Companies resent spending money on their IVR—and that’s a mistake
A recent Forrester report reveals that many large organizations actively resent investing in their IVR. That creates a massive opportunity for those who do.
If you knew your business was doing something customers hate, would you change it?
Astonishingly, according to a recent Forrester report, plenty of businesses would rather stick their fingers in their ears and chant “Lalalalala I can’t hear you” than fix the thing that customers loathe.
That thing, as you may have guessed, is their IVR system.
“Not at all happy with the need to spend $5 million on migrating to a new system, this enterprise architect was hoping to hear us predict the imminent demise of IVR, obviating the need for any further investments.”
IVR: the channel that CX investment forgot
The report goes on to reveal that this person’s attitude is far from unique. Across the board, large companies actively resent spending money on their IVR.
They assign the bare minimum of staff to maintain it (usually only 1-2 people, for an application that potentially handles millions of customer inquiries – and sometimes nobody at all).
They neglect to update it as customers’ needs change, leading to a phenomenon we call IVR rot, which in turn creates what Forrester describes as a “marginalized experience for customers”.
And they cling on to their ageing, rotten IVR application to the bitter end, right until the vendor cuts support. Even then, like the enterprise architect mentioned above, they cast around for reasons not to spend money upgrading or replacing it.
Not wanting to invest in the IVR is understandable
Some of this is understandable. No business likes spending money on things that aren’t necessary. And in some ways, lavishing attention on the IVR seems like an unnecessary expense.
After all, by some measures, it works fine. It does its intended job of containing calls, dramatically reducing the cost of staffing up the contact center. And since that’s about the only report you can get out of a typical IVR application, there never seems to be all that much cause for concern.
Plus, there’s so much hype around using the web and mobile apps for customer service that you could be forgiven for thinking customers won’t bother with the phone for much longer.
But this way of thinking is actively damaging to the business. Because, as the Forrester report points out, IVR remains an essential customer service channel.
Far from defecting in droves to the web, 83% of consumers say they talked to a customer service agent on the phone in 2015, and 63% used IVR for self-service. Those figures are higher than in 2014 (73% and 48% respectively), showing that even more people are using the phone than before.
And what they experience when they call has a major impact on how they feel about the brand. When only 51% of consumers report satisfaction with IVR, any company that’s committed to delivering a great customer experience will see that as a huge red flag.
“Consumer satisfaction with IVR among self-service channels comes in at 51% of US online adults, well below web self-service and mobile applications, which both fall at 61%.”
Tuning the IVR may not cost as much as you think
The good news is that the problem may not actually take $5m to fix. Forrester’s report sets out an array of options for cost-effectively upgrading the IVR experience until it does a good job of meeting customers’ needs.
Those options range from moving to a hosted IVR solution (which removes the cost of hardware, software licenses and dedicated maintenance staff), to using specialist IVR development tools – like VoxGen’s – to tune and optimize the existing IVR application in line with customers’ needs.
““AD&D pros who want to develop and/or maintain the IVR application can take advantage of more extensive development, testing, and monitoring tools available from specialists like VoxGen, SpeechStorm, and IVR Technology Group.”
Small optimizations can have a big impact – and even generate revenue
Sometimes it only takes small optimizations to turn the customer experience around. At a big US pharmacy chain, we used data to personalize the IVR for each caller – for example, recognizing when they’re calling back to check if a prescription is ready. That’s created a much more pleasurable experience, leading to higher customer satisfaction rates, and reducing callback volumes by 12.5%.
At LIME, the biggest telco operator in the Caribbean, we added an option for callers to receive SMS updates on a network outage. That reduced inbound calls by 18%, and it meant customers got new information as soon as it was available, rather than having to call back and go through the IVR again.
That’s a win for LIME in terms of reduced costs, a win for customers as it frees up their time, and a win for LIME’s brand image as it offers convenient, joined-up, multi-channel service.
And the benefits of optimizing your IVR don’t have to stop there. Done properly, it can even turn this “necessary evil” into a revenue-generator for the business leaving to rot.
It pays to make IVR a strategic component of self-service
These examples show that companies can benefit greatly from following the advice Forrester includes in the subtitle of its Vendor Landscape report: “Make IVRs a strategic component of enterprise self-service, not a necessary evil”.