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IVR in Retail: Shop Direct Cuts Contact Center Costs

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Tactical improvements to the IVR helps retail group give callers faster, smarter, and more engaging experiences

At Shop Direct Group (SDG), the phones never stop ringing. With six unique brands managing over 31 million calls per year, the contact centre is right at the core of the business. So, when they wanted to improve caller experiences, cut average call times, and make the IVR smarter and more welcoming, SDG got in touch with VoxGen.

By learning from their agents, analysing customer contact experiences, and conducting upfront customer research, we were able to design a range of new IVR modules to serve the individual needs of SDG’s six brands. Today, callers get routed to an appropriate agent faster, and that agent knows who they are, thanks to automated identification and verification in the IVR.

But developing the new IVR functionality was just the start of VoxGen’s relationship with SDG. Through a process of continuous analysis and iteration, we’ve made a huge number of incremental improvements and updates to the IVR since the initial project.


With VoxGen’s help:

  • 85% of callers are now identified and verified in the automated system

  • 88% of customers prefer the automated system to transferring to an offshore agent

  • 82% of customers rate the IVR 7/10 and 50% rate it 10/10

  • Self-service uptake has increased by 20%


The Challenge: Improving customer experiences for 31 million callers

With such a high volume of calls coming into SDG’s contact centre every day, something had to be done to cut call durations, improve routing, and contain more requests within the IVR. Achieving all of this required us to design some powerful new modules—keeping customer experience in mind.

Because the vast majority of SDG’s customer contact was happening by phone, it was also where the group found most opportunities to cross-sell and upsell. When creating the new modules, we had to ensure that customers would still be able to hear about offers and discounts—without making the system sound like an automated salesperson.

The Solution: A three-phase customer-centric IVR overhaul

To minimise disruption and ensure that the new functionality would be well received by customers, we carried out prototype usability research upfront, making any design tweaks resulting from customer feedback. The IVR updates were then deployed in three phases:

Phase 1 introduced identification and verification for all calls, to identify each caller and understand their reason for calling before routing them to an appropriate agent.

Phase 2 saw the implementation of self-service for common requests like payments, order status, returns, account information, and catalogue orders—removing the need for callers to wait for an agent.

Phase 3 was the design of a personalised on-hold experience. We recorded on-hold messages for each of SDG’s brands, ensuring that callers only hear messages relating to the brand they are calling.


2.1/5: average customer rating of the helpfulness of the information they heard while waiting


4.1/5: average customer rating with the new on-hold experience in place.

Continuous improvement based on testing and learning is part of VoxGen’s IVR design philosophy. As we manage SDG’s IVR for the client on a managed service basis, we’re able to monitor usage and routinely update the system accordingly. In this way we can keep SDG’s IVR experience as fresh and relevant as the day the new functions were first deployed—and avoid IVR rot[F1] .

The Results: Shorter calls and happier callers

With the new modules in place, customers get faster, more relevant service, agents spend less time asking the same questions at the start of every call, and the business saves money by containing more calls within the IVR.

Listen in


Following the implementation:

  • 85%+ of callers are automatically identified and verified, saving 15-20 seconds of agent time per call
  • 88% said they preferred the new automated system to transferring to an off-shore agent
  • 82% of customers rated the IVR 7/10 with 50% rating it 10/10
  • Self-service usage increased by 20%, cutting the volume of calls that reach an agent

And those were just the results at launch. Thanks to VoxGen’s philosophy of continuous iteration,the customer experience for SDG’s callers has kept on improving for seven years.

15 seconds may not sound like much time, but with 31 million calls a year, VoxGen has helped SDG save almost 130,000 agent hours.


Key lessons learned

Companies looking to improve or upgrade their IVR experience can learn the following key lessons from this implementation:

  • Test early designs with real customers to iron out any design faults before deployment
  • Make sure self-service callers don’t miss out on offers that agents may have told them about
  • Monitor IVR usage and make iterations to keep the experience fresh and customer relevant
  • Ensure the IVR represents and embodies your brand values

Find out more – contact VoxGen today

If you’re interested in transforming your own IVR, or want to know more about what a customer-centric IVR from VoxGen could help you achieve, let’s talk. Get in touch today by visiting or calling +44(0)20 7420 5900 [U.S. customers, please call (877) 778-3880] .