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.