When you walk into your local pharmacy, you receive highly personal service. If you’re a regular, the staff might greet you by name, and if you have a repeat prescription they probably know what you want long before you even ask. But can you expect the same kind of tailored, proactive service when you call them?
For one of the US’s biggest retail pharmacy chains, the answer unfortunately was no. Customers had great relationships with store clerks and dispensary staff, but when they called the company’s IVR, that personal welcome and knowledge of what they wanted was nowhere to be seen. The key difference? The clerks in the store were able to learn.
Eager to make customer experiences more consistent across channels, break up the monotony of repeat calls and information requests, and inject some personalisation into their IVR experiences, the pharmacy chain turned to VoxGen.
We knew that by collecting and utilising the right caller data, we could enable the IVR to learn just as well as the staff in their stores – meaning that repeat calls never equal repeat experiences.
By doing away with the ageing touch-tone IVR and replacing it with a smarter, data-driven one that delivers natural conversations, the pharmacy chain’s customers now get a service tailored to them. Today, when a customer calls, they enjoy a service that’s faster, more efficient and more satisfying – and as personal and understanding as every healthcare conversation should be.
With the new data-driven IVR in place:
The challenge: creating fresh, data-driven experiences for repeat callers
For the retail pharmacy chain, repeat calls are a big deal – with 70% of all calls being repeats within the same month, largely due to prescription renewal. But, when customers made these calls, the experiences they received were a far cry from what they’d expect to receive in their local store. Repeat requests for information and repetition of the same IVR messages were causing customers great frustration with the automated system.
On top of that, the scale of service delivered by the IVR also presented a significant challenge. VoxGen was dealing with one of the biggest and most well-known pharmacy brands in the US, with millions of customers across the country. Each customer has unique needs that need to be met over the phone – from a simple stock question to requests for repeat prescriptions – so any new system we created would have to be equipped with a wide range of self-service options and functions.
The solution: a data-driven IVR that’s always getting smarter
To overcome these challenges, VoxGen started creating a whole new IVR solution. After conducting some preliminary research on customer language and behaviour, it was time to build a prototype. This began by live-roleplaying example conversations, and, through an iterative testing process, eventually culminated in the creation of three highly-detailed IVR personas (those are the voices you hear when you call an IVR) for the company to choose from to front the new system.
With the final persona selected the new IVR was taking shape. The bare bones of the new system were built, and we were ready to begin an iterative process of new IVR design and deployment. Stage one was deploying the core of a new IVR solution so that it could be monitored to identify the best opportunities for personalisation. Even before any personalisation features were deployed the results were noticeable. The first iteration immediately improved engagement with automated features by 15%.
While many organisations think about “Big Data”, we also focus on the small, easily captured data – things like phone numbers and purchase histories – that fuel smarter, more natural and intuitive IVR experiences.
This small data is the key to creating an IVR that can learn in the same way a store clerk or pharmacist does. VoxGen devised new ways to put this data to use and ensure that when a caller picks up the phone to contact the company, the automated system recalls their previous interactions and prioritises the most relevant options based on what it already knows. It’s the IVR equivalent of being able to walk into a local business and ask for “the usual”.
All of these new data-driven features were delivered iteratively, gradually adding to the solution and building it into a comprehensive platform that continues to grow to this day. In the 18 months since the first system was deployed, we’ve made 22 updates, each making the system progressively smarter, more personalised, and easier to use.
This was all made possible by VoxGen’s design toolkit—a resource which makes testing simple, and enables us and the customer to easily keep track of all design updates and manage the recorded audio used within the design without pulling the system apart.
The results: a faster, smoother, smarter, and more satisfying experience for every caller
With the new system in place, the pharmacy can now make the most of all the customer data available, and use it to drive faster, smarter, and more satisfying customer experiences.
For customers this means getting the information they want, faster, in a more personal-feeling way. For the company it means less time and resources spent on direct agent contact, higher levels of customer satisfaction, and the ability to serve more customers simultaneously than ever before.
Proactive, personalised IVR experiences like these are pleasantly surprising to customers. Rarely do they expect to receive such a positive, tailored experience through an automated channel—especially IVR.
By using data to show customers that the system understands them and their needs upfront, they are far more likely to then go on to engage with self-service functions instead of opting to be put through to an agent – cutting costs and agent call volumes. In fact, the result of the data-driven experience was that engagement with self-service went up by nearly 200%.
Since then, VoxGen has continued to work with the pharmacy, iteratively adding to and improving the IVR and ensuring that the experiences it delivers remain as relevant, simple, and satisfying as possible.
Key lessons learned
In life, you never expect to have the same conversation twice – and callers feel the same way about your IVR. Where possible, an IVR should always use and learn from the customer data available to it. That could be anything from a phone number to remembering previously selected options.
When the IVR learns from customer interactions, it can use that information to shape the next experience the customer has when they call. That ensures that no two calls are the same, and that every interaction feels natural – thus avoiding the kind of customer frustration that so often comes with automated systems.
It also has a profound psychological effect on callers. When the system shows that it understands them and their needs, they put more faith in it and are far more willing to continue engaging with it instead of just searching for the fastest possible route to an agent.