Wednesday, 9 July 2014

IVR Worst practices to avoid - best practices to adopt

IVR stands for Interactive Voice Response systems – the automated voice options you often hear when you call large organisations. Call Centre Helper is a very useful British industry newsletter. It recently posted an article on what NOT to do with IVR based on advice from a galaxy of industry experts. To turn this around, let’s consider what is the right thing to do if you are considering an IVR component to your customer service delivery...

The first lesson is that what works for one company or purpose won’t necessarily work for you, so your first question must be why do I want an Interactive Voice Response system? Often the scale of the client’s operations is the determinant. Here are some common purposes we encounter at Well Done:
  1. Urgency - The simplest purpose clients want an IVR for is to choke off non-urgent enquiries after hours. Is this an emergency? Hell, yes, many will decide - and proceed to talk to our agents anyway, but the question will deter some and you can still provide good customer service to those who proceed … An IVR like this could also send your callers to different skills based queues on our systems – one for simple enquiries, and another for complex enquiries requiring escalation.
  2. Function – some clients direct particular calls to a contractor so they don’t have to handle them; some want to be able to direct enquiries to different trained staff. Some clients sift the easier work and send this to us so that their experts can handle the more complex enquiries. Some clients send calls to different answer-points on our systems based on IVR responses on their systems (e.g. entering their postcode, or selecting an issue). With an IVR you can have one national number but still control your call routing.
  3. Cost – sometimes the simplest questions can be answered perfectly well with an IVR response at a minimal cost. Bill paying by credit card is often handled this way by larger organisations.
  4. Service – you may be able to provide better service through streamlining enquiries; wait times for high volume queues requiring simple assistance can be dramatically reduced through IVR streaming of calls. People will be more prepared to wait to discuss a complex matter with an expert, or be happy to leave a voice message for a call back from this team rather than wait.
Secondly, the IVR experience should add value for your callers, so it’s worth considering the customer’s experience first, and then review the performance to check that everything is still working as it should down the track.

Bearing in mind that most smaller organisations won’t want more than 1-2 options for an IVR and that it’s really only large organisations with high call volumes that will push the limits, we ask:

What’s annoying and not useful for your customers?
  • Long waits coupled with the same On Hold message; if the wait is longer, some apology or reassurance doesn’t hurt.
  • Overly long descriptions of options, too many options; IVRs should siphon off the main reasons people call to streamline and improve the customer experience;  2 -5 options is really as much as I’m prepared to negotiate, with the most important ones first!
  • If you ask me to enter my phone number or account details via keypad, use them. I expect that you will have these in hand when I speak with you, particularly if you are a very large company, yet this often doesn’t happen…
  • Odd multiple voices, dull voices, machines that tell me to have a good day … Make sure your voice artist can be contacted to update options; it’s annoying to get multiple voices on the one line (it’s one conversation as far as I am concerned). Choose a voice that matches my idea of what your company stands for, and preferably one that sounds helpful and clear, not dull and officious. Keep your language simple and oriented to my needs. Keep the greetings and pleasantries to an acceptable minimum – I know that I am interacting with a computer, not a person.
  • Not rewarding the time I spent calling you… Don’t send your customer back where they came from; make sure you provide more service or information. If the option selected is to hear specific information then don’t provide more than one level of IVR options beyond this; for example, at this point I might appreciate the option of speaking to a person. If you’re closed, tell me first up, not after I have gone through the IVR maze. (This can be done through the time context of your IVR messages.)
  • Giving me no option to interrupt an instruction or speak to a person – afterall, I called you for help! There was conflicting advice from the experts on this one. It’s true that many will opt to speak to a human being and perhaps defeat some of the efficiency of having an IVR, but looping people through options that aren’t helping is a sure way to antagonise. 
  • Asking me to do something I can’t understand on the keypad.  For example, most people don’t know how to enter ALPHA information into an IVR (you need the * key entered to do this); if you have a complex interactive IVR database behind your system, try to configure it so that all keypad responses can be numerals only. Keep it simple – lots may be going on back at the home-front to distract me!
At Well Done we can code simple IVR options within our system. Often these are announcements that have a time context once your call enters our system. Complex sequences may require database application development, or your 1300 number provider may be able to code your IVR routing so that calls of different kinds can be pointed to particular diversion-points on our system. We can discuss the handling of those calls that you decide to route to us. It’s wise not to consider IVR options in isolation. They are but one channel in your communications with customers, and it’s best to consider the total customer experience when planning your service.

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