IVR System

How Robotic Process Automation Makes Contact Centers More Efficient

Automation isn’t new. Technologies like Interactive Voice Response have been around for a long time. But while advancements like these have reduced costs for the contact center, they’ve also managed to annoy customers. In the case of IVR, callers often get stuck in menu loops or struggle with systems that don’t understand what they’re saying. Enter robotic process automation.

Robotic Process Automation and Artificial Intelligence

Contact centers are in the business of serving the customer, and in an effort to improve the customer experience, technologies are always emerging. Robotic process automation (RPA) is one of them, automating tasks and freeing up agents to personally handle complex issues. RPA uses Natural Language Processing, which is related to artificial intelligence, an even more advanced type of automation that can make human-like judgments about tasks.

Interactive Text Response for Customer Service

Interactive Text Response (ITR), more casually referred to as chatbots, goes hand-in-hand with the increasing popularity of messaging apps. Brands that want to improve the customer experience are making themselves available on chat – and it’s working. More than 70% of 1-800-Flowers’ chatbot orders come from first-time customers, and the company’s commitment to new tech has attracted tens of thousands of users. Chatbots are more effective than IVR because text input is easier for the system to understand than spoken language. AI can then be used to gain a deeper understanding of what the customer is saying, accounting for the different ways a customer may phrase a sentence or question.

Sample Phone Call with RPA

RPA can also be used with phone calls, not just chatbots. Here’s an example of how RPA can help with a live call:

  • Jane calls to speak with an agent.
  • Your RPA takes the call and authenticates Jane by confirming her account number and call-in PIN.
  • Your RPA analyzes Jane’s account and sees that she has an open ticket and that she’s just been on the website to look at the status.
  • Your RPA says something like, “I see that you have an open ticket with us. Is that the reason for your call?” Jane confirms that this is the reason for the call.
  • Jane is transferred to an appropriate live agent.

Contact center technology like RPA can help customers solve their issues more quickly, but it can also provide much-needed support to agents by making them more efficient.

5 Ways to Use AI in the Contact Center

Artificial intelligence (AI) isn’t about replacing live, human agents with robots; it’s about supporting the agent by handling more routine issues so customers can get live help for their complex issues.

Here are 5 ways contact centers can use AI.1. Replace simple IVR processes.

1. Replace simple IVR processes. Basic IVR can do something like transfer a call to the sales department. AI takes this several steps further thanks to machine learning and natural language processing, allowing it to understand what the customer is saying (as opposed to just giving the customer a string of choices). AI can get rid of annoying queues and “If A, then B” action sequences and replace them with smarter, more human interactions.

2. Act as an agent assistant. AI can function as an assistant by sitting on the desktop, collecting customer info via a bot that’s currently serving the customer, then alerting the agent about what their next steps should be. This goes back to the overall purpose of AI to help the agent perform better and to work smarter instead of harder.

3. Be part of the quality assurance team. AI solutions can analyze agent and customer conversations and give live feedback to team leaders and QA teams about both what is being said and how it’s being said. AI listens and interprets more than just words  it can also ascertain stress level and clarity of speech.

4. Help stabilize workforce management.AI can not only predict upcoming spikes in communication based on data but it can also recruit agents to fill in the gaps in the schedule. Also, since AI can handle a number of more basic customer needs on its own, it reduces the number of employees needed at any one time and levels out major peaks and valleys.

5. Improve the customer experience. AI can analyze the customer journey to determine where the hottest touchpoints are as well as different areas for improvement. It can also understand customer patterns and predict experiences in order to deliver an excellent experience before the customer even realizes what they need next. AI is finding its way into all sorts of brands, organizations and business processes. One of the places where it’s making the most impact is in the contact center. Managers are using AI to create better experiences for everyone, from agents and supervisors to the customers themselves.

4 Contact Center Technology Trends to Pay Attention To

Knowing the tech trends that have been overtaking the market is different from actually making moves to adopt those trends. Don’t be like so many other contact centers out there that lag behind when it comes to customer expectations and contact center trends. Instead, stay on top of the newest technologies and solutions to improve the customer experience now and in the future.

Here are 4 contact center trends to know now and as you move into the new year.

  1. Migration to the cloud.

The cloud itself isn’t a new technology, but more and more contact centers are realizing the importance of migrating their system to the cloud. If you stick with your on-premise contact center system, you’ll limit your ability to manage several locations and to add more communication channels.

  1. Full adoption of omnichannel.

Just like with the cloud, omnichannel isn’t exactly a new idea, but now contact centers are actually taking the steps to make it a reality (instead of just educating themselves about its benefits). The silos that exist between billing, customer service and support have to be broken down, as do the separations between your assisted service and self-service channels. Slowly rolling out omnichannel solutions only keeps data siloed (and customers annoyed) for longer; instead, find the right technology that will let you marry all of your channels at the same time.

  1. Smarter IVR solutions.

IVR is one of those technologies that’s always seeing new innovations and improvements. These include:

  • Better personalization based on context to resolve more issues within the IVR
  • Identifying customers from caller ID to reduce the number of necessary identification steps
  • Speech recognition to determine level of stress beyond curse word cues
  1. Better testing methods for chat bots.

Chat bots are now being used by contact centers for first line interactions, which means you also need more advanced ways of measuring outcomes. A/B testing, which has traditionally been used just with digital marketing, is now used to optimize chat bots so they can continue to offer more advanced support.

By combining a willingness to be adaptable with a culture of constant improvement, your contact center can continue to keep up with technology changes, now and in the future. You’ll also set yourself up as a strong competitor in the industry while retaining both your workforce and your customer base.

The Modern IV: Why Contact Centers are Going Visual

Interactive voice response (IVR) systems make a lot of promises. They strive to give customers easily accessible, efficient ways to communicate. This is supposed to limit the stress placed on the contact center while also lowering costs.

Traditional voice IVR systems aren’t pulling their weight, though.

There’s a lot of call abandonment. Customer satisfaction scores are low. Lengthy call trees with a multitude of options lead to dead ends. Even the voice quality is poor.

When a customer wants to speak with a live rep, they press “0” to be transferred to one, and even then the experience is lacking. They have to speak with an operator first, explain their issue, wait while they’re routed to the correct department, explain everything again…

Cost benefits of IVR only exist if customers actually like it. If it’s not increasing customer satisfaction (or, even worse, decreasing it), you won’t see a return on investment, and the expense becomes not worth it.

The solution is this: visual IVR, something that modern contact centers are utilizing more and more.

Customers have sophisticated devices (even the iPhone is essentially a mini computer that people carry around in their pocket), and contact center IVR should be just as sophisticated, too. With so many screen-enabled gadgets out there, visual IVR is quickly replacing voice IVR.

Visual IVR menus can be attractive, intuitive and a cinch to use. People can read the menu and touch the buttons or links they need, or they can request a call back or see how long the hold time would be to chat with an agent. Even if a customer wants to speak with an agent, there’s virtually no hold time, routing is much more reliable and the experience is better overall.

Visual IVR is helpful for agents, too.

If a customer decides to speak with a live agent, they can start the process through the visual IVR menu. By the time they reach an agent, the agent can see the breadcrumb trail of everything the customer did. This will help them pick up the query where the customer left off instead of asking them to start explaining their issue from the beginning.

Whichever type of support they choose ­– self-service, live or a combination of both – modern IVR solutions allow customers to get quick, accurate support without putting unnecessary strain on contact center agents.

 

 

How to Create Customer Personas

When it comes to customer service and marketing, knowing your audience is everything. Customers aren’t a concept – they’re real people with personalities, needs and expectations, and knowing how to cater to them is integral to your success. Creating detailed personas will show you where and how to best reach your target audience, and it can also help you build an effective customer journey map.

What is a customer persona?

A customer persona is a fictional representation of your ideal customer. Make it believable, as though you were describing a real person. Give them a background, outline their attitude, identify their motives, and figure out their negative triggers. You can even give the persona a name.

Here are a few specifics to include in your customer persona:

  • Age
  • Education
  • Goals
  • Income
  • Interests
  • Location
  • Needs
  • Size of household

Note that you’ll probably create more than one customer persona to accurately represent the different people who form your primary audience.

How do I add depth to a customer persona?

There’s almost no way to add too much detail to a customer persona. By narrowing their traits, you’ll be able to target only the customers who will have a genuine interest in your brand. Dive deeper by answering questions like these:

  • What age are they at each of the touch points of the customer journey?
  • What is their biggest struggle when it comes to reaching their goals?
  • Aside from subjects within your niche, what other interests do your customers have? Where, when and how often do they engage with their interests?
  • Which social media platforms are they using and how are they using them?

Is there any help out there for creating customer personas?

If you’re struggling with answering the basic questions, or if you have the general descriptors down but don’t know how to add depth to them, there are several ways to more accurately identify your audience.

Market segmentation will help you divide your market into smaller, more identifiable segments, which could help you create more distinct personas. You can also interview your best customers; send surveys or take polls through email or social media marketing; and look closely at your stats from your different social media platforms.

Your customers are the most important people to your business. By creating personas, you’re able to appeal to their empathy, build stronger relationships and directly appeal to their motivations. To learn more about Personas, watch a recording of the West webcast: No More Stilted Robotic Conversations: 5 Steps to Smooth Dialogue

How Inconsistent IVR Personas Damage Your Brand

Imagine coming across an Instagram post for a brand you’ve taken notice of a few times before. You love their aesthetic and they have a product you’ve always wanted to buy. You decide that it’s time to make a purchase. First, though, you have a couple of questions.

You call the company, expecting an exchange that’s reflective of the warm, kind, youthful energy they exude on Instagram. What you get, though, is a cold, to-the-point response, making you stop to wonder if you dialed the wrong number.

Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems may technically be robotic, but they can also be personalized to your brand. Your IVR needs to give your customers the same impression that your website, live agents and marketing campaigns do. If your IVR doesn’t sound on par with your brand, it could easily turn off customers.

Stay True to Your Brand Voice

Your brand’s voice includes specific words, overall language and the general attitude that your IVR persona should convey. You’ll want to record your IVR prompts using a brand-appropriate persona. Refer to the style guide for this – the brush-up won’t just help your IVR, but your entire team of agents, too.

Avoid Common IVR Persona Mistakes

Regardless of the brand voice, there are a few things that no customer wants to experience when they call your support line, no matter what you’re selling. Avoid IVRs that sound too mechanical. Don’t use strange or unnatural language. Limit the different voices customers hear, and use only trained voice actors for prompts. Make sure the IVR is actually helpful ­– the last thing a caller wants to do is use a different avenue of communication to get the help they need.

Instill Trust in Your Customers

Having a consistent brand voice does more than just make your company seem unified. Behaving consistently also instills trust in your customers, which can improve loyalty. Plus, your customers are more likely to recommend your brand to others, come back as repeat customers, and even stick with you should your prices increase.

One Last Thing

Want to know if your IVR persona is truly hitting the mark? Put yourself in the customer’s shoes and call the IVR yourself. Pay close attention to how it speaks to you. If you find the persona jarring, chances are your customers are going to be even more affected by it.

 

6 Contact Center Technologies to Delight the Customer

Sometimes you have to rethink how you service clients in order to continue improving the customer experience. These six contact center technologies are sure to enhance each customer’s journey, which helps retain them, improves word-of-mouth marketing and elevates your reputation.

  1. Call-Back

If a caller wants to speak with a live agent even though there’s a long wait time, let them opt to get a call back when an agent is available. Allowing the customer to continue with whatever they were doing, instead of having to hang on the phone for several minutes, will keep them happy and let both the customer and the agent deal with the issue efficiently.

  1. Contact Routing Software

Contact routing software passes customers along to the right agent quickly. This technology encompasses all communication routes, including chat, email and voice. Instead of speaking with an agent and then being put on hold to be transferred, the software gets the customer to the correct agent the first time

  1. Interactive Video

When customers call to speak with a live agent via their mobile device, interactive videos play ads, entertainment or promotions during hold time. Not only does this keep the customer’s attention, but it may answer one of their questions or tell them about a product or service they might want.

  1. Two-Way Social Media Conversations

Brands have known for a while that they need a presence on social media, but now customers want a two-way conversation. It’s no longer acceptable to give customers a place to go just so they can provide feedback or learn more about you. Your agents have to actually respond now, quickly and in a personalized way.

  1. Unified Communications

“Omnichannel” has been a buzzword for a long time, but not enough companies are truly embracing it yet. The best customer experience is when the agent can be reached on any device and access up-to-date purchase, service and communication history. Going into a conversation and already having context is imperative.

  1. Voice Response Software

The days of having to listen to lengthy menus and submenus, trying to remember the different numbers to punch in your phone, are gone. With integrated voice response software, the customer can access the right self-service selection by speaking in a natural way.

Contact centers that want to compete need to embrace digital transformation and modern technology.

3 Reasons Your Contact Center Should Implement Voice-Enabled Self-Service

By harnessing the power of voice technology, your contact center can alleviate some of the stress placed on your workforce and your bottom line. When it comes to important, urgent or complex issues, most people still want to speak with a live agent. However, for simpler tasks like asking basic question, ordering products or checking delivery status, customers would rather depend on self-service. Here are three reasons why you should consider conversational self-service.

  1. You’ll get rid of complicated menu trees.

Old IVR models have lengthy, complicated menu trees that today’s customers don’t have the patience to deal with. With an old touch-tone or directed dialog-based IVR system, the customer would hear something like, “For account balance, say ‘account balance’ or press 1; for bill pay, say ‘pay my bill’ or press 2…” etc. With voice-enabled self-service, though, the customer can say something much more natural, like, “I want to check my account balance,” and be directed to the correct place the first time around. This streamlined approach to self-service means that fewer customers will opt out of the self-service module in order to speak with a live agent.

  1. Customers prefer it. 

Today’s customers don’t just opt to use self-service when it’s convenient, they actually prefer it, and conversational self-service is an even simpler, quicker way to engage with a company than before. The customer will have a similar experience to speaking with a live agent but without hold times, lengthy conversations or even niceties that can sometimes extend a call. The customer experience with conversational IVR is intelligent, personalized and efficient.

  1. The results are impressive and big companies are noticing.

When American Airlines upgraded their IVR system with Conversational IVR from Nuance, the saw a 5% decrease in the number of calls handled by live agents. When they realized their old IVR system had become antiquated (up to nine different voices; only some speech-enabled applications) they decided to modernize with a new system that would offer a more streamlined experience. They’ve gotten excellent feedback, finding that customers love interacting with the new system, which feels very much like chatting with a live agent.

Your customer service performance can only be based on your contact center’s weakest channel, not the strongest. With an advanced voice-enabled self-service system, interaction time is lowered, customer effort is eased and tasks are simplified.

Why Contact Centers Should Consider Visual IVR

Today’s tech-savvy customers are always on-the-go. With intuitive, fast, Internet-connected smartphones came the expectation to have just as simple and swift interactions with brands and customer service. Many customers prefer to troubleshoot on their own and, whenever possible, skip the wait on the phone or chat queue to speak with a live agent. Unfortunately, too many IVR menus provide routing to an agent instead of helping customers perform self-service.
In the past, the only IVR menus available were non-visual. Today, though, visual and touchscreen IVR is being adopted by modern contact centers. With visual IVR, the interface has a visual menu for customers to access. After logging in online or via an app, the customer can easily find their way through the menu. Not only are visual IVR menus easier to understand, but they’re faster, too. For example, a phone IVR menu may take 30 seconds to listen to, while it can take less than 5 seconds to scan a visual IVR menu and make a selection.
Various types of visual content can be included in a visual IVR interface, including:
•Tap-able menus
•Documentation and PDFs
•Forms
•Photos and videos (instructional, for example)
•Web pages
Visual Content and Comprehension
According to various studies, visual content can improve comprehension. Where a verbal summary of a menu option may be difficult to understand, a visual representation can be easier to interpret. This is especially useful for hearing-impaired customers. Customers can make quicker decisions, which means they can get quicker solutions.
Communicating with Live Agents
Every IVR menu should have the ability to chat with a live agent, either via the phone or online. Every move that the customer made throughout the IVR menu while conducting self-service can be communicated to the agent so that they can pickup exactly where the customer left off. Visual content can also be accessed and shared during a live call. For example, if the customer is having a problem with the website, they can send a screenshot to the agent while they’re on a live call with them.
Advanced IVR menus help contact centers manage their call volume, reduce wait time and increase customer loyalty, resulting in higher profits. At the same time, consumers can quickly access their account information, get routed to the right department, avoid long hold times and have an overall positive experience.

4 Ways to Maximize Self-Service with IVR

The contact center’s primary goal is to help customers who need information, whether that’s completing a transaction, accessing their account or troubleshooting a product they’ve just purchased. Many of these needs don’t require a live agent and can instead be handled with self-service and IVR technology. Here’s how to help your customers help themselves.

Get to Know Your Customers

Determine the main reasons why customers get in touch with support. Then, setup custom IVR channels to handle those queries. Knowing customer requirements and coming up with coinciding self-service strategies will free up agents who usually field the same types of calls all day long. It’s important to track trends over time, too, because as products and services change and evolve, your customers’ needs will as well.

Automate the Simplistic

Simple or mundane tasks should always be included in your IVR menus. Providing customers with company information, like store hours, locations or directions, doesn’t require the help of a live agent. Additionally, tasks like updating account information or making a payment can be handled 100% via self-service. Even some in-depth technical issues can be taken care of with IVR, so long as the step-by-step instructions are clear.

Create Effortless Menus

If you’re offering customers want they need via IVR but they’re still not using it as much as you want them to, it could be because the menu options are too confusing. Company-speak is fine to use internally, but customers won’t understand technical phrases. Menu items should be basic and comprehensible to everyone.

Know When to Escalate an Issue

Self-service is only beneficial as long as the customer wants to handle things on their own. When they get frustrated, it’s time to have a live agent step in and swiftly handle the problem. When a customer is having trouble with IVR (for example, after trying more than once to enter information) or they specifically request to speak with a live agent, they should be transferred as quickly as possible.

IVR positively affects the contact center’s bottom line while providing customers with a communication alternative.