Companies dream of delivering seamless omni-channel service, but most fall short of delivering it. And the resulting #IVRFAILs make social media users angry.

Omni-channel. It’s easy enough to say, but actually delivering it is another matter.

For companies that have rolled out multiple customer engagement channels over a number of years, knitting them together to create a seamless customer experience seems an impossible task. At most big companies, the website, mobile apps, contact centers and bricks and mortar outlets were developed in silos, and remain stuck in them.

And then there’s the phone, so often the channel of last resort for desperate customers, but so rarely a source of quick and practical help - especially when there’s a badly designed IVR that simply adds insult to injury.

Disjointed service means angry, vocal customers

It all adds up to a world of frustration for customers who set out to conduct a simple task, only to end up going from channel to channel, trying to find a way – any way – to get their problem sorted.

When that happens, many take their anger to Twitter. Here are some of the #IVRFAILs we’ve seen people complain about recently:

1. No way to escalate enquiry from website

This is an all-too-common scenario. The customer has started out on the website, which Forrester tells us is now where the majority (76%) of customers start their journey to get help.

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The website is now the first port of call for help, according to Forrester – with the phone second.

But if consumers can’t find what they want online, the next instinct is often to make a call. A 2013 Ipsos study for Google found that 70% of all searches made on a smartphone end with a call, for example.

In this case, though, the customer can’t find a customer service number on the site. That’s not particularly surprising: it’s a pretty common strategy among companies that want to contain inquiries in a low-cost channel (the web).

While that may reduce pressure on the contact center, it’s a false economy. Trying to force customers into low-cost channels does nothing for customer satisfaction, and it doesn’t make their need for help go away. In fact, it has the opposite effect: now they don’t just need help, they need help, plus an explanation, and maybe also a public apology.

The lesson: Customers want to be served in the channels they choose, not the channels you force them into. If you try to contain them in a low-cost channel, you may well end up having to spend more on their inquiry than if they’d been able to call you in the first place.

Sometimes, problems like these can be fixed with better web usability, but often the web isn’t the best channel for the task the user wants to complete - so helping them get to the right one is essential for a smooth cross-channel experience.

How to avoid a social media kicking: In this case, including a prominent “click-to-call” option on the website would have got this customer the help they need much faster, and the brand would have avoided a public naming and shaming.

Implemented properly, click to call has the added benefit of providing context to the IVR and the agent, showing that the customer has already been on the website. For customers there are few things more frustrating than having an IVR send you back to the website if you’ve just come from there.

2. No information on other channel options

When IVR is implemented and managed in a silo, it’s easy to forget that customers use multiple channels, and the phone may not actually be their preferred way of dealing with you.

In this case, the customer would clearly have preferred to cancel via the website, rather than wasting time in a queue on the phone.

On the plus side, the customer has eventually heard a message in the IVR’s hold space that they can cancel online via web chat. But the major downside is that they’ve had to wait 30 minutes before learning this information. The lack of joined-up information has earned the brand a telling-off on Twitter.

The lesson: Understanding customer intent is essential to providing a smooth and efficient service in the IVR.

How to avoid a social media kicking: If you know the likely reason a customer is calling, you can personalize the IVR experience either to play a relevant broadcast message early on: “You can cancel your account online using our web chat facility” or to play a relevant prompt: “I see you’ve tried to cancel your account online - is that what you’re calling about?” The first option is only helpful if the customer hasn’t already tried to cancel via the website, so a level of integration is needed to make sure the IVR has this data.

Alternatively, do some research into the top reasons that customers call the IVR, and organize the menu around that. If a lot of customers call to cancel their account, it could be turned into a self-service task in the IVR - with an automated SMS message to confirm the account is closed. In our experience, providing confirmation via SMS can significantly reduce the likelihood of a customer calling back to confirm a transaction.

Even if the task of cancellation can’t be completed in self-service, the IVR can play a key role in capturing the customer’s intent and letting the agent know the customer wants to cancel.

3. Takes a huge amount of effort to complete a simple task

In this scenario, the customer is trying to complete what he probably considers a simple task: getting his hotel receipt emailed to him.

Instead, he has entered a customer service nightmare. Rather than getting a swift resolution to his problem, he is kept on hold for a long time, eventually driving him to another channel to try to get the task completed.

The lesson: The more effort the customer has to undertake, the angrier they get.

How to avoid a social media kicking: While we don’t know the exact circumstances of this customer’s request, this is the kind of situation where some light cross-channel integration can make a huge difference to the customer experience.

For example, identifying the customer by the number they’re calling on - usually referred to as automatic number identification (ANI) or caller line identification (CLI) - and correlating with the bookings database could have highlighted the customer’s recent booking. A lightly-personalized prompt: “I see you’ve recently stayed with us in , is that what you’re calling about” would have reassured the customer straightaway that their query is going in the right direction.

The IVR could then transfer the caller to an agent, together with the information that they are calling about this particular booking. Even better, if this kind of thing is a common enquiry, the IVR could offer the option to send the customer their receipt, perhaps as an SMS with a link to access the receipt online.

Could IVR cure the omni-channel omnishambles?

And that’s where Forrester believe companies are missing a trick. Art Schoeller, VP and Principal Analyst at Forrester, believes IVR can play a key role in orchestrating the customer experience across different channels – creating a smooth experience instead of making a bad experience worse. You can hear his thoughts on how to do that by watching our on-demand webcast Omni-Channel IVR: What’s Really Happening? Click here to watch it.


Topics: IVR Design