IVR

When Creating a Better IVR Experience Has Become a Simple Process, Why Do Some Businesses Continue to Frustrate their Customers?

IVRs (Interactive Voice Response) is a ubiquitous and often misunderstood contact center technology that provides many undeniable benefits. First and foremost, it eliminates the need for a switchboard operator to answer incoming calls, presenting callers with a menu of options to choose from, attempting to answer frequently asked questions, routing calls and in many cases, helping to deflect call volume from overburdened agents. Beyond the obvious advantages of time saving and 24/7 availability for customers, it enables functions such as providing bank and stock account balances and transfers, selective information lookup, simple order entry transactions, and more.

IVR systems are mainly comprised of telephony equipment, software applications, and a database along with supporting infrastructure. A business can either run its IVRs in house by purchasing the necessary software and hardware or choose to contract with an IVR hosting service that charges an ongoing fee.

Over the years, the IVR has become one of the most widely used products in contact centers, with a recent Call Centre Helper survey finding that usage is growing year-on-year, with 86.1% of contact centers installing such a system.

Of course, it’s far from all champagne and roses. For many consumers, IVRs are the technology they love to hate. Just about everyone has at one time or another been caught up in the maelstrom of a poorly programmed system that just takes them in a never-ending circle with no hope of resolving the issue they called in about. Comedians have had a field day lampooning the “Please listen carefully because our menus have changed” drone that callers encounter before often being overwhelmed with a laundry list of confusing options. IVR systems have been criticized for being an impersonal, impenetrable barrier between customers and live agents, whose jobs they have been accused of putting at risk.

Contributing to this disconnect is the fact a significant percentage of contact centers that implemented the technology a while back simply hasn’t made enough… or even any… changes to improve it. In fact, another Call Centre Helper poll found that 10% of organizations had never reviewed or updated their IVR systems, with another 10% saying they didn’t know the last time they had done so and another 14% revealing it had been more than a year.

Call routing through IVRs has evolved dramatically since the early days of basic menus and limited capabilities. Most companies have long since implemented advanced IVR systems that incorporate speech recognition software which enables customers to communicate more effectively by verbally expressing their requests instead of punching in numbers. When first introduced, such systems were a double-edged sword: callers became frustrated and angry at voice recognition systems that didn’t recognize their questions. Constant improvements in conversational AI and better voice recognition driven by natural language processing have made updated IVRs a far more valuable tool. In addition, language generation applications now provide the capability for the IVR to deliver more conversational responses.

All the elements are in place to offer an enhanced IVR experience that drives improved customer journeys. Yet, many companies are still in the dark about how to use IVRs to increase efficiency and deliver better business results. On October 24, CrmXchange is offering a complimentary webcast entitled “When Customers Call, Will Your IVR Be Ready?” presented by cloud communications specialist Plum Voice. Nogol Tardugno, VP of Customer Success for Plum Voice, will demonstrate specific steps to be taken to reduce customer frustration by deploying an optimized IVR. Among the topics to be discussed are:

  • How to easily create IVR voice applications with no need for complex coding
  • How to use permission structures that facilitate collaboration across technical and non-technical staff so that every member of the team can contribute to delivering an improved customer experience
  • How to put data to work to gain a better understanding of how end-users interact with the company’s voice application enabling it to continuously identify areas for improvement
  • How to effectively collect customer feedback and link it to specific customer-agent interactions

Register now for this demo session: those unable to attend live can download the webcast approximately 24 hours after it is completed.

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.

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.

4 Uses of AI in the Contact Center

Artificial intelligence (AI) has multiple uses across the modern contact center. While some people mistakenly believe that robots are going to replace live support agents, the truth is that AI in the contact center actually helps customer service agents perform their job better. Here’s how.

  1. Data capturing during customer interaction.

There’s a lot of data to be captured during every interaction. AI can be used to capture this data and then feed it into the contact center’s analytics system. With features like sentiment analysis, AI can also be used to spot certain emotions, like anger or dissatisfaction, which can then escalate the issue to be handled by a live agent.

  1. Management of customer data.

Capturing all of that customer data is just the first step to actually understanding it. Data has to be analyzed and leveraged in order to actually improve the customer experience. AI can help with this by capturing and cross-referencing data, then sharing it across different channels and platforms. This way, the customer won’t have to repeat their details every single time they contact customer service, and they won’t receive offers or messages that don’t truly relate to them.

  1. Smart replacement of IVR processes.

A contact center’s IVR system will have a set of pre-defined rules to follow. These rules are generally simplistic – for example, the IVR system may transfer a sales call to the sales department. AI can take this several steps further by using natural language processing and machine learning to understand customer statements instead of just giving them a set menu of choices.

  1. Directing customers to different areas of the website.

Many customer requests can be handled simply by pointing the customer to a specific area of the website. For example, a customer may be able to get information about their account or recent payment by viewing their account information, eliminating the need to speak with a live agent. Customers can also engage in self-service by finding the answer to their FAQ. A virtual assistant can direct the customer to the right section of the website, freeing up live agents to handle more pressing issues.

There’s always going to be a need for live, human interaction. In order for contact center agents to deliver the best, most personalized support possible, AI tackles easier-to-handle customer queries, speeding up the process on both ends.

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.

 

 

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.

Customer Journey KPIs Every Contact Center Should Track

 

The customer journey can be a difficult thing to map and understand. With so many touchpoints along the journey, the map isn’t predictable and linear, yet it’s still necessary to monitor and analyze. These Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) will help you gain insight from the customer journey and move on to improve it.

Customer Effort Score (CES)

Even if a customer prefers self-service to live agent support, they don’t necessarily want to put a ton of effort into solving their own issue. Self-service shouldn’t be a difficult-to-implement alternative to normal customer support. Instead, it should meet the needs of the type of customer who seeks out self-service via quick, easy-to-find answers and the ability to make changes sans agent assistance.

Customer Satisfaction (CSAT)

Some of the most important customer journey touchpoints will occur when the customer interacts with a support agent. CSAT is the measure of the customer’s satisfaction before, during and after they contact customer service. If CSAT scores are dropping, it may be time to look closely at agent productivity, ticket management and self-service options.

Net Promoter Score (NPS)

The NPS will tell you if your customers are going to recommend your products and services to others. You have to go deeper here, though – why will your customers recommend your products and services, or what it is that’s keeping them from doing so?

Customer Churn / Retention Rate

Customer support teams for subscription-based products and services have to pay special attention to retention rate. If you see a lot of customers leaving around renewal time, it’s necessary to figure out why you lost them. What part of the customer journey is causing customers to change their mind? There’s a snag somewhere.

Customer Success

Customer Success isn’t a single KPI, but instead a customized KPI program based on your specific business, customers and goals. A Customer Success strategy may include Up- and Cross-Sell Rates; Average Revenue per Customer; or Rate of Adoption, which starts with defining beginner, intermediate and advanced customers or users. You may also want to include Retention Rate, NPS and CES in your customer success KPIs. Think of Customer Success as an overarching customer journey strategy based on what success means for you.

Customer journey KPIs may be difficult to track, but they come with a big benefit – often, improving one will have a positive impact on another.

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.