification enables businesses to offer real-time password resets or reminders reducing up to 70 percent of helpdesk calls.

Caller Authentication systems using voice verification are available from a number of companies including Nuance and VoiceVault. The higher security that is possible with an IVR gives yet one more reason for early adoption of this cost-effective technology.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Customer Service, The Perennial Joke

Customer service, like bananas, almost inevitably gets people thinking of jokes. From the Idea Sandbox, I found the blog of Tom Fishburne and he has a particularly appropriate cartoon. The sting is in the tail.

The cartoon resulted from Fishburne’s frustration at the customer service he received from .. you guessed it .. a telephone company.

He mentions that in one company he worked for they had a banana telephone. That is not to be confused with the LG SV80 Banana Phone. This was a regular telephone in the shape of a banana. If that phone rang, they all knew it was a call from a customer. Anyone who was close was charged with answering it and giving whatever assistance was needed.

That isn’t too practical for most companies. Good, economical customer service is now better delivered through modern IVR (interactive voice response) systems. As for bananas, perhaps they are better left for the monkeys.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

We’re No Worse Than Anyone Else - the minimal approach

Self-Service: Talking Your Language” in CRM Today has some useful words of advice. The author, Richard Brown, notes that in some cases companies are still adopting IVR (interactive voice response) solutions which save the business money but have little or no thought for customer service. It doesn’t need to be that way.

Surprisingly he spends most of the time talking about ways of making IVR systems work better, where such systems help callers to navigate through a set of menu choices. For example he notes:

The design thus needs careful thought, though some simple rules will help here, such as offering a sequence of no more than three sets of options, each containing a maximum of four choices.

Such systems are certainly better than many that are encountered at the moment. However this minimal approach will not put you ahead of the competition. The technology has advanced and interactive voice response (IVR) systems can indeed make you better than the competition. No greater cost is involved so this is very much a win/win situation.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Keeping Pesky Customers Happy

Many customer service call centers seem to encounter a large number of pesky customers. Unfortunately with many traditional IVR systems, perfectly reasonable callers can become pesky. Such callers often prefer to speak to human beings and have a low tolerance for anything that appears mechanical.

It appears that these pesky customers are often taking things into their own hands. As TechCrunch tells us, there is a new service, which they believe to be genuinely useful. It’s Bringo, the Phone Tree Killer. You’ll find it at the domain. It’s only available in the US at the moment but it helps users skip phone trees and connect with a real human on the customer support phone lines at many companies. That seems a little extreme but perhaps it reflects the standards of customer service that callers are encountering.

Bringo is not the only such service. There is also gethuman™. This movement has been created from the voices of millions of consumers who want to be treated with dignity when they contact a company for customer support. They’ve even published the gethuman standard v1.0 that suggests what standards customer service call centers should have in place.

The start of the standards will give you an idea of what is being suggested:

The gethuman standards have been designed with simplicity and directness as to eliminate ambiguity and enable testing and certification. There may be more than one way to accomplish each, but the result must be as follows:
  1. The caller must always be able to dial 0 or to say “operator” to queue for a human.
  2. An accurate estimated wait-time, based on call traffic statistics at the time of the call, should always be given when the caller arrives in the queue. A revised update should be provided periodically during hold time.
  3. Callers should never be asked to repeat any information (name, full account number, description of issue, etc.) provided to a human or an automated system during a call.

There are 10 in all and overall they seem most reasonable.

Owners of call centers are probably looking at Bringo and the gethuman™ set of standards with dismay. How can callers be so unreasonable? Don’t they realize the cost of hiring human agents and training them? Surely they accept the compromise we have to make to balance service and cost. Well the answer seems to be that they don’t. Perhaps they’re clinging to that old-fashioned notion that “The customer is always right”.

Thankfully that isn’t the end of the story. If you plan the whole call center functioning around an IVR system, then the gethuman™ standards can be accepted as the basis of operations. With an IVR system, both the system and the caller have a shared goal. That is to achieve a solution to whatever the caller was calling about as quickly as possible. If that involves a human agent, then this should happen as quickly and as efficiently as possible. However with a good IVR system, this will probably be in only a minority of cases. The other good news is that this better system may well cost no more than installing inferior systems that callers try to get round.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Implementing IVR Projects the No Risk Way

Executive summary

  • Do you want callers to be much more satisfied when calling your call center?
  • Do you want to do that with lower costs than you incur at present?
  • Are you hesitant to be one of the early adopters of the latest technology?

What is IVR?

IVR is used as an acronym for Interactive Voice Response where the caller keys in his responses on a touchtone telephone. Requiring customers to key in their responses is something that customers in general find less than satisfactory. However talking to a Crimsonet Natural Speech IVR (Interactive Voice Response) agent can be as pleasing as talking to a real person. An IVR system by Crimsonet can transform a call center by substituting IVR agents for some of the human call agents or for those outmoded touchtone Interactive Voice Response units.

For this article we will discuss an example of a call-center with a number of incoming lines. Suppose any incoming call might require any of a variety of functions to be handled. The first function might be as simple as greeting the caller and requiring some identifying information. For example this might include a credit card number. A more complex function might be giving a credit card balance on a credit card account. This type of call center is illustrated in the image below.

Call-center with Human Agents

The long-term goal could be to maximize the use of IVR agents in the call center. IVR agents would be used for any function where they can perform better than a human receptionist. On the other hand, functions where the caller’s needs are difficult to detect or address would be left with a human agent This particularly applies to any function where the caller’s needs are complex, for example a request for technical service. So any call-center will typically have at least a few functions handled by human agents to cope with such callers, or as a backup to the IVR agents. The long-term arrangement of IVR agents and human agents in this example is illustrated in the image below.

ICall-center with max IVR Agents

Installing an IVR system by Crimsonet does not require a commitment to the full scope of the long-term solution. An IVR system can be implemented for a small section of the call center onlyand yet be fully effective. This concept of implementation by sections will be explored in this article.

What an IVR solution offers

IVR gives better caller service and lower costs

Installing an IVR solution within a call-center is easily accomplished and is relatively rapid. Such a project will give four main advantages. They are as follows:

  • Complete divisibility
    By complete divisibility, we mean that any section, large or small, of the call-center activities can be easily hived off and handled by IVR agents. It is as easy as setting up a new group of human agents within the call-center. An important task is to ensure that the way in which calls are transferred to the section or are handed on from the section are well defined.
  • Improved customer service
    IVR by Crimsonet offers improved customer service. The IVR agent is always alert, fully trained and very perceptive in interpreting customer requests. An IVR agent can provide the very best information and accurately transfer the call to another function if additional information is required.
  • Performance measurement
    The accurate recording of both the callers’ requests and the IVR agents’ responses provide an excellent basis for measuring performance. The Crimsonet technology involves a continual monitoring of performance to facilitate a process of ongoing improvement.
  • Reduced cost
    The running costs of operating an IVR system is much below that of employing human agents. The typical payback for an IVR project by Crimsonet is measured in months.

Defining an initial IVR section

An IVR section could involve Natural Speech IVR agents handling a particular function for a fraction of the incoming calls. In this example, suppose the caller must use a touchtone Interactive Voice Respon

se unit to identify that they wish to access the particular function. If a Natural Speech IVR agent is available, then a proportioin of such calls (for example 50%) are transferred to IVR agents. The balance of the calls for this function is handled by human agents. For example in one real life banking installation, the function involved in handling stock quotes inquiries was handled by an IVR section with great success.

By surveying customer reactions for those handled by IVR agents and those by human agents, a comparison of customer satisfaction can be developed. Clearly the costs of both methods are easily identified. This sectional approach is illustrated by the image below. In the case of the bank, the initial success has resulted in further functions that were transferred to new IVR sections.

Call-center with IVR Section

Closing an IVR section - the costs

An IVR section test does not imply increased costs

Operating a Natural Speech IVR section as compared with managing the equivalent group of human agents or touchtone IVR delivers many advantages. It is therefore a very unlike event that an IVR section would be closed. The costs involved in running a Natural Speech IVR section for some time will usually be lower than the costs of managing an equivalent group of human agents or touchtone Interactive Voice Response units. This means that there is a net cost advantage when operating Natural Speech IVR. This means that there is little risk in setting up an IVR section in order to gain experience of this way of operating.


Natural Voice IVR Sections demonstrate the benefits while minimizing the risk

In practice it will be found that deciding to test out an IVR section is almost a no-brainer decision. Even in the worst situation where the IVR section is eventually closed, it is likely that minimal cash costs will have been involved. This risk can be minimized by choosing a smaller section. Much more likely however is that the benefits of the IVR approach will have been shown to be very significant. The operating experience with the IVR section will simplify the further installation of additional IVR sections.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

More Human Agents May Not Be The Answer To Better Customer Service

People complain about telephone customer service almost as frequently as they do about the weather. Since that message “Your call is important to us” is often the prelude to an unsatisfactory experience, you could understand why Netflix decided to go the human agent route entirely. However a study released by suggests that even callers may think they got it wrong. is the central portal for the Australia and Asia Pacific contact centre industries providing research, benchmarking studies, and up-to-date news and information.

As the study points out, Netflix isn’t the only one Many contact centre managers misunderstand customer response to speech recognition applications. The study found 37% of contact centre managers without a speech application believe all customers would prefer to talk to a live agent to using a speech recognition self-service application.
A previous study that surveyed end users found that when customers have the choice to use a speech system or talk to a live agent, 30% of callers prefer the speech channel over an agent, with less than half of people preferring to talk to a customer service representative. If faced with waiting on hold prior to speaking to a customer service representative, this same study found 85% of customers would prefer to use a self-service speech recognition option.

“The research actually indicates speech recognition is the preferred self-service channel, both over the web as well as over a live agent amongst 30% of respondents.” So for a sizeable fraction of callers, you’ll show them “Your call is important to us” by offering them what they want, an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) agent. If your system is functioning well, the others will probably enjoy their calling experience too.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Is your IVR system rude to your customers?

Interactive voice response (IVR) systems have been around for some years now. They are often implemented to minimize costs and to provide a more rapid pickup of calls, thus avoiding upsetting delays. Many such systems seem to have been adopted with the view that callers will accept a somewhat impersonal non-human voice if this means reduced delays.

This minimal get-by approach has unfortunate consequences. A recent Frost and Sullivan report spells out what can happen:

In the last decade, as part of the movement to reduce customer support costs, companies began to outsource their customer support centers...“However, the widespread adoption of IVRs has left customers frustrated and angry at what they perceive to be a callous disregard for customer service standards,” according to the analyst of the study. “One of the main reasons is the poor design of voice-based user interfaces that makes customers feel like the companies just do not care about them."

Rarely do companies do caller testing to determine user satisfaction. Just think of any recent experience you have had with an IVR system. Just imagine that a human call agent had spoken to you as that IVR system did. How would you rate the conversation on the rudeness <<< >>> politeness scale? Far too many are downright rude.

Some customers are so upset that they use a service such as that described by Brian Troy in his post, How much do your customers hate your IVR? He tells us that entire companies are being launched to aid customers in getting around the system. BRINGO! is a new service, which enables customers to get to a human faster. BRINGO! has conquered phone trees. That seems a somewhat extreme but perhaps understandable reaction.

Such rudeness was never really acceptable. Now it is just bad business for two reasons. Firstly customers are aware that the control has passed to them as the Internet gives greater information and opportunities.

It is also bad business to stay with that old-fashioned rude IVR system for competitive reasons. Natural voice technology has evolved to the point where highly effective Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems can be implemented. This is an important competitive advantage to the early adopters of such systems.